Stuck in a standoff and not feeling heard? Use these conflict resolution tips to resolve it with a win-win compromise.
As a woman, you have likely experienced plenty of situations in which you did not feel heard, especially in male-dominated group settings. Women are often perceived as bossy, overbearing or even rude when we speak as much as men, so we often try not to take up too much verbal space or risk making a bad impression.1 We’re also more likely to stop talking when interrupted.2
I don’t have any easy solutions for the broad societal issues at play here, but I can offer some helpful perspective.
A recent study3 found that feeling heard is tied to whether or not the conversation resulted in the speaker’s needs and expectations being met.
Keep in mind that this was a workplace study. Most conversations involved employees asking their managers for something they wanted, or sharing an idea they thought would benefit the company if implemented. So, they felt “heard” when their needs, ideas and overall contributions were validated by their higher-ups.
Still, I think there’s something important to consider in these findings, as a factor in how heard we feel in our interpersonal communications overall:
We often confuse feeling heard with getting our way or having the other party agree with us.
If this describes your situation, you might say, “you’re not hearing me” when what you’re really feeling is “you’re not seeing things my way, because if you did, you would agree with me and do what I want!”
The truth is we can, with the best of intentions, understand where another person is coming from and still not want to do what they suggest. So how do both parties move forward when this situation arises?
For example, suppose your partner wants to do the dishes first thing in the morning instead of right after dinner, when they prefer to relax. You prefer to get out early for a morning walk. You definitely understand they like to relax after dinner—you “hear” this—but you aren’t receptive because it conflicts with what you want. In this example, we have the basic set up for every conflict:
You want something, and the other person wants something else.
And the risk in any conflict is a power-struggle or worse – one of you caving in just to keep the peace. The trouble is, if we perceive the problem as “not being heard,” then we miss the opportunity to seek solutions to the conflict that both parties can live with, in other words, a win-win compromise.
A win-win compromise prevents the conflict from turning into an argument, or for it to be “resolved” by one person acquiescing to the other inauthentically. But to get here we also need to recognize that authentic compromises aren’t always apparent in the heat of the moment. Fortunately, if we can agree to disagree, in good faith, until a compromise can be found, then both parties can feel heard while they negotiate a win-win solution over a period of time.
Tips to Ensure You Feel Heard for a Win-Win Compromise:
As the speaker:
- Identify the essence of your needs and wants. In the example above, these would be relaxation in the evening, and an early morning walk.
- Acknowledge that just because you want something doesn’t mean that the other person will be able to authentically agree to it.
- Realize that when your needs conflict with those of the other person, the object of the exercise isn’t to “win the fight,” but instead to find a win-win compromise. In the example, perhaps you load the dishwasher while your partner relaxes in the evening, and he cleans the counters and appliances and unloads the dishwasher in the morning while you’re on your walk.
- If you reach a stalemate, ask yourself: are you really talking about what you need? Or are you stuck on that need being met only in a certain way? (Example: you have to do the whole job together.)
As the listener:
- Listen with the goal of understanding the needs and expectations of the speaker.
- Reflect back to the speaker your understanding of their needs and what they want.
- If you can’t agree to what they want from you, commit to finding a win-win compromise, acknowledging this might take time to discover.
- Then, listen more deeply. Are they presenting narrowly specific ways to meet a need that actually could be met successfully in other ways that you might be able to agree to?
- Present the alternatives without expectations for a result. (Be patient with the process.)
Over the next few days, pay attention to when you do and don’t feel heard.
Are your expectations unclear, or does meeting your goal require others agreeing with you rather than collaborating or finding compromise?
If you and the other person have conflicting needs and expectations, trust that the solution is out there, and it may take some time to discovered it.
If you try out these steps, I’d love to hear how it went and what you discovered – either in the comments or our Facebook page.
Take good care : )