Author: Stéphanie Deslauriers, psychoeducator
Communicating, discussing, listening, expressing yourself—these are skills that you can learn. We learn to communicate with others throughout our lives, but also through the example we grew up with and continue to be exposed to in our families.
Do your parents sometimes have disagreements? Surely, because that’s part of life. But do they also make up? Do they compromise? Do they manage to stay respectful even when they disagree? Are they able to forgive one another afterwards?
When answering these questions, you can think about your own way of managing conflicts.
Outside of your family, it is very possible that you’ll have disagreements with your friends or your girlfriend or boyfriend. Of course, a disagreement isn’t the end of the world. But sometimes it can also be good to avoid conflict by communicating respectfully with other people—and with yourself. Everything starts within ourselves, as they say.
Here are a few tips to help you prevent conflicts
If you’re really angry, maybe it’s a good idea to take a step back before saying anything to avoid saying hurtful things that you don’t really believe. In other words, it’s best to avoid speaking too soon.
Before sharing your opinion with someone, ask yourself: does this person really want my opinion? If so, how can I express it without hurting them? If not, is it really necessary to express it, especially if it might hurt the other person?
Listening actively means not preparing your reply while the other person is talking to you. When you do that, you’re not really listening, right? Look at the other person attentively, reword what they are saying to be sure that you’ve understood or ask them to explain it again if you’re not sure you’ve understood. Also, try to show empathy (i.e., try to put yourself in the other person’s place, to understand the situation from their perspective).
When a conflict breaks out
Despite all your precautions, a conflict arises. This can be unpleasant, unsettling and frustrating. But it doesn’t mean the end of a friendship or relationship. Here, in a nutshell, are a few steps to take to defuse a conflict: calm down, talk to one another, find a solution together, try to apply it, assess its effectiveness and find another one together, if necessary.Learn more about the 6 rules of conflict management
Finally, in all your communications, it’s best to use nonviolent communication.
What is nonviolent communication?
It’s a four-step communication process (reference: “Les 50 règles d’or de la Communication Non Violente” [The 50 Golden Rules of Nonviolent Communication] by Anne-Laure Boselli, published by Larousse in 2019):
- Observation: you look at the situation as objectively as possible.
- Feeling: you identify and express how you feel with respect to the situation and you listen to the other person’s feelings.
- Need: you express your needs that aren’t met in the situation.
- Request: you speak clearly and positively to the other person to restore your well-being.
Why? Well, because by:
- using “I” statements, you avoid making the other person feel accused and close themselves off.
- reporting facts and naming your emotions without blaming the other person, you will be heard more fully.
- being open to discussion and really listening to the other person (without trying to interrupt them, preparing a reply or defending yourself), you will give yourself a chance to better understand the person and find a compromise with them.
To help you better understand what it is, here’s an example of nonviolent communication:
“We were supposed to walk to the bus stop together this morning, but you didn’t wait for me. I was hurt and a bit mad because I felt rejected. I wanted to talk to you this morning and I wasn’t able to. In the future, please let me know ahead of time if we can’t walk together as planned.”
Keep on communicating!