None of us are immune from having to solve problems with others in our life.  Sometimes the solutions come easy, while other times we have to work a little harder to communicate our perspective, listen to the perspectives of others, and work to toward a mutual resolution.

Good communication is the best way to keep problems from interfering with your important relationships.  Here are 5 tips to ensure that your problem resolving communications begin and end with all parties feeling respected and satisfied:

1.    Have a positive expectancy.  Approach the situation with an attitude that all parties are on the same team and want to come to a mutual agreement where everyone feels satisfied.  By coming to the conversation with a positive expectancy, it will reflect in your attitude and your words, and the other person will sense your cooperative demeanor.

2.    Start the discussion in a positive way. Choose to make a positive start by speaking for yourself and not blaming the other person.  Use “I” statements, and phrase the problem in such as way as to invite solutions and cooperation.

3.   Use the empathetic sounding back techniques.  By restating and affirming what the person has said, you are letting the person know that they have been heard and understood.

Here are the two empathetic sounding back techniques:

·   Paraphrasing:  Paraphrasing is simply restating back to the listener in your own words what you have heard them say.  This serves several purposes.  It shows the person that you are speaking to that you are engaged and paying attention to  what they have said.  It also gives you the opportunity to clear up anything you do not understand, or they can correct a misunderstanding.

·    Encourage and Affirm:
 As we learned earlier, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the purity of your attention.  Couple that with affirming statements and encouragement without judgment, and that leads to a strong connection with that person.

Encourage them with simple techniques like nodding your head, smiling, and making short comments such as ‘yes’, and ‘I see’.  Also, affirm them by saying ‘It sounds like you are frustrated because you feel you do all of the work and no one appreciates it.’  Affirming does not mean you agree, it just means you are affirming that you have heard what they said.

4.   Use open ended questions to invite solutions to the problem. For example, say “What part of your work can other people help you with?” Or “What sorts of things can we do that will make you feel appreciated?” Questions like these are a positive and productive way to solve problems.
Open ended questions are a very powerful way to look at different perspectives and explore various options and solutions.  They allow the person you are talking with to process through their thoughts and emotions until a solution appears.  And when the solution appears and they have solved their problem in their own mind, they “own it.” It will completely change their thinking.

5.   Treat each other with respect and kindness.  Remember that respect is critical at all times.  This is especially important when problems raise emotions.

Practicing these tips will help you to resolve all types of conflict in a very productive way—by just listening, being empathetic and asking questions!

Wishing you the best always
Corinne McElroy


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