A trap for the conflict unwary
Posted August 30, 2009on:
I was recently trying to work through a misunderstanding and I had just finished reflecting back what I had heard the other person saying. I guessed their feelings and needs and they breathed a big sigh of relief and said:
“I am so glad you really get it and agree with me!”
Oh dear. I clearly needed to bring some clarity to this situation.
Understanding is not agreeing
Understanding is simply understanding what the other person is saying.
You are understanding what the person values, how that’s important to them, how it may have been missing for them in the past and what they would like about it in the future.
Often people in conflict are unwilling to show that they understand how “it all is” for the other person because they fear that it will be interpreted as agreeing. This may lead to behaviours in the conversation like not letting the person finish speaking, repeating their point of view many times or a resistance to reflecting back what has been said.
You can ensure this confusion about the understanding and agreeing is clarified by:
- reflecting back and then asking any of the following:
“Did you hear that I understood you or agree with you?”
“I’d like you to understand that I think I get the essence of what you are saying and there are some parts that while I get them, I don’t agree with them.”
- stating, at the start of the conversation, that reflecting back is not agreeing
“We are going to go back and forth here in building our understanding of each other, but we not saying we’re agreeing with each other.”
“I’m going to really listen to you and make sure I hear what you are trying to say but let’s make sure neither of us is interpreting that as agreement because we may not agree – we are just in a discovery process at this stage.”
- When they say something that you think indicates they think you are in agreement you can say something like:
“It sounds like you think I have agreed with you – is that accurate?”
“Are you willing to hear what I am not in agreement with at this stage, or would you like to hear that later?”