Certainty and disinterest are conflict’s allies. Conflict resolution has allies, too. Among them are curiosity and genuine interest in the other person’s view of the world. It’s very difficult to make yourself curious in the midst of stress and difficulty if you do not also have this habit when you are relaxed. If you want to get better at conflict resolution, sometimes it’s what you practice outside of conflict that matters.
Last fall I was in a pharmacy in Lyndonville, Vermont, purchasing gift wrap for a thank you gift I had put together for a couple who had just hosted me for a week of writing at their private compound.
There was one woman ahead of me in checkout. Two clerks were at the register and working to process her refund. It was taking a long time. The clerk fussing with the register motioned to a fan behind the counter and said, “That fan is distracting me.” The other clerk said, “Sorry!” and turned off the fan.
After several more minutes passed, the second clerk said to the first, “While you help this woman, how about I help the next person in line at another register?”
At the other register, she fanned her face and said to me, “Oh, honey! I sure could still use that fan!” It was late September in northern New England, not exactly a hot day.
I smiled and replied, “Cold all our lives and suddenly hot way too often!”
She laughed and nodded. Then she leaned toward me conspiratorially and whispered, “When I tell my husband I’m hot because I’m having a hot flash, he says, ‘Aw, you’re just hot to trot!'”
In less than a minute this woman I had never met had just confided a very charming — and private — thing to me. People do that all the time. I sometimes wonder if I’ve got a figurative sign on me that says, “Tell me your secrets. I’m good with them.”
I replied, “Well, that man is a keeper for sure. I bet you think so, too!”
“Oh, yes!” she said. “Even when his C-pap machine drives me crazy with all the noise at night, and I get so angry at him for keeping me awake, I still know that he is a keeper.”
Be interested in other people. Care about them. Take a moment out of your daily rush to truly see someone. It’ll brighten their day, make you more magnetic – and make you a better conflict resolver.