How to communicate with empathy and avoid conflict
by Jacquie Wise
Talking and listening are the best ways to gain empathy and understanding and avoid conflict.
But what can you do if the communication pattern between you is to yell at each other, each one trying to get the other to listen?
Talking and listening are the best ways to gain understanding and reach agreement. But what can you do if your communication pattern between you is to yell at each other, each one trying to get the other to listen?
Use a technique called the Empty Chair to understand the situation from their perspective before you try talking to them again.
How to begin the Empty Chair Process.
As with any good communication, you need to listen first, before you impose your point of view.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself slipping into the person’s skin. Feel their experiences, perspectives and feelings right from the beginning of the conflict.
Feel their hurts and fears, without judgement. Set aside your own resentments as you tune into theirs.
Understand with compassion why they react the way they do.
- What are they trying to defend or protect?
- What do they need to hear from you, to feel safe enough to talk to you?
- From their perspective, how might have they misinterpreted your intentions?
- In what way might they have felt under attack from you?
- What do they want from you now?
- What might they be prepared to accept?
If it helps, place them in front of you in your imagination. You could position an empty chair in front of you and imagine them sitting there. (This method is also called the ‘empty-chair’ technique or Dialoguing.)
It might help to switch places from your chair to the chair you imagine them to be sitting in. Perhaps do this with a friend who can ask you questions about how you’re feeling when you’re imagining you have become this person. Your friend could write down your answers for reflection later.
Next time you’re facing a conflict, try the Empty-Chair technique. It hugely increases your chances of resolving the situation and even healing a rift.
Eventually, your ability to empathise and understand others becomes instinctive.
Your ability to heal hurts and resolve conflicts becomes one of your strengths.
If you would like to practise the Empty-Chair Technique, contact me directly to arrange a convenient appointment time.
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