A Look at Conflict — To Camp or Not to Camp, is that Really the Question?
by Jeanne M. Browne, Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
If we want to resolve our conflicts, then we have to look deeper at the underlying “need” for our desired result.
For example, I tell my husband that I want to schedule a camping trip. It’s a favorite pasttime from my childhood and we have great memories of camping together when our kids were small. I love taking in the nature hikes along the river that give me the sense of relaxation. That’s probably my favorite part, that I desire that type of relaxation. Even though setting up camp and sleeping outdoors may not be as kind to my body as times in the past, it’s still fun to do with my family.
If my hubby is not ready for the entire “project” that camping involves, he could start in on the reasons that my idea is a bad one, such as pointing out the hassle of packing, getting reservations, and the high cost of gas for our truck. I’m now thinking, “Wow, my great idea has just been shot in the shoulder.” This leads to the thought of “I’m injured, and he doesn’t care.” Then I say to myself, “This is important to me, why can’t he understand that?”
He’s learned some conflict resolution skills over the years. He started out by listening to my ideas about places I might want to camp, and when would be a good time to schedule it. He then responds instead with “Let’s think about when we can do that. We do have some wonderful camping memories together. What do you like best about it?”
When I mention the hiking part, he could “remember along with me” about how much we enjoy doing that together. Then he might suggest a day hike next weekend in the area where we live. I recognize my “relaxation need” for the outdoors and hiking met by that activity, and may reconsider my need to do the entire “camping” experience right now. I might even respond with “Wow, that sounds great, let’s make a date to do that!” If we are smart, we will write it in on the calendar.
Rather than starting an argument about the pros and cons of camping, we directed our conversation instead toward “What’s special about that for you?” and looked for ways that we had mutual thoughts or needs about the subject.
Try this the next time you face a conflict:
1) Really listen to what the person is saying.
2) Confirm that you heard what they said until they say, “Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say.”
3) Then say, “This sounds really important to you, tell me more about that.”
4) Listen again, and confirm that you heard what that person is needing.
Let me know how that works for you. It has worked for me!
Got to go now, as I’m heading out for a hike with my husband. Ahhh….time to relax!