Primary Election Fallout – 3 Steps to Prevent Conflict Before It Starts

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By Tasha M. Troy

Today five more states are voting in primaries.  This has been one of the most contentious primary seasons I can remember.  Even more, at this point in my life, I have friends from around the world representing all points in the political spectrum, people I care deeply about and disagree strongly with.

photo by Tasha M. Troy

photo by Tasha M. Troy

I refuse to believe I must “unfriend” or even simply avoid the people I care about who don’t hold the same views as I do.  Indeed, sometimes those people live under my roof – there is no escape!

Here are three steps that help me live in harmony even if I can’t live in agreement.

Step 1:  Observe Carefully

The foundation of living peacefully with others is awareness of differences between ourselves and others, not just who we assume they are and where we believe they are coming from.  How many times have you stated an opinion, assuming you were with like-minded friends, only to find you’d offended someone?  Even people we have known for years grow and change and are not the same people they were five or ten years ago.

In order to grow in awareness, you much be observant – watch and listen for what their values, goals, and motivations are.  Once you have determined this, apply John Maxwell’s 101% principle – find the 1% you agree on and give it 100%!

Step 2: Listen Attentively

In order to truly connect with someone, you have to understand their perspective, and the only way to do that is to listen “connectively” – listen to understand instead of to defend or respond.

This is, of course, easier said than done, but with practice you can develop the habit of truly hearing a person out.  It really does make listening a bit easier when you’re not constantly thinking about a witty repartee.

Step 3: Speak Wisely

The final step is when words finally come out of your own mouth.  To connect with someone, you must “speak their language” – start with what is important to them before you can explain what is important to you.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 3.05.06 PMFor example, if you want to talk to a Trump supporter, you can’t start with the plight of the underprivileged.  You have to start with addressing the issues of government regulation and immigration reform before you can come around to what is important to you.

Likewise, if you are talking to a Sanders supporter, you can’t start with the challenges facing entrepreneurs.  You have to start with addressing economic inequality and lack of opportunity facing the lower and middle classes before you can talk about other issues.

 

No matter who wins the primaries today or who ultimately receives the party nominations this year, there will be people who are upset and who disagree with you and others.  In Colossians, Paul said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  One translations says “gracious and attractive.”  In the end, how we speak impacts our relationships, which are intended to last much longer than an election season.  Speak wisely and avoid election season fallout!

 

Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

Do you want to resolve your conflict?  Let go of your perspective. 

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Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Last week a friend posted a cartoon on Facebook that purported to explain “white privilege.”  This stirred up all kinds of controversy in the comments, including a link to a counter cartoon.

The trouble is I could see elements of truth in both cartoons.

It has been my observation that many, if not most (or more!), conflicts arise over a refusal to consider the other person’s perspective.  Perhaps refusal is too strong, but at the very least an inability and at worst a refusal to walk in someone else’s shoes is an element of almost any conflict.

Looking from Other Perspectives:

If you want to resolve a conflict, you must begin by seeing the situation from the other person’s perspective.  This concept is echoed by many experts:

Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton:

Whether you are making a deal or settling a dispute, differences are defined by the difference between your thinking and theirs.  (Getting to Yes, loc. 685)

Mark Goulston, John Ullmen:

To practice connected influence, you need to break down the barriers that keep you from knowing what other people think, want, and need.   (Real Influence, p. 81)

John Maxwell:

If you want to connect with others, you have to get over yourself.  You have to change the focus from inward to outward, off of yourself and onto others.  (Everyone Communicates Few Connect p. 29)

Stuart Diamond:

People like to give things to others who listen to them, who value them, who consult with them.  (p. 32)

Stephen R. Covey:

If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.  (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 237)

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler:

People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool [of meaning] – even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs.  (Crucial Conversations, p. 24)

There is no way to resolve a conflict until you are able to hear and understand all parties involved.

The Struggle is Real:

While it is a natural human condition to be concerned primarily for oneself, it is not conducive to living peacefully with others.  Everyone has challenges.  Some are monumental challenges – a family member struggling with cancer, the loss of a job and financial struggles.  Others are less so – an extended bout of bronchitis, an unexpected expensive car repair.  However, the size of the struggle is in the eye of the experiencer.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

This became abundantly clear to my family about 7 years ago.  My niece was born a micro premie, with a birth weight under 2 pounds.  As you can imagine, this instigated a season of intense struggle and incredible challenges.

I am very proud of my sister and her family for how they came through the first year or so, and today they are all doing very well.  However, in those early days she received very little support from her church and other friends, to my mind shockingly little.  The simple reason was that the people around her had their own struggles to deal with and were unable to see my sister through her struggle.

My sister had the opportunity to become very bitter and resentful, but she didn’t.  Instead she taught me the truth I am sharing with you – that everyone sees the world through their own lens, and you can’t blame them for that.

The ability to step back and view the world from someone else’s perspective requires a level of maturity not required under normal circumstances.  Many people don’t recognize the need for it until they are in the moment and find themselves lacking.

A New Approach:

In the commentary under my friend’s post, most comments were between a very angry woman and a very exasperated man.  In both of their comments I could hear their pain; it was clear both had had very hurtful experiences, but I don’t think they could detect it in each other.  Instead, they just kept jabbing at each other, increasing the anger and resentment they already felt.

What if … just imagine, if instead of reacting out of our own hurt, maybe, just maybe, we were able to ask instead, “tell me what happened to cause you to react this way?”  How could things be different if we only listened, really listened and tried to understand each other’s stories?

 

Resources:

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Everyone Communicates Few Connect: What the Most Effect People Do Differently.  John C. Maxwell.

Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life.  Stuart Diamond.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In.  Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton.

Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing, Gain without Giving In.  Mark Goulston, John Ullmen.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.  Stephen R. Covey.

Read more about my sister’s story here:  Born at 26 Weeks Weighing Under 2 Pounds, This Happy Girl Shows Why We Stand for Life