5 Roles to Play When Arguments Start to Heat UpNov 13, 2023
Many of our most intense arguments often stem from ingrained habits triggered by our primal fight-or-flight responses. As a professional mediator, I've discovered that assuming the role of an expert provides me with more clarity than the involved parties themselves. Despite their knowledge of the situation, having alternative roles in a conversation can offer a fresh perspective on contentious issues. Here are five roles to adopt during conflicts with your partner.
The Learner - Sincerely Seeking to Understand What Happened
Most arguments involve parties not truly listening to each other. Real understanding neutralizes arguments, as it's challenging to fight with someone who comprehends your perspective. The Learner focuses on better understanding the content, intent, emotions, and deeper pains of the other person. Learner's Tool: Paraphrasing what you hear to show genuine understanding. The Good Doctor Metaphor: Similar to a caring doctor trying to understand the patient before offering solutions.
The Caregiver - Showing Empathy and Care for Their Deeper Feelings
The Caregiver emphasizes expressing care for the partner's feelings and addressing any pain or suffering. Acknowledges that significant energy around an issue today often relates to a long and troubled history. Activity: View the partner's argument as a hurt 5-year-old child and respond with the same caregiving spirit. Example: Imagine the partner complaining about neglect, treating them as a 5-year-old seeking attention and care.
The Unifier - Finds the Parts of the Conflict Where You are in Agreement
Essential for a healthy conversation is identifying areas of agreement. Acknowledges that most conflicts involve substantial agreement but may differ on specific details. Finding agreement fosters collaboration and turns down the argument's intensity. Process: Locate shared truths to significantly reduce the scope of the problem.
The Builder - The Skilled Ability of Including Your Opposite Positions Into the Conversation
After being a Learner, Caregiver, and Unifier, it's time to share your differing position. Builders can build based on existing conditions, focusing on adding to beliefs and feelings rather than tearing down. Use "and" to lovingly share your perspective after showing understanding, care, and common ground. Example: Share your perspective and show respect for the partner's feelings.
The Change Agent - Using Today’s Conversations to Create REAL Change in Tomorrow's Interactions
Focus on creating meaningful change for future interactions after each conversation. Ensure solutions address both tangibles and intangibles, emphasizing mutual work on the issues. Solutions should foster a sense of connection, focusing on creating feelings of love, capability, belonging, and safety. Ultimately, many problems revolve around mutual toleration and sacrifice for each other.
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