4 Tutorials that teach Effective Conflict Resolution Language: How You Say It Affects the Answer You Get
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Effective Conflict Resolution Language: How You Say  It Affects the Answer You Get

Effective Conflict Resolution Language: How You Say It Affects the Answer You Get

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the importance of using conflict resolving language, both in formal techniques and in informal speech in conflict resolution situations.

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Effective Conflict Resolution Language

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When we are in conflict, how we express ourselves can make a big difference. How we say something, our choice of words, can either escalate a conflict or de-escalate it. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk with you more about that today. I want to talk specifically about our use of language and how we say it, how we express ourselves.

So when we're upset, when a person's upset it's easy to react. It's easy to say something like this. You're so selfish. All you think about is yourself. I just can't count on you. You borrow something and you never return it. OK. Those are very blaming statements. They're reactive statements. And they focus on the person. It's a character assassination, basically.

You're saying something about someone's character. And that person's going to react. It's going to escalate the conflict. Well, what do you mean, I'm selfish? I'm no more selfish than you are. So you get into a back and forth fight here, defending your character. So those are blaming statements, where we're focusing on the person and not the issue at hand. So we want to move away from making those blaming, reactive statements and respond consciously by using I statements.

Now, I statements are part of active listening. And I put up active listening here and some techniques. Active listening moves to I statements versus you statements. And also active listening is a way of listening to someone and giving them your full attention, both verbally and nonverbally, and then checking in with them to make sure that what you heard and understood is what they intended. Doesn't mean you necessarily agree, but you are listening and you are checking in on your understanding. So it does also involve clarifying questions.

So what is an I statement, again? Now, we've talked about that in some past tutorials, but let's just review. How does an I statement differ from this you statement which is the blaming statement? You are always this way. You never do this. You're so selfish. Well, an I statement does not focus on the person's character as sort of a general statement of how this person is. But an I statement owns your own response. So it's more of a conscious responding, how you responded to a particular problem, action, behavior.

So, for example, you might say, instead of you're so selfish, when I hear loud music playing every night after 10, I feel really anxious and nervous, because I'm not going to get to sleep, and I have to get up early in the morning. So now what have you done? You have made a statement owning the issue as your response to a particular behavior that this person has engaged in. So you're talking now about that particular action, not a general character flaw, which is how the previous you statement can be taken.

So in active listening you use I statements. And you also check in to understand the other person's point of view. So my understanding here is-- did I get that right? Because maybe you didn't, so by asking a question and then checking in to clarify if you understood it correctly, you are letting the person know that you care enough to make sure that you completely heard and understood what that person said.

Now, this does not mean that you necessarily agree with what you are hearing. You may agree, you may not agree. But you are accepting that what you hear is true for that person. And you want to make sure that you understand that person's truth. So it's very important to ask that kind of clarifying question.

Now, in the conflict resolution process this is also important for the conflict intervener. The conflict intervener is going to be asking clarifying questions to make sure that he or she understands what the two parties are expressing. If you hear the parties using blaming statements, which in anger, they are reactive and they come into this process, they may do, you as the intervener can use active listening skills to reframe what you hear.

One party says he's just a wild person. He's just constantly noisy and loud, doesn't care about anybody else in the building. I can't get any sleep at night. There's always loud music playing. So you're saying you're very upset. You can't get sleep, and you'd like it to be quiet at night. You'd like it to be quiet. Is that correct? Did I get that right?

So you're reflecting back, but you're reframing it here. So our use of language, how we say things, is incredibly important both as the conflict intervener and in informal situations for our own selves when we find ourselves in conflict, remembering not to react with a blaming statement but to use our active listening skills, to use I statements and to ask clarifying questions to check in to make sure that our understanding of a particular situation is correct. It's what the speaker intended. So thank you for joining me today, and I look forward to next time.

  • Active Listening

    A conflict resolution technique used to confirm understanding of a message without indicating or implying agreement.

  • Agreement vs. Acceptance

    The distinction between agreeing with a statement and indicating that the hearer understands the statement as true in the mind of the speaker.