The perceptions we hold of the world color the ways in which we view it. This is true even when we are in the middle of conflicts that may stir up our deepest emotions.
As powerful as our perceptions can seem to be, we still often fail to notice that they exist at all. We overlook them as part of the equation and the mindset we are working from. Only by bringing these to the surface can we see things for what they truly are. Then, from this new standpoint, we can decide if we want to keep them or change them.
Read on and see if you can spot any of your own habits in these common viewpoints. This is the first step in viewing conflicts in a way that helps promote long lasting resolutions and relationships.
Change How Your View Your Conflicts
1. Focus on the here and now.
- Stay in the present moment
- Put aside those old long-harbored resentments.
- Forget that your colleague ate your sandwich last summer.
2. Pick Out the Real Issues.
- It is a very easy practice to attribute our irritations to incorrect causes.
- Be as certain as you can be that you and the other person are disagreeing about the situation that is currently at hand.
- If not, you both may be harboring much deeper issues.
3. Seek out Common Ground.
- Shift your attention to your shared end-goals.
- For instance: You both agree that you want the bathroom to look nicer. This can mean getting new faucets or replacing the whole sink.
4. Needs vs Wants.
- Before you even started school, you probably learned from your parent and guardians that needs take priority over wants.
- This strategy may have gotten you an extra bedtime story or a fancier bike when you were a child.
- As an adult, it is better to be clear (at least with ourselves) about what is negotiable, and what is not, so that we have a better chance of getting what we truly need.
5. Deconstruct Difficult Issues.
- Take on complex projects one step at a time.
- A meeting about revising time sheets will be more effective than trying to fix the entire company in a single hour by yourself.
6. Set Priorities in Order.
- Separate your essential tasks from things you can come back to another time.
- For instance, as long as your teenager is getting the best grades they can, you can live with an unmade bed, most of the time
7. Brainstorm Other Options.
- We must release ourselves, and others, from demands and ultimatums.
- Work together to propose alternatives that both parties are able live with.
- The best solutions make everyone involved feel like they have gained something of value, and that they, and their opinions are also valued.
Change the Way You See Other People
1. Hold accountability.
- We need to be honest about our part in the conflict.
- If we take up some ownership of the issue, we feel more motivated to try to cooperate and have a more insightful sense of where to begin our discussions.
2. Consider the Overall Relationship.
- Place the conflict in the context of your entire relationship.
- A lifelong friendship matters more than agreeing on the same school board candidate.
- A valuable colleague matters more to the company than our egos need to micromanage.
3. Reflect on the Positive Qualities.
- Remember what you like about the person you are locked in conflict with.
- Think about your colleague’s good work ethic, even if she chews her gum loudly for your tastes.
4. Keep an Open Mind.
- Put aside what you have to say for the moment and just listen.
- Ask more questions to gather information and to gain a better understanding.
- Restate the key points to be sure you are both on the same page.
5. Be Aware of Sensitive Issues.
- We all have subjects, such as political or religious topics, that trigger strong emotional feelings.
- Lear to acknowledge these issues without getting into unnecessary conflict.
6. Stand in Your “Opponents” Space.
- The best way to understand another person’s position is to imagine ourselves in their place.
- Respect their needs and opinions.
- We can still work to understand someone else, even if we still disagree on a few points.
- Stop telling people to calm down.
- If you are thinking of saying something that you do like for people to say to you, then do not say it to others.
Conflicts are an inescapable part of our lives. They serve to teach us about ourselves and about others. Conflicts also strengthen our relationships by testing their bonds and limits.
The ability to clarify our perceptions is a skill we can all learn better so that we are able to manage our conflicts more effectively.