Conflict Resolution Series: Active Listening as a Tool
Conflict is never easy. The sooner it can be resolved, the better. Once a heated debate begins, emotions flood the situation and create a dynamic where being right rules over being in harmony. Once tempers flare people shut down and stop listening. The overwhelming feeling of not be heard or misunderstood makes matters worse. This is the best time to use active listening as a tool for conflict resolution.
What is active listening?
Active listening is the process of engaging in conversation with someone using techniques that clarify what is being said and creates harmony and reciprocity.
Active listening includes very specific steps to ensure both parties feel heard, understood, and seek clarification when there is confusion.
Effective active listening follows this course:
A statement is shared during a conversation. We will use this example: "I can’t believe you didn't put gas in my car like I asked you to!"
In many cases, an accusatory statement like this would put someone on the defense wanting to deflect the blame or, at the very least, offer a sharp-toned excuse why gas wasn’t in the car. Instead, active listening would use reframing to restate what was said, making sure the person you are in conversation with knows you heard them.
"I am sorry I didn’t put gas in the car." After making certain the other person knows you heard what they said, active listening goes a step further to empathize with how the other person must feel. "I can see why this upsets you when you were relying on me to do what you asked."
Generally, this step of active listening will diffuse most anger because the person feels heard, understood, and validated. Active listening continues by shifting the conversation from complaining to problem solving.
Wrapping this conflict up may look something like this: "Is it alright if I fill your car with gas after dinner, or do you need me to do it sooner?" Offering choices puts the power back in the hands of the person who was let down and gives them the choice to choose when the task is complete.
The final step towards conflict resolution concludes with a statement predicting future behavior and putting to rest any anxiety that the other person can't be trusted on their word. "Next time, if I run into a problem, I will be sure to let you know so we can make another plan."
To recap, the elements of active listening are below as a reminder for the next time you find yourself in conflict.
Receive the information and reframe it back to the other person involved in the conflict
Ask for any clarifications that you may need
Reframe the information once again until you are certain the other person in the conflict knows you heard them
Make an empathy statement that assures the other person you understand how this makes them feel
Offer a solution or alternative to find resolution
End the conflict with a predictive statement that secures trust for the future
Active listening is an effective tool in diffusing hostility and resolving conflict while restoring trust. Add this valuable tool to your chest right away.
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