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Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

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Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

Super star contributor

Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

I've got a new tool to use in my communications I hope might be useful to others. It's aimed at reducing conflict in conversation which easily arises when emotions are high or we feel we haven't been heard. These prompts make us think about what each one is asking, and in doing so gives us the opportunity to express our true needs clearly and concisely. 


The sentence prompts are:


'I feel (or felt).......



and I would like......'


For example (based on an incident where my daughter came out swearing and yelling one night I had a friend over.)


I felt embarrassed

when you came out raging about the tv in front of my friend

because Jenny felt uncomfortable and left

and I would like you to have just said 'Mum could you please turn down the tv, it's too loud'.


The aim is to get to a point where our finishing sentences are written using words that do not place blame, cause shame or ridicule, but instead reflect our 'stuff'. The idea is that you keep editing until the wording is calm but direct, before you resond to the person (teen, partner, friend, colleague, anyone!)


A couple of tips I was given:

a) the wording is not to contain the word anger or angry. Anger is actually a mask emotion, meaning there is a different underlying emotion, quite often hurt, sad, disappointed etc. Keep rewording until you pinpoint that underlying emotion.

b) "Get rid of sorry". Use the word apologise. This tool is to help us feel empowered, not defeated. That seemed strange to me at first, but when I say the two words out loud, the feeling is different with each.


I've made up a template on my computer for us to use at home and have a couple printed out for easy access. There's actually no reason why it can't be used in positive times as well - it's great for really identfying our emotions around our needs or gratitudes!


(@Ngaio-RO I should probably have put this under Skills to Build...)

Super contributor

Re: Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

Thank you so much for this @taokat so helpful.  And I agree, I've moved it to the Skills section.



The tool I'd like to contribute is reflective listening. Which always sounds much fancier and harder to do than it is. All it takes is listening while the person talks and then feeding back to them what they've said.


For example, if your teenager says "You never side with me. You always side with her. You're so unfair. You obviously hate me."

The effective listening response would be "What I'm hearing you saying is that I never side with you and I always side with your sister. That my treatment of you is unfair. So much so that you feel I must hate you."


It can be hard. Especially when you're saying things that are absolutely untrue, in your mind. Remind yourself that just because you say it, doesn't make it true. And, if it's uncomfortable to say, imagine what it must be like for them to feel.


Where's the line between reflective listening and parroting? Or just simply repeating them? It's in the parts where you open-heartedly intuit their experience.  Using the above example, "What I'm hearing you saying is that I never side with you and I always side with your sister. That my treatment of you is unfair. Which I can see has made you very angry. I hear you when you say you think I hate you. That must feel horrible. I know I would be heartbroken if I thought you hated me."


By simply repeating back what your teenager has said, adding a couple of educated guesses and a personal reveal at the end, you've validated your teenager's feelings, empathised with them and told them how much they mean to you.


Next tool?  @Red21  @Serapis22   @hashtagmum  @mum2twins  @taziness  @motherbear

Super star contributor

Re: Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

Fantastic tool @Ngaio-RO and very good at diffusing the situation. My daughter was a little shocked at first when I used this and rendered speechless for a moment, lol. One I had been taught a few years back but must admit it somehow fell out of my toolbelt! Definitely one that's going back in there.


I'd forgotten about actually repeating back what they've said. Thank you for the reminder Smiley Happy









Super contributor

Re: Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

I hear that @taokat I'll even use this all day at work then go home and get into conflict with my teenager and poof! it's out the window.

But I agree, when used it's so disarming. It's pretty rare for a young person to feel really heard. Especially in conflict. It's amazing how impacting it is for them when they feel like their voice is being listened to.


I think the biggest issue that people, particularly parents, have about using this tool is that it only works if you reflect back to the other person what they're saying without commenting on its accuracy or validity. So parents feel like they're saying "you're right." to their teenager. But that's not what's happening.



Keen to hear what tools work for others.


Re: Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

Ok so this is this the one I use ;

1.'  I understand thats what you heard and I am sorry if it came across that way. I can see your upset by that, thats not what I was trying to say...


The other disarming replacement  word is " and" instead of " but " .


When we say I am sorry but.... it sounds like we are negating  the apology with the but.  " And" is inclusive . It says yes I acknowledge  your point , and you still need to take responsibility for your part in the problem.

I am sorry   I yelled at you, it was wrong , but its important you get the dishes done by 5pm (  subtext - excusing  your bad behaviour )

I am sorry I yelled at you, it was wrong , and its  important you get the dishes done by 5pm. ( subtext- I was wrong and  you need to still do your chores )

Its a slight change with this  example (  maybe others can think of better ones ) I am sure you get my drift !


Super contributor

Re: Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

Love it @motherbear I worked at a place where one of the staff used to always say to clients "Anything after BUT is bulls**t." Not super accurate but her point was the same as yours. It has a tendency to be the justification that negates the apology. "I'm sorry I hurt you but you made me so mad." or "I'm sorry I lied but you lied too."


I use the word 'and' instead of 'but' too. It sometimes sounds weird but it definitely improves the message.

"I'm sorry I yelled and you hurt my feelings too."


I believe it helps (young) people learn to engage in conflict in a much more mature manner.


What an awesome list of tools we're building here.



Super star contributor

Re: Tools for Reducing Conflict in Communication

I think we're much better at using our tools when there's not the emotion involved which is why I think it goes out the window sometimes at home @Ngaio-RO


I love your tip too @motherbear. 'But' is so negating and I love @Ngaio-RO's 'anything after but is bulls**t'. It really is if you've just dismissed any acknowledgment just given. As soon as your teen hears 'but', you're a step behind where you started.