Friday, October 12, 2012

De-escalating conflict

Catherine Gerard, Director of the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC), Maxwell School of Syracuse University, offered a mini-workshop on Managing Conflict and Communication to the faculty and staff involved in SU WiSE/AVANCE.  We cannot control the other person, so she gives advice to help you remain civil (so you don't become the difficult person!) and ensure the other person feels heard, so that a dialogue is possible.  Much of this is accomplished through "Reflective Listening", Query, Assertion, and Anchoring.  These techniques do rely on you being the bigger person, so if you are not willing to assume that role, a different workshop is in order.

Many in the session were concerned with the wording of  "I feel [unappreciated, put upon, even farther behind schedule, etc]....when...."  relaying concern that while it is more approachable language, it also puts you in too vulnerable a position by admitting something so human (feminine?) as emotions (which have no place in science or the workplace, after all).  Plus, it kinda feels like pandering.  Doesn't "I am..." get to that same point?  She and a clinician participant disagreed--note how "kinda feels" qualifies the pandering comment as an interpretation or an assumption, not as fact, so its less accusing or threatening.  They also noted that 1) it takes practice to use this phrasing comfortably and 2) if we truly know it would distract from the point with that particular conflict monger, adapt the wording accordingly.

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