Two weeks ago, John Morales hosted Dave Durand on Morning Air to talk about the 4 reasons that are misunderstood by others. Those misunderstandings often lead to conflict, but if we can find ways to be clearer with each other, maybe we can avoid conflict altogether.
But last week, John Morales welcomed Dave back onto the show to talk about what to do if we can’t avoid conflict: find conflict resolutions. Dave and John discussed the different keys to resolving conflict, disagreeing respectfully, or finding compromises.
Dave began by explaining that there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict. A healthy conflict essentially amounts to a disagreement between people that is expressed in a calm and rational manner. A healthy conflict remains firmly grounded and does not extend beyond the boundaries of its context. It does not get personal, insulting, or escalate to an aggressive or hostile level.
An unhealthy conflict is when those boundaries are crossed and the discussion (now argument) becomes less about the subject and more about proving the other person wrong, making them upset, preserving your ego, and establishing a dominant reputation. Once it begins to enter that unhealthy phase, Dave recommends these keys to resolving it before the rift becomes irreparable:
- Provide understanding. “The appropriate amount to talk is until you’re understood, and the appropriate amount to listen is until you understand,” said Dave. While providing understanding sounds like a one-way street, it takes two for this process to happen. The goal is not to simply get past what the other person is saying so that you can now interject your point of view. Often, that’s what conflict amounts to: Two people waiting for the other to say something that they can respond to and then refusing to listen any further until they’ve said their piece. Understanding one another takes maturity.
“Most people would rather be right to their own demise, than wrong to their own prosperity.”
- Don’t take the bait. Very often in conflicts, there is an element of immaturity on at least one side. Naturally, people tend to introduce a tone to their statements or arguments that could be interpreted as edgy or passively aggressive. That person’s strategy might be to put you down, or it might be to try to get a rise out of you. Either way, Dave says to ignore the tone of the other person’s voice. Focus on the words that they are saying.
If you take the bait, you’ve just converted this intellectual debate into an emotional argument in which neither side prospers. Emotion can have a role in your point, but it cannot be the leading or majority factor. Logic, knowledge, and wisdom must lead the way.
- Repeat back what you think you understand. Dave encouraged this strategy, especially when dealing with a person who has a very big ego or very low self-esteem. Those types of people are constantly on the attack, so in order to be as productive as possible, it takes a tactful person to make sense of what they’re saying without setting them off. Repeat to them in a cordial way what you think they are saying to you and then formulate a response.
- Avoid interrupting the other person. People with big egos or low self-esteem will often interrupt the person they are talking to relentlessly because they are afraid that what the other person might say is true. If it is, that will mean that they are wrong, they have to change, they have to reflect, and they might look like a fool. People with warped views of themselves hate the truth, so they’ll shout, interrupt, and hijack the discussion.
However, there are times when interruptions happen because of unusual, conversational cadence or overenthusiasm. Therefore, we simply have to regulate interruption, not eradicate it. Take it in stride and try to mitigate it.
- Mirror emotions with words and pace. When somebody laughs, we want to laugh along with them. When they smile, we smile. When they express worry or anxiety, we try to empathize and tap into that emotion. When you are able to harness your emotions to become an ally of your neighbor, they will see more clearly that you are human just like them. When you match emotions, things are much less likely to escalate into an argument if both parties show that they understand where the other is coming from.
- Be fair. “A reasonable conversation with a reasonable person about a reasonable topic provides a reasonable outcome.” If you take reason out of any of those factors, the formula falls apart. As Josef Pieper says in The Four Cardinal Virtues, we should build up prudence and then justice, which provide not only spiritual but natural benefits. By being fair, we show the other person again that there is a person behind these opinions.
- Avoid sarcasm. While sarcastic teasing and ribbing can often be a way to bond with others, especially amongst men, Dave cautions against using it in conflict. While this isn’t a hard rule and some may have a great sense of humor about it, sarcastic remarks can just as often escalate the conflict as they can help break the ice.
Tune in to Morning Air weekdays at 5am CT