First things first: conflict resolution is not sufficient if the only strategy is to ignore, shut up and not make any waves. This is particularly so, when ignoring harbours resentment, promotes abuse, enables sexual harassment and bullying to continue and goes against every anchor of your beliefs. While it is essential to practice conflict avoidance when necessary, remember that in life, there is a time for both war and peace. For those moments when you’ve got to speak up, these tips can go a long way.
Not every battle is worth it. Do an introspection before deciding which issue is worth taking up. Perhaps your roomie is always nagging you about a messy gig. Instead of starting an unnecessary argument: pick up after yourself. That is not only a sign of maturity, but it can lead to a healthier environment, happier roommate, and you may feel more focussed in a clean space.
Voicing a grievance
Perhaps you are a young parent who is getting a lot of help from your community with regards to parenting while you study and pull your life together but feel the need to speak up about something. On the one hand, you don’t want to sound ungrateful or risk abandonment, but on the other, your consciousness is urging you to speak out about something that concerns you. If, after having assessed and measured up the situation, you figure that you can’t keep it in anymore, there are means to go about it.
Dangers of conflict avoidance
The problem with avoiding conflict at all cost is that it can lead to feelings of frustration, denying your needs and not expressing yourself. It can lead to a lifestyle of unfulfillment. Furthermore, passive-aggressive behaviour may surface, accompanied by blowing up on unrelated matters. Sometimes, you could end up reaching out to alcohol, food or unprotected sex as a form of control or dealing with your situation. Whichever way you look at it, you need an effective action plan to speak up and ask for what you want.
The winning strategy
Here’s a tried-and-tested three-part framework that can be applied when you want to speak up and ask for something. It is not about just what you say, but how you say it.
- The first part is to give a compliment.
- The second part is to state your need(s) in one clear sentence.
- The last part is to seek acknowledgement of what you’ve just said.
For example, with the parenting scenario, you can say: “Hi mom and dad. I am so grateful with how you help me raise my little one and love us unconditionally. I need help in addressing his aggressiveness towards other kids. Do you have any ideas on how we can go about this?”
The same three-part framework works if you want to ask bae to spice things up in your relationship, or are tired of praising someone and perpetuating a behaviour that you actually despise. Try it out for yourself. It creates a safe way of speaking out and can empower you to find your voice again. Best of all, it is a downright doable and straightforward approach. Compliment. State your request in one sentence. Ask for acknowledgement.