I10: Resistance and Conflict
Sometimes we meet resistance from the person we are talking to, even though we may be using the interpersonal effectiveness skills we learned so far. What should we do in this situation?
It can be a challenging situation when you are encountering resistance to your communication. We are going to work on several skills that will help you communicate more effectively in the face of resistance.
Skill One : Validating the Other Person's View
In some cases the reason why we have a hard time communicating our thoughts to somebody is because they feel like their side of the argument is being invalidated. This is why the first skill we are going to work on is mutual validation - trying to make the other person understand that they are being heard and that we are validating their opinions, motives and needs. At the same time, you will try to communicate your point of view as well. Validating someone doesn't mean that you are necessarily agreeing with them, just that you understand their point of view and how they feel.
Try to use the form "I understand that (what they feel or think). On my part (I feel... and think that... )."
For example, let's say that your colleague won't listen to you explaining that she needs to be more focused so that you will finish your mutual project on time. What you can say is:
"I understand that you have a lot on your plate now, I know that you are worried about other things not related to work. You must feel overwhelmed. On my part, what I need to tell you is that we have to finish this project on time because we took this responsibility. I feel a little scared and anxious from the possible consequences we might have if we don't finish this on time."
Think of a current important relationship where you had a hard time communicating something. How would you explain your point of view using the skill of mutual validation. Write your answers in the worksheet.
Skill Two : Repeating Your Point of View
There are certain situations where the other person is full with different types of arguments and doesn't seem to get or listen to your point of view. In this case, think of a short sentence that conveys your point of view and calmly and politely repeat it with only slight variations. This is all you do - don't ask additional questions because that might give them a chance to go into another whirlwind of one-sided arguments.
For example, Sarah is trying to explain to her husband that they should be united when it comes to teaching their children how to behave in a certain situation and not give different directions. Since she is having a difficult time doing this, she decides to repeat that "We should be united in teaching our daughter how to behave and not give her different directions each." She is politely, calmly and consistently repeating this statement even though she is met with resistance.
If you participated in a similar type of conversation recently, think about how you would explain yourself and what sentence you would try to repeat in order to get your opinion be heard. Write this down in the worksheet.
Skill Three : Ask for Specifics
When somebody is criticizing you and you can't quite understand why what they are saying is so important to them, ask for specifics. Practicing this skill can give you useful information that you didn't have before.
Use the form:
"What exactly is bothering you about...________?"
For example, John is trying to understand why his girlfriend Emma is so bothered by him having a night out with his guy friends. He is repeating the question: What exactly is bothering you about me having a guys' night out? Emma first starts with more general and not specific information like: "I think I should come as well." and "I don't want to spend the evening by myself." But, by the end of the conversation John discovers that the main problem is that Emma is scared that John will stop finding her interesting and that maybe he will meet somebody else.
Think about a similar situation that you experienced where you couldn't understand the other person point of view and you weren't getting useful information. How would you phrase the question? Write it down in the worksheet.
In some situations I don't feel like validating the other person's point of view because I feel angry. What should I do?
Not validating what the other person is feeling, thinking or needing can lead to one-sided communication or relationships. Although in some cases we may successfully get what we want even if we take into account our needs only, this approach will not help us build healthy relationships in the long term. Everyone values being listened to and appreciated, and although relationships and request can be complicated, trying to convey the atmosphere and feeling of mutual respect will only result in more positive, stronger and healthier relationships for you and the other person.
In which situations is it most suitable to use the skill repeating your point of view?
You can use this skill if the other person is having a hard time hearing you out and if they are intensely repeating their point of view only. Sometimes the emotions get the better of people, and they can forget about mindfully appreciating the other communication partner. The way to use this skill effectively is to stay calm and respectfully repeat your point of view in a clear and short way.
In terms of the third skill, asking for specifics, I usually feel little afraid to push for more information because I'm afraid that the other person will get angry.
These are characteristics of the passive style of communicating our needs. You might benefit from going over the assertiveness skills once again (exercises 2 and 3 from this module). Try to get out of your comfort zone little by little by more assertively asking for what you want. Follow the assertiveness steps. If you are surrounded by people who get angry on a regular basis when you express your needs, remind yourself that everybody has the right to express their opinions and emotions (in a mutually validating way) without feeling guilty about it.
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