Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success. If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things. 1) Get to know yourself. Use this self knowledge to better understand others. 2) Build and nurture, strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in your life. 3) Learn how to resolve conflict in a positive manner.
Conflict can kill relationships, or it can enhance them. Conflict can have positive results. Creative solutions to complex problems come from working through conflict in a constructive manner. I have one simple, common sense rule for resolving conflict positively. Focus on where you agree – not where you disagree.
When you focus on points of agreement – however small – you put yourself in a position to build a creative solution to the problem or disagreement, and an opportunity to create a win/win situation for all parties. When you focus on where you disagree, you wind up defending your position. This creates a win/lose situation, one in which one person’s gain is seen as another person's loss.
On Tuesday, President Obama addressed Congress and the nation. His speech was both sobering and optimistic. At the end of the speech, he provided a great example of what I mean by focusing on where you agree, not disagree…
“I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.
“And if we do — if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, ‘something worthy to be remembered.’ Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”
The words, “But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done;” capture the essence of resolving conflict by focusing on points of agreement.
By acknowledging the fact that all members of Congress love our country and want it to succeed, President Obama opened the door for discussion on how to resolve the economic, energy, health care and education problems we face as a nation. He indicated that he is willing to listen to and discuss points of view that differ from his own. If he and his advisors follow through on this promise, I believe that we will find better solutions to the problems we face as a nation than if he and his advisors go it alone.
President Obama’s speech demonstrates the idea I want to get across in this post – when you are in a conflict focus on where you and the other person agree – not where you disagree. By focusing on a point of agreement – that all member of Congress love the USA, President Obama opened up the door to building creative solutions to the problems we face as a society.
The common sense point here is simple. Successful people are interpersonally competent. Interpersonally competent people build strong relationships with the important people in their lives. If you want to become interpersonally competent, use conflict as an opportunity to strengthen, not weaken, your relationships. You can do this by focusing on the points on which you and the other person agree, not where you disagree. If you take this approach, you will not only strengthen you relationships, you will put yourself in the position where you can jointly come up with creative solutions to the issue at hand.
That’s my take on resolving conflict in a positive manner. What’s yours? Please leave a comment sharing any experiences you’ve had where focusing on points of agreement, not disagreement, helped you successfully and positively resolve conflict. As always, thanks for reading.