In my early 20s, I wasn’t interested in school violence prevention. I had big ideas about contributing to world peace. After serving in the Peace Corps, I worked on a Master’s in international development, focused on conflict resolution. This was in the early 90s, before “Columbine” was associated with a high school massacre. An internship in the heart of America changed my worldview.
You may be a really good communicator, but if you use “but” in the way I just did in this sentence, think again. Doing so just negated the positive sentiment I tried to convey in the first half of that message. Even when you disagree with someone, there is a simple communication strategy you need to start using, to improve the way you engage in the most difficult conversations.
Even the best conflict engagement professionals can be blindsided by an occasional toxic exchange. Despite how fantastic a day may start, a few harsh words can catch us off-guard, leaving us feeling defensive, angry or belittled. You can keep difficult people from bringing you down with them and poisoning your well. There are surprisingly effective strategies for bouncing back and preventing conflicts from getting the best of you.
I’ll walk you through an example from my own experience.