Conflict Manager: How to End Unresolvable Discussions and Arguments

Mediator and Conflict Manager Stephanie Hooper.
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  • Conflict moderator Stephanie Hooper explains why disagreements sometimes seem unresolved – and why she then recommends pausing or ending the discussion altogether.
  • From her experience, the expert knows that discussions take this cycle when disputants argue at different levels.
  • For Business Insider, she explains how easy it is to get out of such arguments — and why the discussion is not a persuasion contest.

What do you do when you talk and talk and talk and argue based on knowledge, but you still can’t get the other person to understand you? Then the question arises for many: Does he or she not want to understand us or cannot? Are we not clear? Sometimes we invest a lot of time and energy in discussions and expect the other person to understand what we mean if we talk to them long enough.

Then there are cases where we find that people suddenly express opinions that are completely at odds with their previous beliefs – opinions we cannot understand. What’s confusing is that sometimes it seems like you don’t recognize your colleague, partner, or relative because all of a sudden he’s no longer subject to objective arguments. The problem with these opposing opinions does not seem to me to be the opposite – but the way it is represented: intolerance of a second opinion, and the belief that one possesses the only valid truth.

It is not always clear to us why others speak the way they do, and mutual understanding is not always possible. We often like a factual discussion, exchanging arguments, statements and facts, yet a well-intentioned discussion ends in a misunderstanding or even a real conflict – which leads to the fact that mutual understanding wanes even further.

As a conflict manager, I advise people in conflict in general to maintain contact with each other. Only in one case do I consider the conversation constructive. That is, when disputants are arguing at different levels. Because then they talk about each other. You can talk or argue about the same topic on different levels – but in a different context. Herein lies the reason for the lack of mutual understanding.

Discussions at different levels lead to nothing

A person who is literally at 180 is active on an emotional level. However, if the other person is on the objective and rational level, the feeling arises that they are talking to each other. Communication and discourse, conducted at different levels, usually ensure that conversations flow without influence and rarely produce usable results. However, they consume a lot of energy.

However, one does not have to be 180 to communicate on different levels without influence. It is enough for one of the parties to communicate on an emotional level and the other on a rational level. Phrases such as “Now let’s look at the whole thing objectively” or “…Now be objective…” many of us have already heard them or said them ourselves. They are clear signs that people speak at different levels.

You may have already experienced this yourself: someone wants to talk about everything and may end up repeating themselves, while another wants to find quick solutions and thus take the topic off the table. Here different approaches and different needs meet. But people learn from experience and not when an opponent bombards them with arguments, data, and facts – and certainly not when they communicate with each other on different levels.

Address contradictions and take constructive paths

If you notice that you and your interlocutor are communicating on different levels, you should point out this contradiction. The best thing to do next is to stop talking about the subject of the conflict – at least not if you want to take a constructive way to clarify it.

A simple tip if your interlocutor is on an emotional level and you are calm and objective. Label what you notice with calm words: “I can see how this topic bothers you…” or “I see that the topic bothers you so much….” Empathy is often enough to get to the other person – and see if it’s constructive to put off the topic.

If you notice that the person you are talking to is communicating more rationally than you do, you could say, for example: “I just want to get angry. It helps me release my feelings… I hope then we can talk rationally about this topic.” rationally as we think. Often we don’t even realize how emotionally we are being stimulated by something or someone’s words – and sometimes unconsciously we fall into an emotional vortex. It also has nothing to do with stupidity if we still consider ourselves objective and rational, even though we We’ve been romantically involved for a long time.

Agree: We have different opinions and accept that

So: if you are communicating at different levels, the conversation will be delayed until everyone has reached the same level. Or ask yourself the question: Should we clarify the issue at all? Can’t we also agree that we have different opinions on this subject – without trying to convince the other of our “right”?

In my job as a conflict manager, it sometimes seems to me that people have forgotten that different opinions and viewpoints are “normal”. Just agree on this: we have different opinions and accept other people’s opinions for what they are – difference. Not wrong and uncontroversial, just different. This is sometimes difficult and requires tolerance. But don’t we expect exactly this tolerance from others?

Stephanie Huber is the founder and managing director of konSENSation GmbH and works full time as a mediator with a focus on commercial mediation and dispute management. Your area of ​​responsibility mainly includes companies and their executives who are looking for solutions for their companies through active communications management.

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