The most important conflict resolution technique in any two-person exchange is feedback.
Using that feedback loop, you can confirm (or correct) your understanding of a situation, which can allow you to avoid problems caused by misunderstanding.
A good way to implement the feedback loop is to think about what the other person has said, and think of a way to paraphrase it in a question to get a confirmation of your understanding.
Paraphrasing (“If I understood what you were saying, you meant….”) can also be used to build rapport — even with a person who is extremely angry. In the case of an extremely angry person, asking for confirmation or correction can make that person stop to think about what he said, which automatically reduces the anger.
A twist on this technique is to deliberately get the paraphrase slightly wrong, and then when the other person corrects you, acknowledge and accept the correction, using yet another round of paraphrasing and feedback. This gets back to the “Empathize” step — the other person will perceive that you are trying to understand his or her feelings. It also helps move the other individual to what Dr. Berne calls the “Adult” state in his book.
As in the previous article on “Ask”, it makes a lot of difference how you do this, and these techniques require some planning and practice to use effectively. The most important factor is your own mindset. If you allow yourself to react with anger, you are very likely to get this step wrong, and make things worse instead of better. If you think about what you need to say, and consciously use your words to de-escalate a conflict, you are more likely to accomplish the desired result.
“The best words to use are not the ones that spring most readily to your lips.” — Sgt Hilan Priddy, Retired, Texas DPS.
Use feedback to avoid misunderstanding and to build rapport.