How important is it for you to be understood by another? When was the last time someone communicated to you that what you said had validity? What was that like?
If you are similar to me–it is huge. I am SO grateful for whenever someone takes the time to listen and validate in some way what I have said. There is something that happens deep inside me–a settling experience where I feel significantly cared for by another. Unfortunately I don’t see this happen very often when I watch people communicate. Here is the amazing affect that validation can have when it comes to disarming conflict:
A conflict can take place over any topic whatsoever. Couples fight over silly matters–like where to go to dinner–or painful matters–like whose fault it is that the marriage is crumbling. Hoping to be heard, each party argues their point of view, all the while refusing to hear the other’s. How well does that work?
How can we so vehemently want someone to listen to us when we won’t listen to them? Or expect them to understand us when we won’t make the effort to understand them?
One comment I frequently hear is: “But I don’t agree with them.” My first internal response is often, you haven’t clearly heard what is being said yet, so how can you agree or disagree? Then I usually add that they don’t have to necessarily agree. What they do need to do–if they want to love well and see the relationship thrive–is understand and validate what the other is saying.
Answer this: when in a conflict with your spouse or child, do you want to fight or do you want to find a resolve? Watch most people argue and it appears they only want to fight. Neither seems interested in understanding or appreciating what the other has to say. As a result they walk away frustrated more often than not. It is always a shame because moving towards resolution is only one step away.
If disarming conflict is to take place, it begins with one person taking time to validate the other. Here’s how:
- THINK: love means listening before speaking.
- Stop arguing your point and instead listen to theirs.
- Listen until at least to some degree you can understand their perspective, appreciate what they are saying, and see how their thinking or feeling makes sense. Then tell them it makes sense.
- After they pick themselves off the floor and ask if you are serious, assure them you are. Tell them again that what they said makes sense. Remember, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or think they are right, but you can at least appreciate their perspective. When you do this, the other person will feel validated. Disarming conflict is the result.
- THEN: get and stay quiet.
“Wait a second (you might say), what do I do with my thoughts or feelings? When do I share my thoughts?”
We all know what it is like for someone to respond to us by saying “Yes, but…” When that happens, we intuitively know they didn’t really hear us, right?
That is why I say after you validate them to get quiet. If you have something you want to share, wait 15 – 20 seconds, then ASK if you can share your perspective. When you ask for an opportunity to share rather than TAKE it, emotions stay calm and the other person feels respected and heard.
This week, practice over and over what I have suggested whenever you engage in conversation and/or conflict. You will be amazed how much smoother your conversations will go if you follow the above steps!
What else have you learned that helps in disarming conflict? Will you leave a comment below?