How to Make Disagreements Less Disagreeable – Start with Connection
I don’t like conflict. And as I learn more about myself, I’m not surprised. For example, I’ve learned that my top saboteurs are the Avoider and Pleaser, and that my Everything DiSC personality type is Steadiness, which is all about harmony. So when I heard about the highly recommended book, Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes by Ian Leslie, I was all ears!
Ian lists 10 rules of productive argument. His chapter on the first rule, connect, has already made an impact on me and totally aligns with the Saboteur vs. Sage concept I’ve been learning from Shirzad Chamine.
Ian points out that the initial exchange in an interaction determines the outcome. If I feel attacked, my instinct is to attack back or get defensive. My saboteurs are on high alert to protect myself. But if I feel a sense of connection, then my sage is activated, and I’m more open and curious.
So the key to conflict is to start the interaction with concern for the other person. The goal is to understand and validate not only their point of view but also their emotions. When we tap into our sage powers of empathy and curiosity, we create a bridge instead of a wall.
In the book, Ian shares examples from teams, companies, marriages, law enforcement, customer service professionals, and interrogators. One of his examples from de-escalation training for police officers really resonated with me. When someone is upset, the last thing you want to do is to tell them to calm down. Instead, the training recommends ‘starting where they’re at.’ Listen for the emotion behind their words and then validate their emotions. “It sounds like you’re upset.” They might respond, “Damn right, I’m upset!” What experts have found is that acknowledging their feelings can help them relax.
“Unarticulated emotion is like an unexploded bomb, and naming it somehow defuses it.” – Ian Leslie
Do you have any tense relationships or even occasional tense situations with others? See if you can tap into your sage and start by showing concern and empathy to create more connection and break down the walls.