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Why Arguments, Conflict and Disagreement Get Emotionally Complicated

All of your arguments boil down to three questions. If all your answers are no to all three questions , there will most likely be a problem.

Conflict is difficult to resolve if viewed in as Who wins or Lose.

Most of the time, it involves both logical and illogical feelings. That thing you’re arguing about, whether at home or at work, is about what’s said and what’s not said. It is about what is visible and what is hidden.

The problem is that most of us focus on the surface and ignore what’s beneath. That is a mistake. So how can you move to resolving emotionally entangled conflict?

Oprah Winfrey is someone I admire because she is no stranger to conflict, and she is in a good position to comment on it given her background as an interviewer. She has addressed complex issues such as suicide, infidelity, mental health, sexual abuse, and others, all of which involve deep-seated conflict.

She’s interviewed nearly 30,000 people via her shows,” she says, ” they all had one thing in common.”

What exactly was it? What did everyone have in common, whether a firefighter or a PhD, a dental hygienist or a software engineer?

“They all wanted validation,” Oprah says.

She wasn’t referring to ego-stroking compliments like “You’re such an amazing wife” or “I can’t believe what an incredible boss you are.”

No, she was referring to something more fundamental, and crucial, when it comes to connecting through conflict: validating what someone is saying and validating that it is important to you.

When Oprah spoke at the Stanford Graduate School of Business about career, life, and leadership, she mentioned this. She specifically stated that all of your arguments boil down to three questions, and only three questions:

Did you hear what I said?
Did you notice me?
Did what I said make any sense to you or matter?

In other words, whether your partner is upset because you arrived home late yet again, or your employee is trying to convince you that they need another member on their team, what they really want is to be seen. Being heard.

They want to know if you’re really listening to them and care about what they’re trying to tell you.

This does not imply that you must grovel or strikeout, or that you must immediately change the topic or become accusational (for example, by bringing up a previous situation or disagreement).

It does, however, imply that you should begin by not defending yourself or addressing the “content” of the argument.

If you truly want to calm the person down and resolve the conflict quickly, the best thing to do first is to make them feel understood—and that what they’re saying matters to them.

“You are correct; I have been working late a lot. I know it’s inconvenient not to have me home for dinner. I want you to know how much it means to me.”

“I understand. On the team, you’ve been juggling a lot lately: managing schedules, responding to clients, and liaising between the team and the engineering department. I see and appreciate everything you’ve done.”

According to Oprah (and every other psychologist ever), when someone feels that you see and care about them, its a game changer. The nervous system of the individual relaxes. Their tone becomes softer. The problem appears to become more manageable.

You can most likely relate. If you dig deep enough, almost always, when you have a problem with someone, it’s because you didn’t feel seen or heard.

It’s not just that your previous partner use to ignore; you felt overlooked, unimportant, frustratingly angry or powerless.

When you feel like the other person is seeing you and listening to you (deeply listening, not just saying they’re listening) when you share your distress, you begin to feel different.

You no longer feel alone; you feel as if they’re on your side.

You are feeling supported.

Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, and your friends, as Oprah suggests. Verify them.

I notice you.
I understand.
And what you say is important to me.

Then wait for the magic to happen.

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