With an MS in Conflict Studies and Mediation, Dana Caspersen knows conflict. In the book, Changing the Conversation – she starts with 17 principles and anti-principles that help break down conflict into actionable guidelines. The book doesn’t ask for you to avoid conflict; it only enables you to think about your role in the conflict and how to best resolve it. Dana separates her book into three sections: Facilitate Listening and Speaking, Change the Conversation, and Look for Ways Forward.
Overall – the way Dana thinks about Conflict Resolution is refreshing. It’s all very common-sense but is an excellent reminder for us to look beyond the emotion in the conflict to seek resolution. There is a lot in the book to pull from, but the areas that stuck out most for me were:
- Differentiate needs, interests, and strategies – in other words, look for the underlying need, not just the exact words that are coming your way,
- Talk to the better self – don’t assume the worst in people,
- Develop curiosity – look for the rationale and reasoning and continue to dig until you do. What’s the larger story?
What makes this book different from others? Two reasons; 1) the 17 principles are easy to follow, and the book is easy to consume. 2) Dana uses and frames questions so thoroughly. Throughout the book, she brings out examples of how to continue the conversation with better questions and insights. I’ve listed a few styles that I liked:
- It seems like we all
- It sounds like you are
- So, we’ve got different ideas about X. What are your thoughts on how we should proceed?
- Can you talk some about Y so that I can better understand the issue?
In the end, don’t actively avoid conflict. Listening better and humanizing the other person’s opinion will only help you get more from those conversations than not. The person you have a conflict with may be a jerk, but don’t start there and don’t use that as a reason to avoid curiosity or conflict.