Dealing with confrontation and getting into things you disagree on with the people you care about can be a daunting task. However, I have four phrases for you to keep in your back pocket for when you get into difficult conversations/with folks that will help steer you away from getting into a negative dynamic.
Listen to the Podcast Here:
Dealing with Confrontation:
I used many of these last weekend when I was at a socially distanced gathering talking to a good friend about schools reopening. We see eye to eye on many things but on this one we diverge a bit. So long as infections are down and stable and we can take steps to minimize the spread within schools, I think kids need to be in school for many reasons, including but also beyond learning. She is of the mind that it’s not safe and a really bad idea to send teachers, kids, staff back out there. I see both of our points. I care about her. And I don’t want to get in to a fight with her.
Normally, my conflict averse self would just find a way to get out of there as quickly and gracefully as I can. But we also have to be able to hear each other out. So I had a super quick check in with myself to remind myself to just listen without also subjecting myself to a long and/or upsetting conversation. And I employed many of these phrases and it worked well. I think we both got to feel heard and I hope we both walked away with our mood in tact.
The Art of Disagreeing:
Before I share these four phrases with you, I just want to say that there are some things worth getting upset over. But there are so many potential landmines out there now, and many of them are not. You could have numerous contentious conversations every day and they do take a toll. They are what you think about in the middle of the night and cause you to lose sleep. They can cause you to feel isolated. Even worse, that can contribute to a loss of faith in humanity. It’s important to find a way to have these disagreements so that they become less fraught.
It sucks a little bit that you have to be the one to exert the effort to keep things on a level where you can not only be civil but also reach understanding, but it’s important work. And your doing it models the way for others to do it too. It’s an important way you exert your influence, which is something I talked about in yesterday’s episode.
So, here are those four phrases.
I can see this means a lot to you. This is so so SO different from saying “just calm down” but you would use it in the exact same moment–when the person you’re talking to is starting to get really upset.
Tell me more about that is a good way to try and get at the fear that’s underlying the belief. If you can understand the fear, then you will probably have more empathy and you’ll also be able to say something that gets to the heart of the matter.
I have thoughts on the matter–are you interested in hearing them? Getting someone’s buy-in just completely shifts the energy. It’s like they go from leaning away from you and closing their ears to you to leaning forward and opening up.
We’re all in this together. Because, hey, it’s the truth. We are all in this together and the more we remember our connection to each other the more we are going to be able to hash things out.
Daily Tiny Assignment:
Your tiny assignment in dealing with confrontation is to bust out one of these phrases the next time you’re dealing with confrontation. It’s good to learn something new, but it’s all just theoretical and blips of energy in your brain until you put it into practice, when it becomes a tangible muscle memory.
And, be sure to come back tomorrow, when I’m interviewing Sheila Heen, the bestselling author of Difficult Conversations and a 20-year member of the negotiation project at Harvard. I’m going to be asking her for her best advice on how to handle these discussions with skill and grace so that they take less of a toll and lead to greater understanding.