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Conflict Resolution Through Listening

Image of a mom having a talk with a young boy. Raleigh Psychotherapy, Katherine Broadway, MDiv, LPC, conflict

When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem. When we listen for what is felt as well as said, we connect more deeply to our own needs and emotions, and to those of other people. Listening in this way also, strengthens us, informs us, and makes it easier for others to hear us.

As a listener, it is difficult to hear what is being said, because of the emotion that gets stirred up inside of you. Even if you are not defensive you are faced with someone who is putting out a lot of feelings.

Integrity, respect, and compassion are essential for the eventual resolution to any conflict. Be willing to empathetic both as the speaker and as the listener.

Active listening is one way to resolve conflict:

1. Make an appointment to talk and agree for one person to speak at a time without interruption:

Set a timer for 2 minutes. The first person has 2 minutes to state what the problem is or what they are upset about.

The purpose of the time limit is to allow the listener to concentrate on what is being said and to be able to really hear. Any more that this will be overwhelming and contain more information than can be heard at one time. This process will be repeated several times in order to include the details.

Speaker: Think about what you are going to say before you speak. Be as concise and simple as possible. It will be easier for you to be heard if you don’t blame, accuse or criticize the other person. You have a right to all your upset feelings and to expressing them. Remember this is not a time to act out your feelings but a time to constructively and clearly talk out the problem and what you experienced. Having a list will help you stay focused and on target.

Listener: Make eye contact. Listen for the reasons the other person gives for being upset. You need to understand what is being said from the speaker’s point of view. What did they experience in the situation? Take notes on the main points of their distress.

2. Repeat the other person’s words, and ask if you have understood correctly:

This allows both of you to be able to hear what has been understood and if there is more information needed. Putting the time and effort into understanding will help the other person feel like you care about them.

Listener: You may paraphrase. Do not analyze, criticize or modify what was said. Some helpful responses: “So you’re saying…, I heard you say…, You’re saying.…

Speaker: Listen carefully to make sure you have been understood. If not, restate what you said.

Listener: Do not make assumptions. If necessary, ask questions to get the information you need to help you understand.

3. When the speaker feels that they have been heard, ask if anything remains unspoken:

This gives the speaker time to think before answering. For example,“Is there more? Anything else you need to say?”

Listener: During this part of the process resist the urge to think about your response and talk about your own point. When the other person has said everything he or she wants to say and feels that you have listened to and understood his or her message, then you will have your time to speak.

4. Validate:

Validating is not agreeing. It is seeing the situation form the view point of the speaker. You can disagree and still validate what is said as the other person’s experience. It is not taking blame for what is going on. It is saying that you understand and that it makes sense, from the speaker’s point of view. You can say something like, “this makes sense to me because…or This makes sense, I can see where….”

You can validate, even if there is no solution at the moment. Expressing appreciation at this stage can help move toward a solution through compromise.

5. Empathize:

This is the place where the listener acknowledges the feelings associated with the event. This is the time when the feelings are named.

In some cased, you may have to imaging what the feelings were. You might even realize that there are more feelings than the ones named. You could say something like, “I hear how hurt you were by….I understand that you were hurt and angry when….” If you are not curtain of the feelings you could say, “I can imagine you might be feeling…Is that how you feel?”

After the Speaker has said finished talking and feels heard, take a short break. Then, it is time to trade places and repeat the process with the listener becoming the speaker. It is important that everyone gets to talk and have the experience of being heard.

Are you having trouble formulation what you need to tell someone? Are you having a conflictt with a friend, partner or a colleague and need help? Call me: (919)881-2001.


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