By Samantha McKenzie
Humans are hardwired for pleasure, so it’s no mystery that when we are faced with difficult situations, we tend to feel uncomfortable.
Studies show that women also tend to avoid verbal confrontations more often than men. We take our hardwiring seriously, don’t we?! Actually, women avoid having tough conversations – at home and in the workplace – because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. Equally important, we want to avoid being hurt ourselves.
In most cases, we participate in confrontational situations as a last option, when there’s no way around it.
While conflicts vary, how we go about resolving these issues are familiarly the same. First, we try to dismiss the offense. Did he just say that? We give people a pass. And then we neatly package a person’s poor behavior into two nice boxes: 1) she’s having a bad day or 2) he just doesn’t know any better. If that doesn’t work, we practice avoidance. This is eerily similar to the silent treatment if the disagreement is with someone at home. We are completely comfortable resigning ourselves from the problem, in hopes that it will go away.
This isn’t true for all women. Some handle conflicts in opposite fashion. When problems arise with other people, they take the bull by the horns. They exercise justice with pure precision and handle the toughest of conflicts head on. They become so good at this style of ‘conflict resolution’ that people, even family members, shy away from dealing with them altogether.
But there are healthier ways in dealing with difficult conversations.
Start by setting the scene for success. Conflicts are unavoidable. As long as we are alive and come in contact with other human beings, then we will experience our fair share of conflicts. Fortunately, most people don’t set out to hurt us. Start by mentally agreeing that this necessary conversation will be fruitful for all involved.
Next, get your heart in the right place. Check your motives. Do you want to win the fight? Is this conversation going to finally prove that you are always right? Search within your heart and determine what’s the most important thing for both of you. How can this conversation get us what we want?
Decide on an end goal. How do you imagine feeling at the end of this conversation? This is different than a solution. The solution will manifest itself after you engage in conversation. For now, just think about the things you will accomplish when this is over. You may want to finish a project on time or you may want to spend more quality time with your loved one.
Create an inviting environment. This is a safe place for the other person to express themselves. If a person doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, then it’s up to you to set the tone. What’s your posture like? Are your arms crossed over your chest? Are you rolling your eyes? People will know if you are genuinely concerned about what they have to say. Stay humble and be prepared to listen.
Finally, ask questions. Don’t assume that you both want the same thing. Find out what’s truly important to the other person? Share your observations and allow them to share theirs. I noticed you’ve been frustrated lately. Can you help me understand what’s been going on? Once you invite a person to speak freely about their concerns, then you can find a common purpose and work towards a healthy dialogue and a great outcome.