In college, one of my philosophy professors would frequently have the class debate a hot topic. He’d randomly divide the class in half and have each side present their best argument in support of their assigned position. Regardless of how you felt personally, you were expected to gather as many facts as possible to present the strongest argument. It was actually quite stimulating as it challenged us to be willing to see the issue from every possible perspective. This lesson has served me well in life as I have always tried to view a subject matter from all sides.
In relationships, disagreement are normal and healthy. They allow us to open our minds to new ways of thinking. In business, brainstorming is a common practice whereby team members contribute every possible idea relating to the project they are collaborating on. Even those suggestions that are deemed unworkable still have value as they oftentimes spark a fresh idea that actually proves to be helpful. In politics, when applied correctly, the opposing sides can actually use their differences to find common ground that will serve the good of the entire country. It’s only when egos get in the way causing people to become fearful, selfish, and closed minded do disagreements cause tempers to flare and a breakdown in the negotiating process to occur.
However, there is a very W~I~S~E approach to resolving conflicts and disagreements with a high degree of success and minimal disappointment to all parties:
W – Wait: wait before you respond. A moment of pause can prevent a lifetime of regret. When the other party presents their position, if it differs from ours or what we were expecting, we can easily become upset or angry. An immediate response can cause an innocent situation to rapidly escalate into an argument.
In my book, The Secret Side of Anger, I teach people to practice the SWaT Strategy: Stop, Walk, Talk. When you find yourself become upset, Stop what you are doing/saying. In that way, you can prevent yourself from saying/doing something regrettable. Secondly, Walk away. Out of sight, out of mind. Give yourself some space between you and the other party. Thirdly, Talk yourself calm. What you say to yourself will either cause your emotions to intensify or to subside. Once calm, return to the conversation ready to listen and respond rationally and fairly.
I – Intellect: use your rational brain to think about what is transpiring: the importance of the issue, what each party wants, how each person feels, and what it is that you each want to accomplish with the discussion. Oftentimes, we allow our irrational emotions to control our actions and comments. But emotions cloud rational judgment. It is critical that we remain calm so that our intellectual brain can gather all relevant data, process it, and determine the best possible course of action. Just as emergency responders need to put their feelings on hold in order to deal effectively with the crisis at hand, so must we be willing to do the same. And in doing so, we will make smarter more solution-oriented and all-inclusive choices that benefit all parties.
S – See and Smile: Always try to see things from the perspective of the other party. In this way, you are better able to understand their position and proceed in a more compassionate manner. It is imperative that we truly try to understand where the other person is coming from even if we don’t agree with their way of thinking. All people need and want to be understood and validated. This simple gesture begins laying a foundation of trust that enables both parties to move forward in a fair and timely manner towards a mutually agreed upon solution.
Smile: Did you know that the simple act of smiling releases endorphins in the brain, those feel-good chemicals that enable us to keep a positive attitude? A smile keeps your face friendly and your voice cheerful as well. While this may not sound like a significant gesture, it is, in fact, a powerful one. Would you not prefer to converse with someone who had a friendly face as opposed to one sporting a scowl?
Smiles are contagious and make us appear more attractive to others. They can lift our mood as well as the moods of those around us and have been shown to lengthen our lives as well. A smile wards off stress which in turn enables us to remain calm and focused. Our bodies relax making us less threatening and more welcoming from a physical perspective. All things considered, a smile is one of the most powerful tools we have in maintaining healthy inviting relationships and getting those differences resolved peacefully.
E – Express: Throughout the entire process, be certain to always express with respect – speak to one another with dignity and reverence at all times. Even those we don’t care for, who can be obstinate or rude, deserve respect. Ironically, many believe that respect must be earned or given to us before we are willing to reciprocate. However, Divine Law dictates otherwise. “Let all that you do be done in love.” “Love one another.” By our very nature, we are perfect beings deserving of respect. The very word respect means “to value”. Our Creator imparted equal worth to each of His sacred children.
One can be passionate, upset, angry, disappointed, or disagree with the other person while still expressing themselves in a respectful manner. I cannot expect others to treat me with regard if I am not first willing to do so for them. Ghandi’s inspiring words remind us to first be the change we want to see in the world. I must be the example of reverence that others may aspire to emulate.
I’ve always admired those who possess the gift of wisdom. Now each of us can be W~I~S~E in how we resolve our differences. If each of us followed these four simple steps, by example we could have a dramatic impact on reducing the amount of anger, fighting, and negativity that occurs in our immediate circles. Gradually, this would impact us on a global level as well. Put some good vibrations into the universe by keeping conflict resolution peaceful and productive. Be W~I~S~E and be triumphant.
Janet Pfeiffer, international inspirational speaker and award-winning author, is a Fortune 500 consultant and trainer, globally syndicated radio host (Anger 911 and Between You and God), TV personality (CNN, Fox News, Lifetime, ABC News and more), and holistic life coach.
Janet is NJ State certified in domestic violence issues and worked with battered women for 15 years.
Janet specializes in healing anger and conflict and creating inner peace. She’s also a contributor to the Dr. Phil Show, former Daily Record columnist, and an adjunct instructor at County College of Morris. Janet is a registered provider for the NJ Education Association and is the author of 8 books including the highly acclaimed The Secret Side of Anger and her latest, The Great Truth.
Connect with Janet: PfeifferPowerSeminars.com
Join YWCA Bergen County and presenter Janet Pfeiffer for our Nov. 15 event, The 15-Minute Conflict Resolution Solution! Register online today! Get more information about WEN is Now Memberships and upcoming monthly topics.