How to Listen During Conflict

I’m just going to get straight into this one. No fluff or comical backstory here. Today, we’re talking about conflict. Conflict is the part of life that makes us say, “Wow. That just got real.”

Conflict is the inevitable part of every relationship. At some point, it will happen, a conflict with occur, and you will be faced with the awkward and uncomfortable experience of dealing with it. Conflict looks at us and says, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” In most relationships, conflict occurs after two people begin to care about each other (and I’m not just referring to romantic relationships). This is why, when it occurs, we feel so desperate to be understood.

Since we agree that conflict is something that must be dealt with, let’s think of the best way to deal with conflict. How can a relationship grow through conflict? This is possible when one or both (or more) people are able to actively listen during a conflicting situation. Active listening involves hearing with more than your heart, because let’s be honest, we can’t listen to the other person when they’ve already hurt our feelings. That would just be crazy!

4 Ways to Listen During Conflict

  1. HEAR with your EARS.This is pretty easy… unless you are so busy talking and trying to get your point across that you fail to rest your vocal chords for 2 minutes just to hear the other person out. There are two sides to every story, and that insanely passionate desire you have to make sure the other person understands your side, well, they have the same desire. Give them that opportunity, and then share your side.
  2. HEAR with your EYES.Pay attention to them. There is just about nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who seems like they aren’t paying attention. Well, when you won’t look at someone when they are talking to you, how do you think that makes them feel? This can escalate a conflict and add unnecessary “bad vibes” to the whole situation. You may be surprised at what you can learn by watching a person’s body language when they are trying to deal with conflict. You may see the sincerity that you could have missed if you were only using your ears.

    Also, it is much harder to say things that you will regret when you are looking someone in the eye, so make sure that when you are sharing your opinions and feelings during conflict that you are looking at whoever you are talking to.

  3. HEAR with your HEART.This one is two-fold. We automatically listen with our “wounded and woe is me” heart during conflict. We innocently hear things through the ears of someone who has been afflicted, am I right? It’s in these moments that we need to open our hearts to listen, open our whole hearts. We can’t just open the part that is feeling bad, we have to also open the part that cares about the other person and try to hear what they are saying as their friend, or parent, or spouse. At the end of the day, we can cry “woe is me” but really, we need to cry “woe is me who is lucky enough to have a friend, parent or spouse who cares enough to work through conflict.”
  4. HEAR with your HEAD.We equate “smartness” to something from our head. Every time I google “Smart”, I either get a picture of a smart car or a picture of someone’s head indicating that intelligence comes from the brain. Since we use our brains to show our smarts… we need to use our brains to listen during conflict. Our head is the smart part of us, and it can offset the emotional part of us. When we think with our head, we consider the consequences of (1) not listening, (2) reacting irrationally, and (3) selfishly disagreeing.

Listening during conflict is about balance. Listen with your ears to hear what they are saying. Listen with your eyes to see how they are feeling. Listen with your heart to remain open to their perspective, and listen with your head to remain aware of the situation. Actively listening during conflict can save so much time and pain, and it can get you to a happy end result a lot faster than when you are only concerned with your side of the story.



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