We put people, places, things, and ideas into categories. Categories help us navigate the world and it’s natural to categorize. We categorize in conflict, too. But the tension of conflict increases the chances we’ll make category errors — and category errors can really get in the way of conflict resolution.
One reason conflict can undermine self-control is that stress compromises our brains’ emotion-regulation circuitry. But all is not lost when we’ve been emotionally hijacked. Recent research offers a new tool for regaining self-control soon after the stress of an argument: Briefly reminiscing about a happy memory.
When a person is upset, some people get uncomfortable and try to ignore it. Others try to make them feel better. Both of these approaches are a version of “make it go away.” There’s a third, more fruitful approach: Help them delve into it.
If you believe someone is aggressive, could they behave more aggressively with you than with others? If someone believes you are a hostile person, are you likely to act more hostile when you interact with them? Yes. It’s called behavioral confirmation and it has an impact on conflict resolution.
If 21 minutes of your time could make the difference between a marriage that’s crumbling and a marriage that grows stronger, would you do it? Hell, yeah. The following research-based writing activity can have a remarkably powerful impact on marital conflict. It’s free. It’s simple. And you don’t need anyone’s help to do it.
We seek out allies when we re in conflict because allies make us feel strong and right and reasonable. But in trying to be helpful, our allies may actually help perpetuate the conflict by boosting our certainty. When we re being tested by a conflict, what we want isn t an ally, it s a loving provocateur.
When someone is emotionally swamped by anger, it can be helpful to redirect them temporarily away from their feelings and engage their cognitive capacities. The following invitation helps de-escalate anger particularly well and deserves a permanent home in your conflict resolution toolbox.
It s hard to listen deeply from inside an argument. And it s even harder when the other person seems to be hogging air time. Good listening can have an inadvertent side effect and here s one way I like to do deal with it.
The next time someone declines to take responsibility for words or actions that had a bad impact, don’t immediately assume it’s a flaw in their character. Maybe it’s just their protective brain doing its job.
Being able to say no is essential for good day-to-day negotiating. Yet it can evoke anxiety about appearing obstructive, unkind, or unhelpful. If you want a way to keep yourself from saying yes when you really do need to say no, pack this research-supported technique in your toolkit.
- Research citation, Journal of Consumer Research
- The research press release
- Flawless Consulting by Peter Block
Not all disagreements require long talks to resolve them sufficiently. Sometimes you can use a pre-agreed principle to get them done and get on with your day. Here are two worth considering for your workplace team or family.
New research is challenging the notion that thinking, problem solving, and decision making take place strictly in the head. And finally giving me some credibility when placing interactive toys in the middle of my mediation table.
- Thinking with our hands can help find new ways of solving problems
- Fidget toy
- Magnetic desktop sculptures
- Lego bricks (also available in a snazzy chrome version)
- Silly putty
There’s a difference between being justified in your response and the response being a good choice. Here’s a question I’ve found useful for gaining a little psychological distance in the heat of the moment and interrupting a response I might regret later.
Want to break the advice-giving habit but aren’t sure what to do instead? Want someone else to stop giving you unsolicited advice all the time? Here’s a good question to ask in those moments and a simple alternative to giving advice when what they really want is someone to listen.
I read voraciously, a pile of books and articles monthly. Many are interesting and informative, but a few stand out because they influenced my thinking or behavior in a significant way. As I join others in looking back at 2016, here are the standouts that stuck with me and that I ve most frequently mentioned to others.
- David Whyte’s Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
- Derek Siver’s Relax for the Same Result
- Tim Urban’s The Tail End
- Steven Pan’s The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning
- Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
- dam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer’s Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both
- Shankar Vedantam’s Hidden Brain episode, When Great Minds Think Unlike: Inside Science’s “Replication Crisis”
Conflict takes root in the space between our narrative about what happened and theirs. One way to understand conflict resolution is as the act of weaving a new joint narrative, one that includes the most valuable threads in each story.
I ve written that anger is a messenger that won t shut up until its message is heard and understood. But if the anger is so big or so loud you can t hear straight, there are things you can do to help someone calm down. And a few things you shouldn t do like these five missteps.
Watch a good mediator at work and you ll likely notice that good questions are her stock-in-trade. Watch a masterful negotiator and you ll see the same. If you want better conflict resolution results, learn how to ask questions that shift thinking and prompt fresh ideas.
- Source of Marty Cooper story (Amazon affiliate link)
Conflict can rob you of two precious mental faculties useful for sorting things out: The ability to view the situation from the other person’s perspective and the ability to check your impulses. New research suggests that your future self can help you recapture those abilities.
When we deliver or receive information in a totalizing way, we make a difficult conversation needlessly more difficult. Here’s how to resist this type of all-or-nothing thinking and take some of the pain out of disagreements and negative feedback.
Conflict in personal, professional and business relationships leaves permanent cracks and breaks behind. What if, instead of trying to ignore or hide the damage, we revered it, understanding that better than new is more valuable than “good as new”?
