I am delighted to announce that I will be launching a podcast called "Map the Maze". The podcast is designed to share information and ideas to support people who are separating / divorcing through the mediation process. Launch of the podcast will be 22 June 2020 so stay tuned! The trailer is out today.
As we consider communication in conflict, we need to reflect on the beliefs / values / behaviours which underlie our understanding of communication in conflict.
This means understanding that our most basic beliefs about conflict come from our family of origin. How the adults around us raised conflict, addressed conflict, and resolved conflict became the most basic lessons we absorbed as a child.
Some people learn good lessons from their families of origin, they learn to address conflict constructively, to speak assertively, to listen attentively and to problem solve collaboratively. However, this is not everyone. Many people learn poor lessons as a child, they may learn that conflict is to be avoided and any resulting feelings suppressed. They may learn that conflict is a battle and one party needs to back down to accommodate the more dominant party. They may never see their parents make up after an argument.
When we are under stress, these foundational behaviours are likely to surface. We may abandon the lessons we have learnt about effective communication and cling to the earliest lessons we have. This is the challenge.
The first step is to reflect on what lessons we learnt as a child. Understanding how your family dealt with communication in conflict and deciding if these lessons are helpful is a truly worthwhile exercise. Some questions to consider:
Answering these questions will help you to understand how you behave in conflict. You may have since learnt more constructive skills, but many of our reactions to conflict as adults have their origins in our childhood.
Next week, what other factors influence our communication in conflict?
What was that? How often have we tried to say something and found that our message was not received? In a mediation recently, a party said to me, "But I am good at communicating, he just doesn't understand me!". It can feel like that, we send out a message that we feel is clear in content and intent. In conflict situations or difficult conversations, frequently these messages are either not received, or from our perspective are misinterpreted.
Communication is literally a two-way street. We need to send a message, but the recipient is just as important. What do they understand the message to be? Maybe they perceive a different substantive message, or they interpret a specific emotional content. In conflict, we need to pay attention to both ends of the message sending / receiving.
This series is going to focus on how to approach difficult conversations and how we can improve our communication to make sure that we give our messages the best chance to be heard, and when receiving messages we apply our best tools to understand them.