It’s Not Always What You Say…

It’s Not Always What You Say….

You, like everyone else, get crosswise with others from time to time. Yes, I’ve mentioned that a time or two in this book, but it bears repeating. We sometimes think there is something wrong with us or with the relationship when conflict arises. That just is not true.

It is true, however, that you are often the cause of many conflicts in your life. One way you might initiate conflict is by the way you tell others that you are displeased with something they are, or are not, doing that gets on your nerves.

All relationships require some degree of tact to function smoothly. My favorite definition of tact is when I tell my wife “honey, when I look at you time stands still.” Now that is very sweet and tactful. It could, of course, carry the same meaning as “honey, you have a face that could stop a clock.” Trust me, that is not an example of tact.

All relationships need a mechanism by which the parties can relate dissatisfaction that will be positively accepted by the other. So here’s a technique found in the PREP course (visit www.prepinc. for more information).

I refer to the XYZ technique for raising concerns and/or complaints. It draws attention to the undesirable behavior without attacking the person. Imagine you are upset that a co-worker is frequently late which puts the team in a position of having to wait for him or her before getting started for the day. You could rip into the person and say “you are so lazy and uncaring. You are a drag to this entire team and I’m sick of you coming in late all the time!” As I said, you could say it that way, but with predictable negative results.

The XYZ technique works this way: When you do X, in situation Y, I feel Z.  For example: “when you come in late for our morning staff meetings I feel you don’t care about how that impacts the rest of us and what a problem it presents for us.”

Note how this approach attacks the problem, but not the person. Hopefully the person will be open to hearing more specifics about how their performance is causing problems for others. Many people will simply not care, but many will appreciate being shown that they are creating a problem and will seek to correct it.

You don’t live in a perfect or conflict-free world. It behooves you therefore to learn appropriate and effective ways to deal with conflict. Fight or flight, two very common responses to conflict, often present temporary solutions, but rarely do they result in positive long term outcomes.

As you practice and implement the XYZ technique, please keep in mind that your attitude is as, or more important than, your delivery. Maintain a non-threatening, respectful manner and your words will likely find receptive ears. Put the other on the defensive and you might just as well speak to a wall.

Also as with any new skill it will be awkward at first, but with practice the XYZ technique can become a regular part of your interactions with others and can lead to much less conflict.