In any personal relationship, whether it be a close personal friend, a business contact, or even just someone you encounter on the street, there is a possibility for, shall we say, “differences of opinions.” When the inevitable interpersonal conflicts come up, how do you handle them? How do you resolve conflicts and improve relationships?
One simple but extremely powerful technique that I’ve never had fail me or anyone I’ve taught it to is the B.U.I.L.D. Method (originally developed as B.R.I.C.K.S. – I was teaching a group of construction management students). Years of training and experience in managing conflict, plus a study of human communications and relationships, plus years of (would you believe) martial arts and combatives training, plus an obliging body of scientific research helped bring this method to life. It is simple, but effective. Give it a try!
Okay, so I once came across an NLP expert who said this wasn’t necessary, and for only $250 he’d tell you why. Biology would say he’s wrong, but I won’t go into it.
In this step, pay attention to your breathing. You don’t even have to take time away from the discussion or situation – it can be done on the fly. Are you holding your breath? Are you breathing too fast? Slow and control your breathing.
Often all it takes is one slow, deep breath and you can return to a breathing rhythm that helps you be calm and more focused. Deliberately keep your breathing slow until you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Let go. Let go of your position for a moment. Let go of the need to be right. Let go of the fear of failure. Let go of your ego. It is really hard to do the next three steps unless you do this one. Frankly, it is next to impossible to reach a true resolution without it. If you paid attention to the Breathe step, untethering is much easier.
Invite the other person to engage in a conversation, and invite them to share their perspective first. The invitation can be through words and/or body language.
For example, make eye contact (as culturally appropriate) and use an engagement phrase such as one of the following.
- “Let’s discuss this. What are your thoughts?”
- “Tell me more about your [thoughts, feelings, etc.] on the matter.”
- “I’d really like to know more about…”
- “Help me understand what you mean by…”
Really listen to the other person and genuinely seek to understand. Don’t be thinking about what your next argument or comeback will be, what you’re going to have for dinner, why they chose to wear that color combination, etc. – focus on the other person. You can strengthen this step by using connected listening techniques. Listen for not only what they say they want, but why. What are the underlying values, needs, interests and emotions? What are they really saying?
Once you have listened to the other person, then you can share your perspective. Don’t just attack what the other person has said, but explain how you see things and why. Then have a dialog (not a debate) about the different options that could resolve the situation. Ideally, you’ll look for options that will address each person’s needs and concerns.
Once you B.U.I.L.D. a positive connection you have the foundation for resolution. Even if you don’t ultimately agree, if you have put genuine effort into following the steps you can end with a positive note and an improved or strengthened relationship.