Understanding conflict: a tale of two 3-letter words

Here’s a challenge – any time you go to say BUT today, try replacing it with AND. See where it leads.

Yesterday I stood in the wind on the beach with my partner. We were talking through some stuff and both of us were in the conversation to learn. Suddenly I caught myself saying “Yes, my love, I really understand what you’re saying, BUT I am feeling…”

Hit the pause button, quick! What have I actually just done with this little word BUT? In the 0.2 seconds it took for that tiny word to come out of my mouth I have plowed, sown and irrigated the fields of conflict.

Using BUT in this way has the powerful effect of minimising what I said before it (my understanding of my partner’s perspective and needs), and emphasising what I said after it (the importance of my own needs). In so doing, I have created opposition by inadvertently suggesting it’s her view versus my view, and mine wins.

This was not my intention. It’s a habit, and one I’m getting responsible for. The habit is widespread in our society. If you listen, you’ll notice just how widespread and the powerful role it plays in sustaining conflict.

What might I have said instead to take a step towards resolution, the impact I wanted? “Yes, my love, I really understand what you’re saying, AND I am feeling…”

What’s happened with this tiny shift? By using AND, what I’m now communicating is:

  • I actually understand you
  • Both our experiences are valid and both matter to me
  • The situation is complex – there are parts that don’t match that need our consideration

What AND allows us to do that BUT doesn’t is to hold multiple, often conflicting ‘truths’ at the same time, which is the nature of things. For example: “I’m very grateful for the gift AND I’m embarrassed I didn’t get you anything AND I can see you’re upset AND I realise we can’t talk about it until next week AND that’s frustrating AND I’m prepared to be patient until we can talk.”

So take the challenge and get in touch at creativeteams.com.au to let me know how you go.

By | 2017-05-22T08:43:21+08:00 October 7th, 2016|Categories: Conflict Resolution, Difficult Conversations|0 Comments

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