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Bridging You can argue till you are ‘blue in the face’ but you will lose if you make the other person feel outdone. You can outtalk, outsmart, outwit, outreason but still fail, if the other person does not feel good at the end. Only if the other person’s needs are heard and met will it be a win. You win when he wins.

The person you are in conflict with is likely to be more interested in what he needs and wants than in what you need or want.

Bridging is about attending to that person, noticing the needs, concerns and feelings, finding common ground, finding places where you and I can become we, where interests, needs and concerns can be seen as mutual.

The more communication you invite, the more you are likely to create the win-win environment. This can be done verbally and non-verbally.


–  –  –

Bridge mind set N You are OK N Let’s work together N I want us both to win N I want power with you N Your needs are important N Let’s problem-solve rather than argue N We have a mutual problem to be solved Some bridging words N Us N We N Our N Can N Let’s talk N Appreciate N Alternatives N What do you need?

N What do you think?

N Help me understand N What would you say to…?

Non-verbals N Soft gestures N Open posture N Make eye contact N Voice low and slow N Look and act approachable N Sit or stand at angle of approximately 90° N Use open hand gestures – palms slightly upturned


Barrier mind-set N I am right N You should change N You are the problem N I want power over you N I want to lay down the law N I want to prove you wrong N I am indifferent to your needs N You are wrong and you should be different N My needs are more important than yours Some barrier words N Me N You should N Waste of time N Your problem is N That won’t work N Out of the question N That’s my final word N This is non-negotiable N You don’t understand N I’ve heard all this before N You wouldn’t understand

–  –  –

Power with, not over To share power does not mean giving up power. It can be like sharing the light of a candle. When you light another person’s candle, your light does not diminish. In fact there is more light for everyone.The enlightened approach to resolving conflict involves respect. Respect is about recognizing others as being different and accepting them with their differences. It happens when I am able to say You’re OK even though you have a different set of values and principles from me... if I accept you for who you are rather than who I want you to be...

if I recognize that your needs, although different, are as important as mine.

Win-win is more likely when people N focus on both sets of needs, concerns and feelings.

N respect each other’s view.

N see the issue as a mutual problem to be solved.

N are prepared to listen and compromize.

N are not interested in winning at any cost.

N opt for power with rather than power over.

The power of co-operation People will not want to co-operate with you, if you seem to be against them. Aim to be open, receptive and willing to collaborate.

Create an atmosphere in which everyone feels that something can be gained, i.e. everyone is a winner. Maybe you don’t get what you want until others get what they want.

–  –  –

Chapter For me to win, you don’t have to lose.

Understand and Manage your Feelings

In this chapter:

N anger is a signal that something is not right for you N understand how you ‘do’ anger N learn to control your anger N managing anger in others N knowing when to take time out N listening is the foundation for agreement.

Have you ever been so hurt, angry and resentful that you don’t care about the other person, you don’t even want to resolve the conflict, you just want to get revenge and to hurt? Even ‘nice’ people can become abusive and threatening in conflict.

Unresolved feelings have a habit of leaking into the conversation. Even when you desperately try not to let your emotions show, they can pop like the cork from a champagne bottle, often with messy results. How can you control these feelings and what can you do to prevent the anger?

Recognize the anger

Feelings are indicators of what is going on in your life. Anger is a signal that something is not right for you. It is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong, that your values have been violated.

Feelings are just another part of you, like your arms and legs and like your arms and legs, they can be controlled.


Venting While you may have a strong urge to shout, scream, kick, hit or run, acting out of the anger is likely to be destructive to a collaborative relationship. Beware of what you say in the heat of anger. The cross words could constitute the best speech you will ever regret!

Playing your personal stereo at high volume will cause hearing loss of the higher frequencies. Yelling and shouting is also likely to result in hearing loss … the other person may just ‘close down’. A soft and gentle tonality is likely to improve hearing. You may wish to try speaking about your anger rather than speaking from your anger. People who throw temper tantrums are usually not taken seriously.

Suppressing Anger that is not dealt with can turn inwards and leak out in resentment, bitterness, withdrawal and depression. Suppressed negative feelings can damage your health. While it is easy to suggest you describe and express your anger in a positive way to the relevant person, experience may have taught you it is expedient to settle for surface peace as the lesser of two evils.

Unexpressed conflict is still conflict

Releasing Suppressed anger is stored in the body. If it is not released it can build to the point where you ‘explode’ or ‘dump’ on someone. Find a way that is right for you to manage your stress, otherwise it will act as a toxin to your system and can lead to illness and disease. Talking with friends, sports, meditation, relaxation can all be ways of releasing the stress.

Some people need space to think before they are ready to discuss a conflict.

Some need to sort it out quickly. Respect each other’s needs and agree a time to talk. Allowing issues to accumulate can add fuel to growing anger.

–  –  –

Manage your anger Conflict is often high on emotion and low on reasoning. When the anger ‘runs’ me, essentially I become more stupid, in the sense that my perspective narrows. I become less rational. The primitive part of the brain takes over.

I can’t think clearly. I am likely to do and say things I will regret later.

–  –  –

When you get angry, adrenaline flows faster, veins are enlarged, your heart beats faster. The body is equipped for a brawl rather than for problem-solving.

Where do these feelings come from and what can you do about them?

How do you ‘do’ feelings?

