Last week, I came across an interview of Amanda Ripley on the On Being podcast.
Amanda Ripley is a journalist and author who trained in conflict mediation and then began training journalists to cover polarizing conflict.
In the On Being podcast, Ripley spoke of ‘High Conflict’—a term she uses to describe polarized conflict that seems to go round in circles, and has a stuckness to it. What she shares of her learnings on handling polarized conflict more constructively has several parallels to Nonviolent Communication as a conflict transformation approach.
This fortnight’s newsletter features some excerpts from her interview, my own reflections and some inspiration for managing conflict differently.
What single skill or resource has helped you see or address conflict differently?
Reply to this newsletter to share with me.
Until next time,
#1: Conflict is bound to happen. We can choose how we respond to it.
Conflict doesn’t always have to be bad. It’s bound to occur when we live with, love and work with other human beings. We think conflict is bad when we don’t yet have the skills to address it in healthy ways.
#2: Conflict can be addressed in healthy ways.
When we see conflict as a situation that will end with a winner and a loser; or as an attempt to “convince” someone to come over to our side, we begin to do and say things that are likely to backfire.
We end up saying things that are likely to increase tension, not defuse it.
When we see conflict as an opportunity for both parties involved to understand the other’s point of view, we can change the tone of the conversation.
#3: How I approach the interaction impacts how it plays out.
Conflict can be challenging because it brings up uncomfortable emotions. And in conflict we almost always have strong thoughts and opinions about what’s at stake (it wouldn’t be a conflict otherwise, would it?).
When I go into a conversation strongly identifying with my point of view, and convinced that I hold the ‘right’ perspective or answer, my attachment to my perspective blocks me from seeing:
Why the other person sees things the way they do
What thoughts, feelings or needs I’m experiencing during the conversation
….and what thoughts, feelings and needs the other person is trying to express
Unentangling myself from my own worldview and acknowledging that there are other perspectives or other things I’m not seeing yet can make a huge difference. It can help me approach the conversation from a sense of clarity and see the other person’s point of view with more openness.
The NVC technique of self-empathy can help us get there.
#4: I can demonstrate my understanding to defuse tension and create more trust
Ripley speaks of ‘looping’ as a practice to bring more understanding and trust to polarized conversations—and it’s very similar to the NVC practice of reflection—or, getting to the heart of what matters to the other person.
Here’s how she describes this practice, in 3 steps:
LISTEN for what’s most important to the other person (and not to you)
PLAY IT BACK in the most elegant words you can find
ASK “Is that right?”
My experience tells me that doing this invites me to step out of my perspective, and for a moment, attempt to understand the other.
Even if my guess is incorrect, the other person is likely to appreciate my attempt, and give me more information that helps me understand them better; and it builds trust that I’m truly listening and interested in what they have to say.
#5: A bus driver’s strategy for defusing conflict
In case you were wondering what you can do as a witness to a conflict, watch this video to hear about the bus driver who devised his way of bringing down tensions (cued to begin at 55.21):
This is a wonderfully simple explanation that changed my perspective about conflict, and now I get what ‘lean into the conflict’ really means.
Grateful for the share!!!✨