September 25, 2020 | Written By Craig Yaris, Partner
Almost every family has some sort of long-standing argument and with the nationwide pandemic we have all been experiencing, people are more frequently on the “edge of their seats,” with emotions high and fuses sometimes a bit short. But some very simple steps can help you to lower your stress levels, especially when you find yourself involved in that long-standing family argument.
Yes, all of us over a certain age remember being told to “count to 10”. Turns out, this is great advice. There is a reason there is the Breathe app on the Apple Watch. Taking just one minute to focus on your breathing can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also allow you a moment to collect your thoughts. Everyone processes information at a different pace. At a recent mediation, one of our clients felt overwhelmed by the information that was presented to her. She took a few moments to breathe deeply and afterward, she reported that she was in a much better position to process the information she was receiving.
But don’t listen to respond. Listen to understand. Work on hearing what the other party is saying. Then respond to them by repeating what they have said so that you can ensure you are understanding. Use phrases such as, “what I hear you saying is…” and “am I understanding you…”.
3. Focus on Feelings
All conflict resolution involves tempers and opinions that run hotter than normal. But by listening to their feelings, you can better respond to their needs. After all, when people convey feelings, they are also conveying their needs, and by understanding their needs, we can better move the conflict forward towards a resolution.
4. Step Away
Don’t be afraid to say that you need to step away for a few moments. It isn’t that you are stopping the conversation, it is that you need time to process and, if necessary, lower the heart rate and tempers of the parties. Take 20 minutes. Get some fresh air. Meditate. Breathe. When you resume the conversation, you will be better prepared to move forward.
5. Remember, words matter
While experiencing conflict, our first reaction is to defend ourselves. After all, we are right in our beliefs, no matter the overarching situation. And, when we are defending ourselves, we are not always thinking about the language we are using to express our opinions or our beliefs.
However, that is one of the most important parts of any conflict - our language. The words we use to convey our understanding and our position are what every conflict is built on, and certain words or phrases can cause the other party to mentally freeze in their efforts to truly listen.
One great example of this came during a family dispute between two brothers. They had scheduled a meeting and during their conversation, one brother referred to the others’ wife as, “your wife”. No name. This immediately and visibly caused a change in the other brother, almost shutting down his ability to hear anything else. The phrase “your wife” was dehumanizing to both parties, the brother and his wife, for removing her name made her less of a person in this situation.
We have seen the exact same thing happen when two business partners were having a heated discussion and one referred to the other’s spouse as “your husband”. Again, referencing the individuals by their status and not their names remove their humanity and shuts down any chance of meaningful progress.
Words matter, and even in the heat of “battle” using language that moves conflict forward should always be the goal. Make an effort to not remove people’s humanity. Make an effort to resolve your conflicts.
These are unprecedented and stressful times. Conflict shouldn’t make it worse. Take time to follow the steps, above, and you may find resolution is within your reach.
Craig E. Yaris is a partner at Parlatore Law Group, handling client Franchise, General Business Practice, and Mediation needs. Mr. Yaris has experience as a Patient Advocate, and more recently, a Conflict Resolution Specialist, where he mediated and resolved disputes on behalf of patients with insurance companies. In addition, he has experience mediating employer and employee disputes as well as helping resolve family conflict.
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