When you communicate anything, you’re saying at least 4 different things. You’re saying something about (1) the content of your message, (2) your relationship w/ whom you’re speaking to, (3) your own identity & how you want to be perceived, and (4) your rules for #communication.
Unanticipated conflict arises when one party talks only about one aspect of what is being said (content), while the other party is focused on different aspects (what’s being said about either side’s identity or their shared relationship). /2
When this happens, both parties innocently assume they are talking about the same thing when they are not. This compounds conflict, because each side can be absolutely right! But neither can see the other person’s viewpoint. /3
Every time the point is made (content alone), it aggravates the tension created by missing the others (relational…& identity). This validates everyone’s perception they’re right (identity) & establishes growing hostility is acceptable under the rules of engagement (process). /4
Here’s a simple example. Say a wife asks her husband to wash the dishes. The CONTENT is the dishes. To her, maybe this is a bid for RELATIONAL connection. If he says he’ll get to them later, he’s saying she’s not that important to him right now. Maybe he feels nagged by her. /5
He might hear her request to do the dishes as a statement about his IDENTITY. She’s saying he’s lazy or isn’t fulfilling his responsibilities. Suddenly they’re arguing about the dishes, but they’re not really arguing about the dishes. Right? It confirms both their suspicions. /6
If this happens regularly, a pattern or PROCESS is established between them (and solidified over time) where each fight is resolved on a content level about the dishes but is never resolved on a relational or identity level, resulting in continual disconnection. /7
To recap, how we communicates matters. If we don’t feel heard, frustrations increase & our rhetoric becomes sharper. We criticize more and question our perception less & less. The escalating tension doesn’t widen one’s view to see beyond itself. It narrows focus. /8
The feedback from these interactions usually validates our diverging perceptions. Now both sides are equally convinced they’re talking about the same thing when they are locked into very different aspects of what has been said.

How do we untie this knot? Is it even possible? /9
The only way to unpack conflict at this stage is to talk more openly about it. But how do we do so without inadvertently worse making it, as it already has? The short answer is by changing our goal from “winning” the argument to “building trust” w/ the person we’re engaging. /10
Here we go again (don’t give up yet, we’re almost through). Conflict escalates because we want –– we need –– to be seen by one another, to be validated as having legitimate interests and concerns even if we disagree with separate positions or our conclusions. /11
By acknowledging all four aspects of what our communication is saying, at any given moment, we offer one another this deeply human validation. We also clarify the content of our actual disagreement, and sometimes we even discover, it’s much smaller than we imagined.

To help build trust within any conflict, you can ask yourself these questions.

• Am I committed to using kind and respectful language, even when I’m really angry or hurt?
• Does the other person feel safe with me enough to share their hidden or protected concerns/goals?

• Do we have any shared interests underneath our opposing positions we can creatively build upon?
• If we still do not see a solution to our conflict, am I willing to keep listening with an increasingly open and responsive posture?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you put in your work, you humanized the other, & yet, the conflict is still unresolvable, it’s ok to walk away.

You showed up. You were available to listen. You gave your best. The results will come as they may.

You can let go in peace.

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