July 27, 2017

Politicians on the left versus those on the right; airlines versus passengers; police versus citizens… today’s headlines are rife with tense conflict. The resolutions, however, should be less about winning or being “right” and more about being honest, direct and respectful in our discourse – a.k.a. candor.

When we shift from an approach that is rooted in accusations, blame and defensiveness to an inquisitive and compassionate mindset, we arrive at a collaborative win-win solution.

Consider the value in being right versus being effective. Is being right or winning the argument worth it at all costs? Or, is there greater potential for success for everyone if we are more focused on effective communication? De-escalating a tense situation is a communication skill to be mastered.

In today’s fiery, strife-filled interactions, here are 4 ways to de-escalate the situation with candor:

Cultivate genuine compassion. Extend empathy toward the other person(s) and their situation. Find an appreciation for their perspective. Although you may not agree, they’re not necessarily wrong, either.

Be inquisitive. Ask open questions to formulate a clear understanding. Strive to learn not just the “what” but also the “why” and the “how.”

Listen carefully to understand (not to respond). Do you find yourself interrupting or tuning the other person out to think ahead to what you want to say? Correct the habit – listen intently to gain a better understanding. Then, pause before you offer a response or follow up with an additional question. Aim to walk away with new information that is helpful to a resolution.

Speak respectfully. Be wary of corporate-speak that is condescending or dismissive. Choose your words carefully and calmly. Offer a response that builds up rather than tears down.

Author and activist Anne Lamott is credited with saying, “You can either practice being right or practice being kind.” My coaching question has often been, “Would you rather be right or effective?”  Perhaps the winning outcome is less about one side or the other being right, and entirely about both sides simply being effective and kind.