Whatever you feel, you have a strategy for it. Feelings are a consequence of something you do. Your anger will be related to your thinking, your body and your language. Make an intervention in one or all three areas and you will change the feeling.

Feelings are less to do with the ‘real’ world and more to do with what you tell yourself about the ‘real’ world. It is all to do with that unique, subjective, partial view you have.

It is the middle of the night and you hear the floorboards creaking … you are convinced a burglar is creeping up the stairs and you feel terrified.

Your feelings are unfounded however, as it was only the stair boards contracting after a warm summer’s day.


On another occasion, you again hear the stair boards creaking and you tell yourself that it is only the boards contracting … and you feel calm, even though this time there really is a prowler on the stairs!

Watch your thinking Feelings follow on from your thoughts. Change your thinking if you want to change your feelings. The thinking behind anger is likely to contain a ‘you should’.

‘You should be more considerate.’ ‘You should have known.’ Take the ‘you should’ out of the thinking and how angry can you be?

Being considerate was a choice he had.

Remember, ‘you shoulds’ imply that my way is best for you, that my values, beliefs and methodologies are better than yours. By taking the ‘you should’ out of your thinking, you can inoculate yourself from anger. Guilt comes from ‘I should’.

‘I should have helped more.’ Take the ‘I should’ out and how guilty can you feel?

And of course, you run the risk of causing resentment when you tell others what ‘they should’ do. Simple as it seems, by taking the ‘shoulds’ out of your internal and external conversations, you reduce anger, guilt and resentment.

You may wish to replace ‘shoulds’ with ‘coulds’.

Rather than say ‘I should’ try ‘I could’. Instead of saying ‘you should’ use ‘you could’ or ‘I need’.

Watch your physiology Your anger will be reflected in your physiology, your gestures and your voice. It is as if your body contains the anger. Try to be angry without clenched teeth, a high-pitched voice or wagging your forefinger,


and you could discover that you can’t get as angry. Note how your body is when you are angry and reverse this, e.g. if you find yourself pointing with your right forefinger, next time put your right hand in your pocket and point with your left hand. Reverse the expression and you diminish the feeling.

Suggestions for next time:

N Lower the volume of your voice.

N Slow the rate of speaking.

N Use circular rather than linear gestures.

N Breathe from the stomach.

N Soften the face muscle.

N Delay before responding.

–  –  –

Watch your language Your anger is somehow contained not only in your physiology but also in your language. Rearrange the words for a different experience. Instead of saying ‘I’m pi**ed off’ try ‘I’m annoyed with you’ or ‘I’m disappointed.’ It is as if the anger is in the words, and if I choose less expressive language, I will experience less anger.

Coping with anger in others

What do you do when the other person is shouting and screaming at you?

While you may need to protect yourself from anger that is directed at you, recognize that some people need to let off steam before they can begin to move forward. Rather than going on instinct by retaliating or retreating, listen and encourage the venting. In this way you are likely to defuse the hostility and get to calmness and rationality.

‘Brake time’ If you validate, listen and paraphrase and yet the other person remains accusatory and abusive, you may wish to separate yourself. It takes two to


play. If you don’t have a partner you don’t have a game! Avoid running or storming out of the situation. Excuse yourself: ‘I recognize you have strong feelings about this and I think it would be best if we talk about this after we have had a chance to think things through.’

–  –  –

When an argument is getting out of hand, you may wish to take a break for half an hour or so to ‘cool’ down.

‘I feel this is getting us nowhere … I’m getting too worked up here … would it be a good idea to take a break and meet again at three o’ clock?’ It takes two to fight, one to stop. The bottling up of anger and walking out of the room in a ‘huffed’ silence is not brake time. Nor is avoiding the conflict, brake time. By giving yourselves time, you take the ‘heat’ out of the situation to confront the issues more rationally. Brake time is about postponing the talking, not avoiding it. Defuse the anger to deal with the problem.

What not to do Avoid giving advice or telling the other person to do anything. Although well intentioned, words like ‘calm down’, ‘there’s no need to be angry’, or ‘keep your voice down’ are likely to cause resentment and anger.

The sub text in these responses is ‘you are wrong to be angry’. Such an invalidation will break rapport.

–  –  –

2 Ask the magic question ‘what … ?’ By asking the person what they want you are giving them some control and reducing the feeling of helplessness … you are creating a power with scenario and the need for anger is dissipating.

‘What do you need from me?’ ‘What needs to happen...?’ 3 Check for understanding Paraphrase to ensure you understand what the person has said. It is difficult to continue to be angry when someone is genuinely trying to understand you.

‘So what you are saying is …’ ‘If I understand you correctly …’ Listening is key Listen without interrupting, arguing or disagreeing. Accept what they say as their reality. It is their perception, it is valid for them while it may not coincide with your perception.

Listen to understand even if there is blame, accusation or demand, even if as you see it, there are distortions and exaggerations.

Listening leads to understanding, and understanding is the foundation for agreement. Conflict grows in the absence of understanding.

Listening is key to making the transformation from you against me to us against the problem.

Chapter 6 Develop Your Skills and Increase Your Choices

In this chapter:

N recognize your patterns – fight, flight or flow N listen to understand the other’s view N talk constructively about your view N problem solve for mutual wins N non-verbal communication N how to disagree, agreeably N the pitfalls of blame, accusation and judgment N rules for constructive controversy.

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