Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that is perfect. The only way to learn anything in this life is to hear someone’s point of view out, without reacting, without interruption, without judgment, and with an open heart.
The veterans my dog and I work with primarily live in a situation where getting along with roommates and housemates becomes a focal point. Duke, Ruby, Koko and I spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to model and teach conflict resolution. It certainly isn’t an issue isolated to group living because it happens in the workplace, in homes, on the highways, etc.
There is little conflict when roommates are in a state of gratitude, so I call this the honeymoon period. The honeymoon period includes feeling grateful for housing and help toward helping themselves, and a level of humility in knowing they need to focus on their own problems rather than being sucked into the dramas unfolding with others.
Once the honeymoon period starts to wane, which is usually the time that they likely have started to really work on their issues and set goals with staff, conflicts start. Old stuff is oozing out all over the place in lesser form, such as overreactions to a dish left in a sink by a housemate. Shortly afterwards, they begin to blame staff, the boss, the spouse, and others in general for their unrest and upset.
Some may find their way back to feeling humble and grateful for a bit longer, some may not. The ones that cannot at least find this intermittent gratitude and humility usually find their way back into their addiction or other unhealthy coping patterns.
What I see central to avoiding conflict is first seeking to understand the one with whom you are butting heads. Instead, what I see most often is someone telling another what the “right” way is to do whatever, which is just about the opposite of seeking to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes the other person doesn’t have the skills to tell you honestly where they are coming from, but often when asked, they can at least stop their negative reaction long enough to wonder.
Sometimes a person isn’t at all interested in sharing anything at all to help you gain a better understanding and that is ok. Your part of it is over. It is time to walk away. Since almost all of us, as human beings, just want someone to understand where we are coming from, it is rare that I cannot get a positive response from the question to avoid conflict or drama. The question has to come from an open heart and genuine desire to understand, however.
Here are some examples of what you might say:
- That seemed to upset you. What did that mean to you?
- That really seemed to get to you. How did you experience that?
- I see you are upset. What just happened there?
- That seemed to get to you quickly. What do you think is behind that?
- I notice you do things this way. What is your process for doing it that way?
What I find is that I stand to learn a lot from validating what I see, then asking the question. I learn that the way they saw it or the way they were doing it might actually make more sense than what I thought was the righteous and only way to do it. I learn more about how the other person views the world and sometimes even what from their past baggage they might have reacted to with their behavior.
There are many versions of seeking to understand in the business management, psychology and self-help world, but they all boil down to the same basic idea. If we put aside our own agenda just for a minute and seek to hear someone else first, there is far more to gain for everyone involved.