LEAP into Conflict Resolution (even with teens!)
December 18, 2009 3 Comments
“Well, duh!” was my first reaction several months ago, when one of the newer members of my Toastmasters Club gave a speech about a conflict resolution method he learned in the book, “I’m Right, You’re Wrong, Now What?” by clinical psychologist Dr. Xavier Amador The method seemed intuitively obvious. So obvious in fact, I wondered why I didn’t use it more! The 4-step method can be remembered with the acronym LEAP: Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner.
Let me give you a before and after scenario as an example.
Before LEAP: My 17 year old daughter, Clara, who exercises at home, wants to get a treadmill. I don’t want to spend the money on a treadmill, nor do I want one taking up space in my home. So, I just flat out say, “NO!” Clara is upset and calls me an uncaring, controlling, bad mother (I’m paraphrasing!).
Clara: Mom, I want to get a treadmill
Me: Really? You want to get a treadmill? (Listen reflectively by restating)
Clara: My legs don’t get enough exercise. Push-ups and sit ups don’t do anything for my legs.
Me: You want to exercise your legs more. Is a treadmill the only way you could do that? (Listen reflectively and asking clarifying question)
Clara: I could walk, but it’s too cold outside.
Me: What about an exercise DVD? Or an Anytime Fitness membership? (trial at Partnering)
Clara: Maybe, but I’d really like a treadmill and I want to exercise at home.
Me: I know how you feel, a treadmill is different than an exercise DVD and exercising at home is more convenient. But, I don’t want to spend the money to buy one. Do you know how much they cost? (Empathizing, asking Clarifying questions)
Clara: No. (We then looked up prices and Clara was dismayed by how expensive they are). They cost a lot.
Diane: Yes, treadmills are expensive, but you probably could get one for free or really cheap from someone who doesn’t use theirs any more. So, if you spend your own money or get one for free, I can’t complain about cost. But, I’m not that thrilled with having one in the house. Where would we put it? (Agreeing and partnering)
Clara: I suppose we could put it in the garage, or in the basement.
Diane: There’s no room in the basement (there really isn’t!) and I don’t think you’d really like one in the garage—it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer, plus it’s boring. (Clara nods in agreement) Where else might work? (Partnering)
Clara (after looking around the house): What about here? (Clara picked a spot behind some furniture in the family room)
Diane: You know, if we move the furniture a couple of feet, I think it could work! You could even watch TV while you exercise. (Partnering)
At this point, my husband entered the conversation and began trying to convince Clara to get an elliptical trainer and Clara was adamant that she wanted a treadmill. I suggested that I get her a pass to the Anytime Fitness where I work out so she can try out equipment.
The above scenario was about a minor issue, but the LEAP method works for even more serious issues.
Here’s a little more explanation on each of the steps in LEAP:
Listen Reflectively—Remember Listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk –Listen without defending –reflect back by paraphrasing, summarizing or asking questions to clarify (what I hear you saying is. . .)
Empathize— Really try to see things from their point of view—try to “walk a mile in their shoes.” Use phrases like, “I know how you feel, I’ve felt the same way. . .” or “If I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way. . .” Always a true statement
Agree—This has 2 parts. Agreeing on the problem and agreeing on common ground. Agreeing on what the problem really is—This isn’t always obvious. Case in point is a story from the book, Getting to Yes (by Roger Fisher and William Ury):
A mother walks into her kitchen to find her two sons arguing over possession of an orange, so she cuts it in half to end the argument. But neither child is satisfied. It turns out one son simply wanted the orange for its rind to make cookies and the other wanted it for its juice. The mom forgot to ask the question, “Why do you want the orange?”
In addition to agreeing on what the problem is, it is helpful to find common ground, what are other areas of agreement or other areas of common experience? Sometimes it can be as simple as relating to everyday experiences. Almost everyone can relate to feeling too busy, for example. The challenge is to see the other person as a person and not just a problem.
Partner—Work together to find a solution, preferably a Win-Win solution! You can brainstorm possible solutions, compare solutions, and ask another person to mediate. The idea here is to treat each other with respect as you work work toward a solution together.
LEAP into your next conflict and see if you don’t get better resolution with greater understanding and respect!