Couples can have big fights, frequent conflict, and even bicker all the time and still have healthy, fulfilling, and lasting relationships. How so? Recent research suggests that one factor in particular plays an important role in protecting a couple from the negative effects of relationship conflict: How well you think your partner “gets” you.
The communication thread
There's a lot of background noise in conflict, negotiations, and other difficult conversations. What we say, how we say it, how well we listen, and how well we bring our own curiosity to the table -- communication skills like these help quiet the background noise and enable us to detect the core signals needing our attention.
It’s hard to get fresh perspective about our situation or the other person when we’re trapped inside a conflict. This simple question is excellent for tempering our certainty, engaging our curiosity, and sparking a shift in perspective when we need it most.
Our solutions are only as good as our understanding of the problem. There’s a good question we can use to help discover a problem’s roots. And we can turn it into an even better question by employing it liberally — more liberally than most of us naturally do.
It’s not news that understanding the other person’s key interests is a crucial skill for your negotiation skills toolbox. I knew that when I went into the contract negotiation in the following story…and I almost blew it anyway. It took a question born out of desperation to teach me that some interests can be elusive, surprising, and even downright unbelievable.
The way you deliver feedback can make the difference between instant defensiveness and thoughtful consideration. One way to reduce immediate push-back is to “make it behavioral.” Here’s how to give feedback that’s behavioral and examples to translate the idea into words.
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 deal with it.
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.
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.
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.
It’s hard to get better at listening during conflict by practicing during conflict. If you want to be a better listener, practice outside of a difficult conversation. The stakes will be lower and it’ll be easier to be on top of your game. Here are three simple ways to practice being a good listener in everyday life.