"Peace can only be achieved through understanding." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's pretty much the most pleasant thing in the world right?
Ha ha, yeah, it's actually awful.
Well, the YA book series I'm working on is full of arguments between siblings, parents and teens, best friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, and etc...it's just got all kinds of spats. These fictional arguments typically end up being solved by some sci fi crisis (like maybe an alien invasion that brings feuding cheerleaders together or whatever). But in real life, there is no alien invasion to bring fighting parties together. So, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about how to solve real-world arguments in a peaceful way.
First of all, an argument with another person is tantamount to a puzzle, the end goal of this puzzle being to achieve peace. The best way to complete a difficult puzzle is to stay calm and think and this same mindset is required to end an argument and achieve peace. This means if all I really want is to prove I'm right and they're wrong, then I'm not using my head and I'm going to fail this puzzle.
To achieve peace, we need to ignore our own pride and desire to be "right" and make ourselves open to seeing things from the other person's point of view. And above all else, we have to shut up and LISTEN when they speak.
With these two things in mind, here are some quick tips that may come in handy when a friend surprises us with a nasty comment or by snapping at us:
1. First, remain calm. It could be that something awful is going on in your friends’ personal life and so it’s not that they meant to snap at you, but their problem is eating away at them.
2. Look your friend in the eye, use their name and sincerely ask them if they’re alright. For example, “Rebecca, are you okay?”
3. If they say no, break down, and tell you what’s wrong then be a good friend and listen. If they say yes and brush you off or snap at you again then remain calm and mention that you’d like to have a short, maybe 5 minute, chat with them later that day.
4. Later that day when the two of you are alone, begin the conversation by telling your friend what you appreciate about them and then move into how their snapping/yelling at you made you feel. Then, ask them if you’ve done something to offend them. For example, “Rebecca, we’ve been friends for a long time now and you’re one of the most important people in my life because I know I can trust you with anything. You’re honest and sincere and I just love you for that. But earlier today when you told me to shut up I felt not only shocked and hurt, but angry. I don’t want to be angry at my best friend, and I’d love for us to resolve this. So, why did you say that? Did I recently do or say something to offend you?”
5. Now it’s your friend’s turn to answer the question and spill the beans as to what the problem is. That means it is now your job to say absolutely nothing. All you have to do is LISTEN. Not plan what you’re going to say next or interrupt them and say, “No, wait, that’s not what happened…” All you need to do is LISTEN.
6. Once they’re done explaining themselves, apologize for whatever wrong they feel you’ve committed, let them know that you value their friendship and will try not to offend them again. And them ask them to refrain from treating you the way they did earlier. For example, “I’m so sorry for doing that, I didn’t even realize I’d done that. You’re one of my closest friends and I don’t ever want to make you feel that way again. If I ever accidentally hurt your feelings or offend you, can you just tell me face to face what I’ve done? That way, we won’t yell at each other or carry grudges. That sound okay?”
So, the key in the advice above is to, first of all, LISTEN, secondly, abandon your pride and apologize even if you don’t think you need to, and thirdly to speak in a way so as not to make the other person defensive.
If someone approached me and shouted, “You insulted me, you’re insane!” I would get defensive and probably shout right back at them. But if someone mildly explained, “Earlier today, I felt hurt when you called me “stupid” and I was also very shocked and angry.”
Notice that the person says “I felt” which puts the emphasis on their feelings instead of on me, by saying “YOU did this… and YOU did that…” So, to avoid making someone defensive, explain how their actions made you feel, instead of calling them a name or pointing the finger at them. Though they were in the wrong, the way to make them understand this is not to flat out say it, but to point out how their actions affected you. If you calmly explain this, it will open the door to conversation, mutual understanding, and eventually peace.
So, those are just a few quick tips on how to solve spats. I hope they come in handy! : )