Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, talks about resolving conflicts in any situation through self-empathy. In order for you to empathize with someone, you must first connect with yourself. The idea of putting yourself in someone elses’ shoes seems like quite an elementary idea, but it’s evident that this concept is very difficult to execute depending on the situation. In his audio book, Dale Carnegie provides many examples of when you admit your fault before being reprimanded by the person you faulted, it significantly increases your chances in establishing a peaceful alliance. Most people want to feel important and significant, as well as, being told they’re correct in their thinking or behavior. Carnegie gives an example of arguing with a police officer. Does this ever resolve the problem? However, if you admit your fault before the officer even has a chance to reprimand you, you demonstrate self-empathy and the ability to be objective about the situation you’re involved in.
In my previous post, The paradoxical entanglement of the self and the other, I discuss the complexity of self-empathy – the ability to understand someone else’s standpoint and act accordingly. In other words, being able to admit your folly and resolve the issue through an effort in understanding your similarities and differences. Referring to Carnegie’s 4th Principle, Begin in a Friendly Way, he quotes Woodrow Wilson.
‘If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from each other, understand why it is that we differ, just what the points at issue are,’ we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together.’
Often we think most disagreements are because of our differences, but in actuality, the way we communicate those our disagreements are the primary problem. Rather than trying to resolve the conflict by focusing on the differing views, try to focus on what you have in common in relation to the issue/s at hand. This will create a mutual alliance through shared interests and views and leverage the differences at hand. Leveraging a difference produces strength. The strength produced will manifest in the relationship and benefit both parties. Diversity, differences, and conflict should not intimidate you and/or instigate negative reactions. Through self-empathy (understanding yourself in connection to the other) and a genuine willingness to solve the problem/s at hand will establish a peaceful alliance. The main reason people resort to violent forms of communication is because they don’t want to invest the time and energy required to solve the problem by executing the steps mentioned. However, if you do invest the necessary time through non-violent communication, you will realize that not only does it get easier every time, but that you would have spent more time and energy in violence and warfare. Be smarter, not harder.