The pursuit of conflict zen is, in part, the pursuit of clarity. Clarity about the conflict, what most needs to be discussed to unlock and untangle it, and what it’s most about for you.
In 3 Eye-Opening Questions for Conflict Clarity: Question 1, I offered up the reflective question, What is this really about for me? and some strategies for answering that question.
Clarity Question 2: What do I need them most to understand?
This question has the greatest potential for insight if you answer what’s often the hidden second portion of your reply. First-blush answers, for instance, might be:
- That I can’t trust him when he acts passive-aggressively.
- That I won’t tolerate being disrespected in front of other members of my team.
- That she needs to learn how to accept responsibility for her own actions.
The problem with those kinds of responses is that you’re making it about the other person and relying on them to change in order get what you need. When they hear those responses, their reaction is likely to be a defensive one, and the conversation will no longer be about what you need them to understand.
Instead, find what you most want them to understand by adding a short phrase to your knee-jerk reply, like this:
- That I can’t trust him when he acts passive-aggressively and the impact on me is never feeling like a decision is firm and then I have to monitor what happens, taking time and energy I need for other projects.
- That I won’t tolerate being disrespected in front of others and the impact on me is that my authority is repeatedly undermined.
- That she needs to learn how to accept responsibility for her own actions because when doesn’t, the impact on me is that that I feel like I’m not part of a healthy team.
Aha! Now you’re getting somewhere. In my examples, what you most want them to understand is:
- I want us to make decisions that will really work for us and don’t require us to keep re-visiting them.
- I’m worthy of your respect even when I do something you don’t agree with.
- I want us to create a healthy team where we can make occasional mistakes and not feel like we have to push the blame elsewhere.
See how it works? The first set of answers don’t change the conversation much. But the last set of responses drill down to what’s really meaningful. And once again, you’ve invited possibility to the table.