Reframing – Consensus through Commonality Altering perspectives to drive the conversation forward
Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and conflict is on the minds of many as they prepare for the holiday. Family is all about love and acceptance, but disagreements are part of that mix.
This is the Capture Mediator – you knew this post was coming! Remember our story about color team reviews? Some family dinners are just as contentious, and you can use the same mediator tool-set in either environment.
I want to share a little tool mediators use that might help dinner-time conversations go a bit more smoothly for everyone. Who knows? You might even be able to change a few minds along the way.
Set the scene: Your uncle (or your solution architect who hasn’t read the requirements) is dead set on his opinion. You know he’s dead wrong, but he’s been thinking on this for a long time and his experience, while blind to anybody else’s experience, is dictating his viewpoint. A few glasses of wine in, and he’s a bit loud about it. Thankfully, there’s no whiteboard in this story.
Everyone is human and our motivations are all fairly similar, even when we’re on opposite sides of an issue. We all have more in common than we think. We just walk around the world wearing different colored glasses. That’s overly simplistic, but you’ll find it’s more often true than not.
One way to bring consensus to the dinner table is to reframe arguments. As Eshan Zaffar, author at the very useful site Mediate.com, states:
Reframing is the art and science of employing words and actions in order to alter a person’s perspective of a specific situation with the intention of initiating a change in behavior. The art is in accomplishing the process without manipulating the facts of the situation, the science is doing so at the right time and with the correct results.
This is an incredibly simple concept, one that you’ve used many times before. Have you ever told team members or family members that they should “agree to disagree” in the interest of improving or just maintaining relationships? That’s reframing. You’ve placed the conversation into the context of the greater good – the relationship among the parties. You’re showing the higher good of agreement to encompass the disagreement and be important enough to settle (manage) the conflict.
Obviously, that’s a band-aid that doesn’t do much in the long run when the conflict is about important issues. If you agree to disagree at pink team, what happens at red team?
Active listening can also work this way. Every time a brash statement of fact is made, you can simply say, “What I hear you saying is,” then re-state the argument in a respectful way. You may also use this space to reveal the commonalities between the two positions. Be very careful doing this – overt manipulation or misstating the argument purposefully can lead to an angry response.
Your goal as a mediator is never to overtly insert your own, personal opinion into the narrative. This can be very useful at dinner or at a proposal review. Take the time to pull yourself away from the situation and search for the commonality. Work gently to show arguments in those common frames then allow participants to work within those frames to discover new understandings.
I can tell you from experience, acting as a mediator rather than a participant in verbal conflict is far more satisfying. Rather than proving a point you might have, be the person who turns the conflict into a productive way to find new, undiscovered ideas. You might find your own mind changed on some things.
Even if you’re absolutely right, you can often provide a bit of nudging along the way to bring your loved ones or respected colleagues away from their entrenched positions and toward the light.
Try it out this Thanksgiving. You might find yourself having more fun than you expected.
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