Michael Boulet, Shook, Wickham, Bishop & Field
In the last issue, we talked about “getting off the line” – removing oneself emotionally from the cycle of conflict but remaining engaged. Now, let’s look at the next move.
In aikido, we talk about creating a common centre with your opponent/partner, usually by lining your own hips up with theirs, to allow you to take their balance and influence their movement. The most basic and effective form of this is a turning move we call “tenkan”; turning to face the same direction as your partner, almost hip to hip.
This act of facing the same direction as your opponent provides a great analogy for listening to, and genuinely trying to understand, the other person’s position. Unless you understand their perspective, you are not going to be able to provide a rationale or argument that has any real hope of changing their mind. And remember that understanding someone’s perspective is not the same as agreeing with it.
The way to make sure you understand someone’s perspective is to:
- Ask them open-ended questions (eg. “When you say***, what do you mean by that?”)
- Listen to the answer
- Paraphrase back to them to be sure you got it right (eg. “So you are saying ***; did I understand that correctly?”). The “did I understand that correctly?” is very important here.
If this is done properly, the other person will feel heard and, 90% of the time at least, you will have overcome by far the biggest hurdle to settling your dispute.
This is the third in a four part series on the application of aikido principles to conflict resolution. Michael Boulet is a lawyer and partner at Shook, Wickham, Bishop & Field. He can be reached at 250.287.8355 or online at www.CRlawyers.ca.