GOOD SAMARITAN: The dynamics of conflict

By Brian Wingfield, LMFT

Whether the rising usage of social media is to blame, or perhaps some other additional factor(s), it does seem at times that conflict is often all around us.

The conflict can sometimes be centered around political views, religious/faith/spiritual views, or racial and gender identity, just to name a few of the most recent things some people have been arguing with each other about.

The bottom line is that people sometimes have difficulties getting along and avoiding conflict.

One of the techniques that can be utilized when it seems like a resolution and compromise seems unattainable is emphatic listening. The goal of emphatic listening is to seek understanding, although not necessarily a solution, during a conflict.

The first step in this process is to intentionally listen to the other person with your undivided attention (or “whole self”). The idea is not be distracted by how you are going to respond or disagreeing in your mind with what they are saying in real time.

Second, take time to fully understand and process what the other is saying. Ask open ended questions for clarification to gain more understanding. Make sure the questions really are ones that will help you gain more knowledge and not covert attempts to disagree with what the other person has just said or to make a passive aggressive attempt to poke holes in the other person’s line of thinking. The goal at this stage is to be able to accurately paraphrase the other person’s thoughts.

Thirdly, ask questions to seek understanding why they believe in the issue in the way in which they do. The point is not to argue/debate the others person’s firmly held views. The goal is to fully understand the other person’s reasoning for believing the way they do.

Following this three-step process will enable you to accurately paraphrase what the other person has said and to be able to fully describe why they believe in that concept. It is important to acknowledge that we can seek to understand someone and their views without compromising what we believe.

Furthermore, in order to have effective communication it is important to realize we must make a sincere attempt at understanding another person, especially someone that we happen to disagree with.

If you realize you are having difficulties with being able to effectively communicate with others, and this is causing distress in your life, whether that be in your personal relationships, on your job, or people at large, please contact the Samaritan Counseling Center for help at 432-563-4144.