Let’s face it: no matter the type of relationship, there’s going to be conflict – and that’s okay. In fact, it’s expected. It should even be welcomed. Not all of us are comfortable with conflict, however, including myself. One common approach to conflict, and my personal favorite, is “I don’t want to make waves.” Unfortunately, this type of response prevents important conversations, as difficult as they might be, from happening. The result: real conversations are not being had. We choose avoidance over facing challenges head-on. The reality is that these are the exact conversations that need to occur to allow relationships, teams, and organizations to thrive.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using the practitioner’s own energy to gain control or to throw them off. It emphasizes motion and dynamics of movement. Developed by Morihei Ueshiba, referred to as ‘O Sensei’ or ‘Great Teacher’, Aikido emphasizes the moral and spiritual aspects of this art, placing great weight on the development of harmony and peace. In the spirit of creating harmony and peace in communication, the Aikido of Communication offers a unique and effective process in handling and resolving conflict through conversation … including difficult conversation.
Align – Practice mindful listening, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Ask the other person to speak about how they view the situation, so you can get a better understanding of where they are coming from. When you align with people, you are no longer combating them; instead, you are orienting your position with theirs so that you have a chance to look in the same direction and find common ground.
Acknowledge – Whether you agree or disagree with the other person’s perspective, it is important to let them know you are listening and you hear them. This is done with the practice of acknowledging, paraphrasing or repeating what you heard. This is not about agreement, although in some cases you may agree.
Redirect – When two people are walking together side by side and there is no longer any combat, possibilities unfold to redirect the conversation. You might say, “It seems this was a difficult situation for both of us; maybe we can find a solution to make it better.” This is where the shift happens, from negative energy to creating possibilities.
Resolve – Be open to three possibilities for resolution. First, you both agree to find a solution; second, agree to come back to the discussion after taking some time to think things over; third, perhaps agree to disagree, and in this case, discuss what needs to happen to move forward in a healthy, constructive way.
(revised excerpt from “The NOW Effect”, by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.)