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Rather than a fake-friendly question to highlight his ignorance, a sarcastic retort, shouting or silently seething – try alleviating the friction that’s at the core of the conflict. I’m not saying it’s easy. Yet unsettled resentments usually cause two-way sabotage, in the moment and in the future, so it is worth trying something different to save the relationship.

It’s often about assumptions and 


Recall, when crossing the street, how many motorists drive too fast and don’t stop for pedestrians?  Yet, when driving, you notice how many people jaywalk, dawdle across the street or cross when the light is red.

Here’s some ways we stumble into arguments – and how to stay convivial:

We’re More Emotional This Time of Year (Even Men – They Just Demonstrate it Differently)

• For starters, holidays are times of high feelings now matter who we are so hidden resentments can rise to the surface faster than normal.

 We Usually Don’t Say What We Really Feel …

 • On top of that problems seldom exist at the level at which they are expressed.

 … But We Can Still Argue Because of How We Feel

• In fact, if you are arguing for more than ten minutes you are probably not discussing the real, underlying conflict.

In Difficult Conversations participants often make at least one of three sabotaging assumptions, according to by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen:

1. The Truth assumption: I am right you are wrong.

2. The Intention Invention: When the other person’s intentions are unclear, we often assume they have bad intentions.

3. The Blame Frame: Blame the other person.  Then each person gets defensive or worse, stops listening and hardens their position, now more motivated to prove they are right.

To reduce the chance of conflict, shift:

FROM: Certainty (I understand)     TO: Curiosity (Help me understand)

FROM: I am right                           TO: I am curious

FROM: I know what was intended   TO:I know the impact

FROM: I know who is to blame        TO: I know who contributed what

FROM: Debate TO: Exploration

FROM: Simplicity TO: Complexity

FROM: “Either/or” TO: “And”

Understanding the structure of the conversation as all parties appear to be viewing it. Begin by practicing Stephen Covey’s fifth habit, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

Tip: Step into the other person’s shoes. 

Rather than becoming defensive – a natural reaction – attempt to see the world their way. 

When she frowns she may simply be thinking  – unlike another familiar figure in your life who frowns when upset.

Tip:  Act as if the other person has your best interests at heart.

You are more likely to prove yourself right.  The opposite is also true. Know that, in fractious situations we instinctively expect others to treat us as if we have good intentions. (Innocent until proven guilty.) Yet, wired as we are to survive, we often are slower to trust others’ intentions until we get proof.  (Guilty until proven innocent.)

Judy Ringer’s checklist may help you prepare for that difficult conversation.

Double Bottom Line for Rising Above the Fray

1. Look to their positive intent, especially when they appear to have none.

2. Don’t let somebody else determine your behavior.

moving from me to we


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