My sister uses social media to start and encourage conversations about current events.  She posts articles that are meant to engage her friends and family, but I cringe almost every time and wonder if I should stop following her.  Why do I cringe and want to avoid these articles and conversations?  Well, what would Conflict Coach say?

  • Conflict Coach would ask me to identify my emotional response and my sister’s. For example, a recent article she posted made me angry, and since she agrees with it, I got angry with her.
  • Conflict Coach would counsel me to look at my anger and be more precise about what feelings came before it. I think the first emotion I felt was helplessness, because these hot topics she posts about are big and complex and can’t be solved by one person or with one idea.
  • Conflict Coach would ask me to think through what is at stake for me, what core values are in play. My emotions arose because I want a level playing field and justice for all, and those values were ignored and downplayed.  Articles like the one my sister posted tap into a very different set of emotions and values, such as anxiety, safety, and resistance to change– and seek to persuade me they are more important than mine.
  • Conflict Coach would remind me that my sister also has values at stake, which are also valid. I identified the values in the article that appeal to my sister’s emotions, namely fairness to certain groups, and security.
  • Conflict Coach would teach me to de-escalate and listen carefully. Ignoring the accusatory and inflammatory words, I examined the underlying emotions of the author of the article.  The writer seemed to feel disrespected and maligned. I used that insight to try to empathize with my sister so I could listen better.

Using Conflict Coach, I translated this situation into a problem statement: “I value a level playing field and justice, and you value fairness and security. How can we try to have both?”  I realized our common goal isn’t to get to agreement; it’s to communicate and gain understanding.

Well, is this progress? I think I’ve gotten better at talking civilly to my sister about these important topics.  And ultimately, that is what has improved our relationship.