First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others. Thomas a Kempis
Make the other person comfortable so that person can release their concerns and issues safely.
Managing your own comfort level is a crucial first step. The next step is helping the other person find their comfort zone. Why? If the other person is feeling safe, then he is less likely to lose it. Enhance that person's comfort level in conflict situations.
When you are uncomfortable in an adversarial situation you might assume the other side is comfortable. When uncomfortable you have less energy available to monitor the other person. Yet when you provide comfort to the other person you bring out the best rather than the worst in the other person.
Recognize you have much less control over the other person's state of relaxation than your own. By that same token, do not underestimate how much impact you have in creating the interpersonal dynamic. All problems and the conflicts are the way they are. You can help the other person feel safer.
A former work colleague of mine did this astoundingly well with colleagues, his bosses and clients. He would consistently put the other person at ease by initially raising a topic that the other person was instantly engaged. He listened intently and asked questions. He would often get the other person a glass of water. I was often impressed how relaxed the other person looked, smiling, and comfortably seated. Whoever the other person was (including me) would then share their concerns in a more open friendly manner.
Keep in mind the separation of the person and the problem. Be firm in addressing the issues while creating comfort for the person. Empathy does not mean conceding to that person's wishes.
Learn what makes the other person comfortable. Consider where and when you interact with that person. Sitting down for a meal or a coffee can engender relaxation. Speak to put the other person at ease. Check in and encourage the other person to build rapport. Also, remember if you are relaxed then the other person will more likely do the same.
My next post will concern turning your focus to what you say and do, when things get adversarial and tempers flare
To learn more about the importance of communication skills particularly in negotiation and conflict resolution, read about the solutions, results and publications Grande Lum has created at Accordence, Inc.
For further discussion, contact Grande at email@example.com