In the heat of the moment it is easy to forget some common 'rules of thumb' which aid successful communication.
GOOD COMMUNICATION IS A 3-STEP PROCESS:
- Send clear messages--verbal communication and body language both count. Think about what you want to say and how it may be understood.
- Receive--what is heard is part fact and part feeling so be clear on both levels. When you are listening, pay attention to both facts and feelings.
- Acknowledge--you can only be sure you have communicated what you intended when your listener gives you feedback confirming their understanding. As a listener, summarize what you have heard and ask questions to seek clarification if parts of the message seem unclear.
RESPECT THE OTHER PERSON'S NEEDS AS WELL AS YOUR OWN:
You have valid concerns which need addressing; and so does the person with whom you are in conflict (even if these are not immediately apparent!).
TACKLE THE PROBLEM DIRECTLY WITH THE OTHER PERSON:
It is much better to work directly with the other person in the conflict; going via others makes an escalation of the conflict or further misunderstandings much more likely.
Avoid involving peers or friends in 'taking sides' and, as far as possible, keep the conflict out of the public eye. While it can be useful to check others' perceptions of the situation or seek others' views of your actions or desires, if you are merely seeking confirmation for your own views, this is likely to lead to a more entrenched position.
SEPARATE THE PROBLEM FROM THE PERSON:
Pointing out the distinction between the problem and the person and confirming your wish to treat the other person respectfully may help them do the same. Your issues are more likely to be resolved if you avoid making personal attacks which embarrass or ridicule the other person.
SPEAK WITHOUT INTERRUPTING EACH OTHER:
You may set up further misunderstanding if you do not give the other person the opportunity to finish what they have to say. You also need to ensure that there is agreement about everything said so far before going on to the next point at issue.
NEGOTIATE IN GOOD FAITH - DIRTY DEALS DO NOT LAST!:
Look for mutually satisfying agreements -- one-sided offers tend not to work. Though it is common to think there must be a winner and a loser in a conflict, this is not necessarily true. Participating in negotiations where the goal is a 'win-win' solution (i.e., both parties attaining satisfaction for their needs and interests) is both possible and helpful.
"INTERESTS" vs. "POSITIONS":
Often in our negotiations with others, we think taking a 'hard position' or exaggerating our 'bottom line' will get us a better result. Actually, such positional bargaining frequently backfires because the other person is likely to get upset, feel unfairly treated or just decide to dig in their heels on their position.
A better approach is to think about the interests underlying our initial position on an issue. An underlying interest is usually related to a principle we hold, a moral value, a hope or expectation, or some less tangible need. If the position is what the conflict is about, the interest is the reason why we want a certain response.
For example, you might get into a conflict with your partner because he/she didn't call you until much later than he/she said they would. The conflict could become an argument concerning how late is 'acceptable' (your position might be that 'calling late is not acceptable'). Whereas the underlying interest might be that you want to be reassured of their feelings for you. In this scenario, it will be much easier to sort out what to do about phone calls once you are both reassured about your care for each other.