Don’t you wish you had a guaranteed tool for conflict-resolution? You do.
Word Count: 606
Reading Time: 2 minutes
You’ve got two employees who can hardly stand to be in the same room with each other.
They won’t look at each other. The tension is dense between them. They come to you for “help.” And then they come for help again. You don’t have time to sort this out. You wish they would just get along with each other. They are talented professionals. You need them both. And you need something powerful, something that will get them to put this to rest once and for all. You need the war to end.
You need paraphrasing.
Not the clumsy, off-putting, let-me-broadcast-that-I-am-using-a-very-correct-technique-very-correctly-because-I-just-learned-it-in-a-workshop kind of paraphrasing. Not the kind that starts with “What I think I hear you saying is…” and maintains a safe distance between people.
You need the kind of paraphrasing that comes with rapid heartbeat, clenched stomach, furrowed brow and the sound of mental gears grinding.
The kind of paraphrasing that risks mistakes and reminds you you’ve got something to lose. The kind we avoid because it strips away our professional facade in the exact moment we are doing all we can to hide our raw feelings, our palpable anger and our extreme neediness.
Don’t you just hate that?
Face it: You are going to lose if you paraphrase at the exact moment when you find the very idea insulting. You’ll lose your superiority, your righteousness, and your isolation. It’s guaranteed. You’re going to gain too. You’ll get a colleague, an expanded world view, peace of mind and the blessed relief of dropping the grievance story that’s eating you up inside.
There is no tool more heat-resistant than paraphrasing. In fact, paraphrasing is most powerful right at the point of conflict.
What paraphrasing at the point of conflict does:
++ It helps people listen to themselves. Because when people get upset, they decide on an interpretation of events and then repeat that story over and over. They stop listening to themselves first.
++ It helps people listen to each other. And not just to the few key words that will set them off again. When upset people paraphrase, they make mistakes and have to accept correction. That gets them to start listening to the meaning, to the entire story line, to another point of view that makes perfect when you hear the whole thing.
++ It returns people to the present. Arguing about what is in the past is always a smokescreen hiding anger and hurt in the present. You can only make progress in the present. The past is over. Paraphrasing helps you get past it.
++ Paraphrasing s-l-o-w-s—p-e-o-p-l-e—d-o-w-n. This is helpful all by itself.
Paraphrasing makes peace like nothing else I know. It works like magic if you don’t muck it up with these common mistakes:
— Paraphrasing is not agreeing. It’s listening to someone else’s story, no matter what you think of it.
— Paraphrasing is not abandoning your point of view or being silenced. It’s deliberately putting it aside for a few minutes. You’ll get your turn next.
— Paraphrasing is not slipping in your point of view, your argument, your interpretation or your judgment. It’s not responding to what someone just said or distorting it to make it sound as stupid as you think it is. It’s showing that you heard it, not how well you liked it.
When you need to resolve even an entrenched conflict, paraphrasing works like a hot knife through butter.
Know what I mean? Tell me about it in the comments below.