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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always get others to see things our way? Unfortunately we cannot control other people. But we can present ourselves and our reasoning in the most effective way possible using conflict resolution skills. Even if the other person still does not see things our way, we still come out winning because we held true to our moral code and values. Learning how to not be afraid of conflict, how to speak up, and be assertive are all things we work on in the Living Well Blueprint Program. For now, here is an overview of the Conflict Resolution Model to help you prepare the next time there is a problem you want to discuss with someone.

Communicating assertively is a skill that takes practice. When you are assertive you are not being passive, not being aggressive, but rather you are showing yourself and the other person the respect you deserve. Yes, aggression can get you the results you want right now, but it comes at the cost of your relationships later on. Yes, being passive is easier right now (you get to avoid conflict), but it comes at the cost of not resolving things. Being assertive is the healthy middle ground. The 5 Step Conflict Resolution model is one good way to start practicing being assertive.

Step 1: Describe the Problem

State just the facts, like a police report. This is not time for criticisms and interpretations. Also, keep it specific! The more general you state things, the more likely the other person will get defensive and stop listening to you.

Good: The last 4 times I have given you a ride to class you have been late and that made us both late to class.

Bad: You’re always late! You never care about me being on time for class.

Check yourself: Pretend the other person said to you what you wrote. How did that make you feel? Defensive? Then erase and try again. Curious? Wanting to know more or to understand? Good job, go on to the next step.

Step 2: Describe how you Feel

Using specific emotion words, share how the situation makes you feel. Do not say “I feel” and then share your thoughts and criticisms, that’ll make the other person defensive and stop listening to you. Tip: If you’re feeling anger, ask yourself why? What is underlying the anger? It’s almost always feeling hurt, feeling disrespected, or feeling scared.

Good: This makes me feel unappreciated and a bit taken for granted.

Bad: I feel like you’re being an inconsiderate jerk!

Check yourself: Pretend the other person said what you wrote. How did that make you feel? If you felt put off or defensive, go back and try again. The goal here is to keep the lines of communication open.

Step 3: Describe the Impact of the problem.

The problem is a problem for you, not them. You need to help them understand why this is a problem for you by talking about how this impacts your life. This is also a good time to include what’s in it for them or why should they care about the problem too.

Good: When we are late to class I miss important information and I feel stressed and scattered trying to catch up and get into the rhythm of things. This is affecting my performance. It is also starting to affect our friendship and I don’t want that.

Bad: Because of you my grades are slipping and you’re messing up our friendship.

Check yourself: Just like before, how would you feel if the other person said to you what you wrote down here? Keep re-writing until it feels ok. Tip: Keep it short and simple. We all have short attention spans. If you’re writing a monologue the other person is going to stop listening to you.

Step 4: Does it Matter?

This is the most important step. Read what you wrote for steps 1 thru 3. Ask yourself if this situation is genuinely worth your time and your energy to do something about right now. There is something liberating in making a conscious choice to not act on something and to let it go for now. Sometimes, you have other priorities to focus your energy on. Or sometimes this is part of a pattern that you need to nip in the bud before it gets worse. Now is the time to choose where you stand.

Yes: He has been late to other things before and this keeps coming up in our friendship and causing me a lot of frustration. If it keeps going on, I will start to resent our friendship. It is important to talk about this now before it gets worse.

No: We only have 4 more classes left and then I won’t have to deal with it anymore. I just won’t offer to give him a ride again. We still have fun together doing other things, I rather focus on that. Besides, I have other things more important to focus on right now.

Step 5: Conflict Resolution

If you decided it is important to assert yourself and do something about the problem, you start “conflict resolution” by saying to the other person what you wrote down for steps 1 thru 3. Then you put the ball in their court by asking them “What do you think we can do about this?” You need to be prepared to negotiate and compromise here. It may take some practice in another set of skills, Problem Solving, to get good at negotiating and compromising. But the important part here is that you spoke up for yourself!

The last 4 times I have given you a ride to class you have been late and that made us both late to class.

This makes me feel unappreciated and a bit taken for granted.

When we are late to class I miss important information and I feel stressed and scattered trying to catch up and get into the rhythm of things. This is affecting my performance. It is also starting to affect our friendship and I don’t want that.

What do you think we can do about this?

This is now the hardest part of conflict resolution, the ball is now in their court and we cannot control how they are going to respond. Be proud that you did everything you could to be assertive, respectful, and to encourage open communication. You were reasonable, fair, and you did not criticize or judge the other person! You did your part. How they now respond says a lot more about them than it says about you. If you’re feeling up for it, this is a good thing to role play with a trusted friend. Practice different scenarios where your friend responds in a helpful or unhelpful way so you can practice what to say once you get to the negotiating stage. Good luck!

Remember, as with any skill, it takes time and practice to get good at it. The first time anyone plays a violin it’ll sound awful, with practice you get better. It is the same with being assertive, you may be unsure of yourself and stumble on your words, but with practice, you will get better!