Communicating is similar to a dance. Either you are in rapport and flowing in a rhythm, or you are constantly stepping on each other’s foot.
People often assume that when you disagree on something, you cannot be in rapport and the only option is to “win” at all costs. That formula leads to wars and is unnecessary. It is absolutely possible to be in rapport with someone in the face of a total disagreement and it is is far better to agree to disagree than to agree to kill each other.
You can easily achieve this outcome and alleviate conflict, while maintaining your point of view. You may also increase your odds of winning an argument. Here are few simple pointers.
One of the great powers you have is the power to choose to react or not to react. There are times you come across someone who deliberately provokes you, and you feel your blood boil”. They may even be in rage, their faces getting red, leaning into your face, venting their anger and frustration, suggesting you are wrong.
The natural instinct is to defend yourself and dig deep into your arsenal of weapons, with a possibility of annihilation. You have fallen into the reactivity trap, eradicated your own logical reasoning, and responded in a way they expected you to respond. You have given your power away.
Another option is to take a deep breath, pinch the palm of your hand to keep focused and patiently wait for them to go through the various natural stages, progressing from anger to sadness to acceptance…waiting for their reservoir of anger to deplete, as in the absence of fuel, all anger eventually dissipates.
When that reservoir gets empty, something peculiar happens in their mind. They begin to search for the conclusion of what they started. Inside their mind they are searching for the next step and for an answer. While searching, their attention focuses on something different than their anger.
Anger gets replaced with an empty feeling of silent despair. Now they are looking to you to provide an answer and “finish” the process.
This is your opportunity to step in and take advantage of an optimal opportunity to respond.
How to Become a Powerful Communicator
Reacting puts the control in the hands of the other. Not reacting feeds power to you.
One of the most challenging tasks at time is to listen respectfully when they are displaying disrespectful behavior. The key in this matter is to go inside, take a deep breath and accept they are merely reflecting their reality. It is their truth which has nothing to do with you. Not responding and listening is the simplest way you can help the other move from resistance to acceptance.
Even in the face of the other’s provocations, keep showing respect, remembering that you give respect not because of who they are but rather because of who you are. Always stay true to yourself and your values AND stay connected with the other at the level of accepting they own their reality.
As you listen, watch out for your feelings of guilt. Always remember that you are not responsible for the other’s reaction. Allow them experience their natural reaction to whatever they are reacting to, and most importantly avoid saving them from feeling of disappointment or sadness.
These are part of the normal process of acceptance. Sympathizing, as good as it feels, may lead you to weaken and yield. You can empathize (which means understanding) without sympathizing (which means feeling the pain for them). Empathy is a form of respect, sympathy is a sign of weakness.
Another great tool in your bag of skills is the ability to paraphrase.
People rarely feel understood and respected in a conflict situation. When they do, they are often genuinely surprised and start to relax. So, keep listening to them and let them know you are listening.
One powerful tool for doing that is to paraphrase – to repeat back in your own words what you hear the other saying.
This technique can be traced back at least as far as the Middle Ages to the University of Paris, where the rule in theological debates was that you had to repeat back what the other had said until they were satisfied you had understood their meaning, and only then could you make your own point. Slowing down the discussion can actually speed up the process of understanding.
If you paraphrase in sincere spirit, you can accomplish three different purposes. It lets that person know you are seeking to understand, a gesture of respect. It makes sure you really do understand what is being said. It also allows you to take a break for a few seconds and to think before you reply.
You can use the following simple phrases to begin the process of paraphrasing:
“Let me make sure I understand what you are saying”
“If I hear you correctly, you are saying that…”
“Help me understand. If I hear you correctly…”
The next step to enhance your mutual understanding is being able to acknowledge the validity of their point without conceding yours. This is where you have become an artist communicator.
Whereas conceding means giving up on your point of view, acknowledging allows you to continue to assert your point of view while honoring the others”. “I understand your point is. It is a valid point. I happen to see the situation differently.” You acknowledge their point but don’t agree with it.
Another powerful technique is to replace “But” with “Yes”…”And”. The normal prevailing mind set is either –or. Either you are right or the other is. Either your interests will be met or theirs will. Either you will have your way or they will.
There is only room for one point of view; therefore the other must be eliminated. This hidden assumption of either – or creates unnecessarily polarizing conflict that only diverts attention from your objective persuading the other to respect you.
You can choose to adopt a both – and mind-set instead. The other has a point and so do you. You do not need to reject the other and instead, you can reaffirm your basic needs and values.
In practical terms, this shift may take a form of replacing the word “but” with “yes…and”, If, for instance your client demands a price cut, saying, “your prices are way too high”, it is tempting to counter with “but look at the quality”.
The trouble is that the other may not really hear you, for the word “but” is a verbal cue that they are about to be contradicted. People do not like being contradicted, so they close their ears.
You are more likely to get your point across if you begin by acknowledging the other’s point first and then make your point – not in contradiction but in addition to their point.
“Yes, you are right, our prices are higher than next door. And if you consider the fabulous quality of what you are getting and the service that comes with it, I think you will find that the price is very reasonable for the value you are receiving.”
Consider these few ideas and put them into practice today. Watch how your world changes.