KENTUCKY (7/27/13) - We are in constant communication every hour of every day. We have to have discussions with family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers, and bosses. We should all be masters of communication, right? Unfortunately, many people lack good communication skills, especially during conflict and confrontation. I definitely have not mastered communication skills yet, but I have learned much within the last three years. Today, I want to share with you some of the skills I have learned for better communication during conflict that will be healthy for yourself and others.
When dealing with conflict, there are typically four types of communication styles:
1. Passive – This is the category that I fell into. The passive person wishes to avoid disagreements and/or confrontation at all costs. I use to avoid confrontation like the plague! Passive individuals will not speak their minds or their truth(s) during conflict; they typically won’t speak up at all because they really don’t know what to say. They are afraid that if they do say something, they may “look silly”. They are also afraid of hurting another person’s feelings if they did speak up. Ignoring the situation is the passive person’s best tool for handling what is going on.
2. Passive aggressive – The way in which the passive aggressive individual handles conflict is to not speak their truth(s) to the person they are in conflict with; but they will go to a third party and speak their truth(s) to them. The passive aggressive person has something to say and know what that is; they just don’t know how to convey that to the person they are in a disagreement with.
3. Aggressive – This form of communication is characterized by approaching the other person from a defensive state. Yelling, name-calling, dominating the conversation, and blaming are all strategies used by the aggressive person. The individual using the aggressive form of communication lets their emotions take over the confrontation.
4. Assertive – The assertive person is confident. The assertive person speaks their truth(s) fluently. They do not allow their emotions get the best of them. They come to the confrontation with the desire to arrive at an agreement that both parties can benefit from.
Which of these four styles do you fit into?
The passive communication style doesn’t work well because you are not able to stand up for yourself and what you believe. You aren’t able to resolve the matter at hand full. Eventually, the passive individual may be looked at as a “push over”, which is not healthy for someone’s self-esteem.
The passive aggressive style doesn’t work well because, just like the passive communication style, you are not able to fully resolve disagreements.
The aggressive style doesn’t work well because when you start a conversation on the defense, the other person gets defensive as well. Then, a yelling match ensues and as stated above, nothing gets resolved.
Clearly, the assertive communication style is the best approach not only with conflict, but also when speaking your truth/opinions. By being assertive you gain confidence and earn respect. You stay in control of yourself and the situation as well. This way, you can resolve the conflict and move on to better things.
How do you become assertive? By realizing that conflict and disagreement are inevitable and when it happens, you have a right to voice your opinion and any problem-solving ideas that you have.
Here are some tips for properly handling conflict/disagreements:
•Take a 60 second to 24 hour time out when a disagreement arises. This helps eliminate saying something that you don’t mean and allows time to problem-solve.
•Ask yourself what it is that you would like to see happen.
•Once you have figured out what it is that you want, think of ways that this can be done so that you both benefit.
•After you have thought of a way to overcome the conflict, approach the person confidently and privately. Make direct eye contact when speaking, stand up straight, use “I” messages.
• Start the conversation off on a positive note.
•Tell the other person your evaluation of the issue at hand and ask for their feedback, letting them know that you want the best possible outcome for all concerned.
•If the conflict has to do with a misunderstanding, clearly speak what you meant.
•End by thanking the other person for their time, hearing what you had to say, and thank them for their participation in clearing things up.
Resolving conflict in this manner shows others the respect they deserve and allows for your feelings to be heard. Remember – we all were given a voice, so use it in a positive manner.
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