By Christina Hoffmann Spira, REALTOR® Magazine
Wouldn’t you rather defeat interpersonal conflict than square off against a client, associate, or friend—and potentially damage the relationship irreparably? Of course you would.
But when it comes to personal and professional communications, our instinct is often to plow ahead with our point of view, steam rolling the other person. In the process, we don’t always get what we want.
In her book Resolving Conflict Sooner (Freedom, Calif.: The Crossing Press, 1999. $10.95) Kare Anderson, a Sausalito, Calif.-based communications speaker and columnist, shares a four-step process, called the roundtrip, which teaches you to give others their say while skillfully negotiating a mutually constructive solution.
The steps—identifying your need, determining the other person’s need, actively listening to the other person, and addressing the resolution—add up to common sense. The trick is to remember them in the heat of debate over contract contingencies, a listing price, or the best restaurant to go to for lunch.
Particularly valuable are the tips Anderson offers in step 3, which aim at listening skills. To help you build rapport with the other person:
- Speak slowly and in a low-pitched voice. Don’t talk a lot.
- Move slowly and make few movements. Avoid using your hands a lot.
- Find a comfortable way to sit or stand so you don’t appear tense.
- Use body language that shows openness. That is, don’t cross your legs and arms.
There are also ways to encourage the person to work with you:
- Involve them in the problem-solving process and find out what they really need by using specific questions, such as “What changes would make this contract work for you?” and “What do you think we should do before we leave here today?”
- Speculate out loud: “What if we did so and so?” Asking for advice also encourages the person to contribute to a mutual solution.
- The best sentence for building rapport: “Tell me more about that.”
- Let the person ask you three questions uninterrupted. By the third, the person “will be close to expressing his or her real concerns and reveal more than intended.”
So, it’s time to present a solution. Test yourself: Is the following sentence welcoming or antagonistic?
“I’m serving on the committee and heard that you are, too. I look forward to working with you.”
Believe it or not, that comment will invite challenge. Here’s what Anderson recommends you should say:
“I’ve heard that you are an expert in this area, so you might be interested in an idea to help the committee gain support more quickly. I’d like to describe it to you. By serving on this committee with you, I know I’ll gain valuable experience to back up my group. Should I describe the idea briefly now or wait until another time?”
Sure, this approach takes a little longer. But isn’t it nice to get someone on your side from the get go?