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. Legendary Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno wanted employees […]
Fine-tuning communication skills and habits
Word choice, good questions, and good listening skills and habits contribute to effective communication. We disagree better when we fine-tune communication habits, aligning our words and our listening with the kinds of intentions and attitudes that pave the way for progress.
One reason apologies feel hard to offer is that they’re colored by fear — fear of feeling shame, fear of feeling judged, fear of offering an olive branch that is not returned. To apologize, we must find ways to anticipate not only what will go wrong, but what also what could go right.
Make it behavioral.
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.
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. When someone tells you about […]
Questions are your stock-in-trade.
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. Someone screamed and yelled at me in public recently. Her anger had flared and yelling is her […]
Feeling dissed? Here’s how to raise concerns about disrespect in a way that increases dialogue and decreases pushback. Twenty-seven years ago this past summer, I met my husband. Sometime in those first months of dating, he casually dropped a conversational bomb one day: Tammy, he said, you don’t treat me with respect when we disagree. […]
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 […]
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.
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. In 2008, Annie Wilson of Dallas, Texas, got a pretty memorable telephone call from her gardener. […]
Positive affirmations may be popular, but if you want to influence behavior, questions trump statements. But not just any old questions. One type of question in particular can create powerful psychological leverage for changing your own and others’ behavior. “Stay calm,” you remind yourself in difficult moments. “Don’t drink and drive,” say the public service […]
The stress of conflict has ramifications we’re only just beginning to understand: We can apparently “catch” someone else’s stress physiologically. Acute stress can desensitize us to another’s pain. And stress from the presence of a stranger may reduce the ability to empathize. But 15 minutes of shared experience might just help. Many years ago, I […]
What’s the best way to re-establish communication with someone after a falling out? Here’s how to write an email that will help you reconnect after no contact and set the stage for talking in person or by phone. A reader wrote me with the question, What is the best way to email someone after a […]
Failing to ask effectively for what we want is the stuff of low-grade irritation that, over time, can become a source of chronic tension. Here’s a ridiculously simple way to ask more effectively, be more persuasive without manipulating, and increase the odds a small favor will be granted.
Whether we’re participants in a conflict conversation or mediating it, creating space for a question to be contemplated before answering is a powerful gift. When we fill the space out of our own discomfort with the silence, we inadvertently smother the possibility of a deeper answer. It was freshman orientation at Amherst College in Massachusetts […]
Here are three things your good mediator probably won’t tell you (and why you should hire them anyway). 1. I’m not necessarily good at handling conflict in my own life I used to think it was just me, that I was the only mediator in the world who occasionally totally sucked at conflict in my […]
When you want an idea to be considered on its merits, it can be very hard to overcome two aspects of human nature that get in the way. If you want to reduce resistance and create space for the idea to get thoughtful consideration, how you frame your proposal can make all the difference.
When we’re stuck in conflict, sometimes it’s the questions we’re asking ourselves or our sparring partner. To ask better questions in conflict, try this surprisingly useful trick.
When you say you’re listening, which type of listening are you really practicing? Of the five types, there’s only one that will help you resolve conflict better, be more persuasive, and strengthen the personal or business relationship.