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Dealing with conflicts? Use curiosity

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

For any relationship that matters to us, we wish to have smooth interactions. Yet sometimes we do differ in opinions or face some conflicts.

How to deal with these situations, so that it improves the relationship instead of harming it?

Here is my experience.

Besides respect, one of the most important aspects in interactions is curiosity. You might think, what has curiosity to do with healthy relationships? What I mean by curiosity has nothing to do with gossip. Our goal is to explore beyond the surface what is meaningful for the other person and his/her needs.

Let me explain you how this works.

If you have a conflict with another person, is because you have taken a position that is different from the other person's position. Every one of you want to stick to it, cause both feels strong about it.

However, to resolve conflicts at the level of positions requires that one of you give up the position, which doesn't feel great, right?

What can you do alternatively?

Go one level deeper than the position level and explore what is the need underneath the other's person position. A need is something positive, that you would wish for the other person. Maybe this person needs safety or security for themselves or others, perhaps they need more independence or acceptance, to be less afraid, to be more liked.

Hence, get curious about the deeper need of your counterpart underneath their position and do the same with yourself. What is the real need behind your position? Once you know, explore which new position could have you both satisfied your deeper needs.

I'll give you one example of my own.

Yesterday, I insisted on not buying candies and other confectionery for a while. My statement was: "if they are in the pantry, they are going to be eaten rather sooner than later, and they are not healthy". My partner though, insisted that the best would be not to cut down on sweets but to exercise more to compensate for those sweet treats. The deeper need of both of us was to stay healthy. So, we found an agreement through this new position. A limited number of sweets could be bought, avoiding promotions to stock up on those products, and whenever eating them an extra session of exercise had to be done.

This is an example of daily life. Yet, as I spoke with one of my clients, you can use this strategy in any area of your professional or personal life.

Give it a try and handle conflicts in a smarter way.

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