You may think this answer is counter-intuitive, but it’s true: To solve conflict quickly, you must slow down.
Just about everything I do professionally centers around resolving conflict, improving communication, enhancing leadership and inspiring teamwork. I work with teams of all kinds: work teams, non-profit teams and even families. While the specifics of the environment might change, one thing remains the same in every situation. All the involved parties are in interdependent relationships.
Understanding the interdependent nature of the relationships, I operate under the starting assumption that the involved parties want to preserve their relationships through the process of resolving the conflict. I assume that the preferred solution involves crafting a plan that enables everyone involved to continue working together. That’s why I support slowing down when it comes to conflict resolution.
I’m not the only one. Tammy Lenski supports a slow conflict movement and the idea that we need to move through conversations more intentionally.
Here are my thoughts on the matter. When we rush through conversations of any kind, and specifically conflict conversations, we run the risk of:
- Missing important information in the other person’s perspective.
- Pushing our own perspective, rather than listening to the other person.
- Focusing our thinking on a single solution, rather than considering alternative solutions.
- Ignoring the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
In short, when we rush, we become selfish.
On the contrary, when you slow down, you are more apt to:
- Learn from the other person.
- Listen carefully.
- Open your mind to multiple solutions.
- Remain sensitive to the other person.
Even though the first approach seems to move faster in the moment, it actually slows us down. It creates new conflicts and side issues that drag out the conversation or hurt future interactions.
Going fast prohibits resolution, rather than quicken it.
The second approach feels slow because it involves periods of silence, reflection and carefully crafted conversation. However, it creates an environment where both parties understand each other.
Slowing down heads off future misunderstandings and conflicts.
So I ask you the next time you are in a conflict of sorts, slow down. Take a deep breath and then focus on giving a SOLID response:
- Stop. Stop everything. Do not say or do anything. Resist the urge to speak. Stop your internal dialogue that immediately labels the other person as “wrong.”
- Observe. What is the other person saying with his or her body language? What is his or her tone? Is the person angry or hurt?
- Listen. Listen carefully to the person’s words. What is the intended meaning? Does what the person say have merit? What is his or her perception? Even if you disagree with the interpretation of events, you will need to understand it before you respond.
- Interpret. Evaluate what you have learned from Stopping, Observing and Listening. Make a thoughtful interpretation of the person’s intended meaning. Give yourself time to think about what you will say or do next.
- Deliver. Deliver your response. To resolve a conflict, the person also needs to know what you are thinking. Hopefully your conscious effort to listen before you speak will offer you time to think clearly and show that you care about his or her concerns.
It will take practice, but when you slow down and focus, you, ultimately, will come to mutually agreed-upon solutions quicker. Plus, you will be more likely to prevent the same conflict from resurfacing later.