One of the biggest reasons we fail at dealing with conflict is that we don’t prepare.
Too often we just jump into the hard conversation. We don’t check our emotions or our motives. We may rehearse it briefly in our head, but we really don’t take the time to get it right.
And, when emotions get strong, what happens? It usually turns out bad.
How do we fix that?
By preparing for conflict.
Here are 5 steps to take before dealing with conflict and having that hard conversation.
1. Separate Fact From Fiction
It’s easy for us to make assumptions about the other person’s motives and intentions (and we usually assume the worst). Not only do we make the assumptions, we treat them as fact. We’ll “know” it to be true. Then we will go into a conversation arguing these motives and intentions instead of discussing the facts and discovering the intentions.
Separate facts from fiction. What do you know? What do you not know? What are the facts of what happened? What about the situation are you just assuming?
When you know your facts from assumptions, you then can go to the other person with the facts and then discuss the rest as what they are, assumptions. Otherwise, if you go in with your assumptions as facts, it will raise up defensiveness more and much more likely lead to another failed hard conversation.
2. Sort Out Your Feelings
Sometimes when someone hurts us, or we are in a difficult situation, we have a bundle of emotions. It’s important for us to sort these emotions out and understand how we are feeling.
Get a piece of paper and start writing out the different aspects of the situation and your emotions toward each part (and why if you can – why do you feel that way).
This can help you see the situation more clearly. It will give you a greater understanding of yourself and the situation and also allow you to express your feelings more clearly when having the hard conversation. Knowing your emotions can also help you control your emotions versus them controlling you.
3. Discover Your Contribution
It the vast majority of arguments and conflict, each person has contributed something toward the problem. Sometimes the contribution might be something as simple as being silent for so long about the situation. Too often in conflict, we lay all blame on the other person instead of looking at ourselves to see what we did to help contribute to the problem.
Discover your contribution. See what you did to help create it or keep it going. This will help you keep perspective during the hard conversation and help you put down the other person’s defensiveness when you acknowledge and even apologize for your contribution. It will also help you focus on finding a solution rather than just laying blame.
4. Know Your Motives
One reason hard conversations go so awry is because we often go into them with the wrong motives. We go in to lay blame. To prove the other person wrong. To prove ourselves right. To vent our anger and frustration. To hurt the other person.
The problem is that none of those purposes actually solves the situation. It only makes it worse.
Examine your motives. Is your purpose to resolve the situation and to come to a solution? Or is it to prove yourself right and the other person wrong? If your motive is wrong, you want to get it right before having that conversation.
5. Write It Out and Practice
Write out the message you want to give. It’s okay to put all your emotions into it to let them out if needed. Then edit it.
Writing it out will let you have a more solid message. It will give you time to review it, to think over it, and to practice it.
To practice, read your message out loud. Listen to how it sounds and comes across. Depending on the conversation, you can even get a trusted friend to practice with and roleplay (but remember the purpose – it’s not to bash the other person but to resolve the situation).
One of the best ways to make sure you start the hard covnersation right is to prepare. Separate fact from fiction, sort out your feelings, discover your contribution, know your motives, and write it out and practice. Do these, and you will be taking one giant step forward toward a positive resolution to the problem.