Some people do conflict loudly, whether due to familial or cultural roots, habit, or a low boiling point. When you want to interrupt someone’s habitual yelling during conflict, try to make the request without contributing to the fight.
When friction enters a working relationship, sometimes the best path through isn t to talk it out. Sometimes the best path through is an indirect one ask for a favor. Here s how the Ben Franklin Effect works.
Thinking about the future helps couples overcome relationship conflict and view the situation in a more reasoned and positive light, according to new research. Here’s how to use the researchers’ simple mental exercise to create psychological distance from a conflict and dial down the heat of an argument.
During conflict, focusing mostly on anger's behavior instead of on anger's real message is like burying the lede in a news story.
You don’t get better at listening during conflict by practicing during conflict. You get better at listening during conflict by practicing outside of conflict, where the stakes are lower and it’s easier to be on top of your game. Here are three easy ways to practice giving your full attention and being a good listener
- Good negotiators persuade with their ears
- The Art of Racing in the Rain (amazon affiliate link)
- One reason well-worn habits can feel hard to change
- The secret good mediators know about listening (image you can download and print)
Strengthening your conflict resolution chops isn’t about learning a new skill and then trying to use it in your most difficult conversations. Just as you wouldn’t start running and try a marathon the following week, acquiring more successful conflict resolution habits is about a slow, steady build. Start with 30-second chunks.
“That’s not my problem” are four of the most frustrating words to hear when you’re trying to talk through a conflict. They’re dismissive and may leave you feeling powerless to resolve the problem. Here are three tried-and-true ways to get problem-solving moving forward again.
Bickering, an argument about trivial matters, is one of those everyday bad habits that feeds the growth of destructive conflict in a relationship. When you teach yourself how to stop getting sucked into bickering, you give yourself and your relationship some fresh air. Here s a short phrase that can help.
When you’re stuck on a problem or feeling angry, briefly distancing yourself psychologically from the current circumstances can give you emotional relief and actually help you solve the problem. Here are five simple and potent ways to gain psychological distance (and help others do the same) when you’re spinning your wheels in a conflict conversation.
Starting a difficult conversation (or negotiation or mediation) can feel like opening Fibber McGee’s closet — chaotic, overwhelming, and hope-sucking. But don’t run.
Confronting is an essential negotiation, conflict resolution, and problem-solving skill. Being confrontational, though, will usually do you more harm then help. Here’s a mediator’s tip for how to confront someone and raise an issue for discussion without being aggressive or argumentative.
Resolving conflict and other complex problems demands that we push beyond the familiar options and explore new territory. But leaving the familiar behind is uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant. Even so, staying in the “groan zone” and doing the important work there leads to better results.
When responding to someone else s difficult behavior during conflict, a good rule of thumb is, Use the lowest level of intervention first. Here s why this convention is useful for managing difficult behavior and a concrete example to illustrate.
For decades, non-verbal communication has been lauded as an important part of establishing connection and understanding with others. Now a new study suggests non-verbals aren’t as key as we think.
When I wanted to curb my habit of interrupting my husband, I turned to an old rubber band trick for practicing the replacement behavior (wait until he finishes his sentence, count to two, then speak) enough to make it stick. Here are the simple instructions and some uses.
Examples of behaviors you can practice with this method
- Practicing the 90-second relationship rule when you walk through the door after work each day
- Biting your tongue instead of verbalizing criticism automatically
- Practicing a silent pause for 10 seconds instead of responding when you've been sucked into bickering
- Playing the "as if" game with yourself when you need to change your mood
- Resisting the temptation to take constant notes if you're a mediator
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked in my workshops is how to deal with difficult people. Here’s my strategy for dealing with difficult people and why it so consistently works.
A dispute is not the same as a conflict. Mediation is different from facilitation. Here's the language I use when asked to define these terms.
How to reduce cognitive load during conflict resolution and free up working memory needed for concentration, reasoning and decision making.
What does it mean to hold the space for someone who s trying to get somewhere different in a conflict? And how do we hold that space, whether we re a friend trying to help, a manager trying to intervene, or a mediator trying to find a path to resolution? To illustrate, I'm sharing a beautiful story from writer, teacher, and social activist Parker Palmer.
Whakawhanaungatanga is a Māori process for establishing relationships. In the following interview I explore the tradition, identity, trust-building, and conflict resolution with Hilary Unwin, a mediator with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, and Pereri Hathaway, senior administrator with the Human Rights Commission. Pereri's work centers on helping the Commission work with indigenous peoples in New Zealand and finding ways to provide support for indigenous peoples there and around the world.
The conversation begins with Hilary and Pereri introducing themselves and giving you a first glimpse of the whakawhanaungatanga process. I hope you'll enjoy our exploration of identity, connection, trust, family, and our place in the world.
New research has identified six elements to an apology, and the more of those elements you include, the more effective your apology. But not all six elements are equally valuable. Two are particularly crucial to having your apology accepted.