The ''Broken Record'' Breaks Conflict

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Sometimes in conflicts, we find ourselves not only disagreeing, but losing control of the whole conversation. Escalating and digressing are major problems in conflicts. Perhaps your anger has been triggered, and everything that ever bothered you about the person or situation surfaces. In personal relationships, we may actually say what we are thinking. At that point, everything and the kitchen sink is thrown into the argument. In a professional environment, meanwhile, we often withhold our harshest judgments, but we are usually thinking them. They can then become mental cues that direct the dialogue off the main topic. Just as frequently, the other party is doing the same thing. It is amazing how rapidly the conversation veers wildly off course. Later, we wonder what went wrong, and how we could have gotten so off track.

Conversation is like an i-Pod filled with songs from a variety of genres. When we start jumping around the playlist, playing stanzas from different songs or trying to play one song over the other, we don't make relationship music. Most often we end up with a confusing, discordant mess.

Lessons from music can be applied to conversation. Good music has a theme. The theme gives the music structure and direction. It is the theme that organizes random notes into a recognizable song. Composers know that creating a theme is essential to music composition. A similar technique can be employed for keeping a conversation on track.

First, when you want to get your point across, pick a "theme song" for the conversation. Keep the conversation on theme. Do not move to another theme until a resolution has been reached. This is especially useful when we encounter resistance from others. People will frequently use every reason and excuse they can to explain why they cannot accommodate our interests or requests. The excuses and "buts" are an attempt to switch to songs on their playlist. Don't get caught up by these distractions! Keep playing your theme song over and over like a "broken record".

Second, and equally important, make sure you keep your theme playing at a pleasant tone and volume. Escalation will inevitably occur if you start to crank up the "attitude" or volume. Be pleasant, but continue to repeat your main concern or request. Most often the other party will work with you precisely because you can't be distracted and you are not escalating into anger. So, when you encounter disagreement, pick a theme song and play it pleasantly and repeatedly. Your pleasant, persistent "singing" will encourage everyone to join in on the same note.

About the Author

Barbara A. Kay, MA, LPC, and RCC at Advantage Coaching & Training, works with individuals and organizations to build high performance. Barbara's services include individual coaching, team facilitation, interactive workshops, and keynote speaking.

Barbara can be reached at:

Advantage Coaching & Training
Phone: 630.293.0210 ext. 19
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