A few weeks ago a friend of mine emailed me asking for help. She was feeling upset about something that had happened in one of her friendships and didn’t know how to handle it. She was leaning towards letting it slide rather than saying something because she didn’t want to upset her friend or turn it into a big issue.
I think there are a lot of us out there who would rather swallow our upset than deal with conflict. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t learn good conflict resolutions skills at home growing up, or at school for that matter. My solution: avoid it!
As I got older, I noticed that avoiding conflict resulted in:
(1) resentment building up inside of me, and
(2) me hurting others by avoiding them or dropping them as friends rather than addressing the problem.
Turns out, there is a way to address conflict that’s simple, straightforward and that really works. It’s called the Feedback Formula. When you feel upset, wronged or angry because of something your friend did, respond right away, and respond using this formula:
“When you _____________________________________ (describe the person’s behaviour),
I feel _____________________________________________ (describe the emotion you feel).
And the result is ____________________________ (describe the effect of that emotion).
Would you be willing to ____________________________________ (make your request)?”
An example would be:
“When you cancelled our plans on Monday night because Tom asked you out
I felt rejected, unimportant and upset.
The result is I don’t want to make plans with you anymore in case you cancel again.
Would you be willing to commit to sticking with the plans we make next time?”
The Feedback Formula works because:
You are commenting on someone's behaviour, not their character. Attacking someone’s character usually results in them becoming defensive, which we want to avoid because then they stop listening.
You are telling them how their behaviour affected you. Most people don’t like to hear that something they did was upsetting to you, and they often don’t realize the impact of their behaviour, especially if you generally say nothing about it.
You are explaining to them the consequences of you feeling how you do.
You are inviting them to change the behaviour that upset you. It’s an invitation, so they have the option of saying no, but at least this way you give them choice.
As you become used to expressing yourself in this way, you can work with the wording to make it sound more like the natural you. The first time you try using the formula might feel scary, but trust the process, it really works.The more you use it, the easier it will be for you to resolve your upset and ask for what you need. Another great side effect: increased self-confidence.
Soon you will no longer see conflict as a must-avoid, rather you will see it as an opportunity to strengthen your friendships and other relationships.