I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and I’m still thinking about an idea that she discussed related to conflict. In her book, Brown cites conflict research by Dr. Michelle Buck. Buck uses the term “conflict transformation,” saying that it is about “creating deeper understanding” that requires “perspective-taking.” This is different from our typical view of conflict resolution – where one person usually wins or both people feel like they lose a little when they find a compromise.
The idea of conflict transformation includes rethinking conflict as a way to get to know someone’s perspective on a deeper level. When most of us are in the center of a conflict, our fight or flight instincts kick in and we either prepare to stand our grand and fight or we run away from the conflict. Buck’s research advises us to transform a conflict by saying one simple phrase… “tell me more.”
By asking someone to tell you more, you will learn their perspective, why they believe what they believe, and it might often help you come to a more natural place in your conflict. It also allows you get to know the person on a deeper level.
I use the phrase “tell me more” or “say more about that” in coaching conversations. Coaching is often about listening closely, and once you get someone talking, you want them to keep talking. When we talk, we often solve our own problems, realize our own mistakes, and discover new ideas within ourselves. If I am in a coaching conversation with a teacher or a new administrator, I begin with an open-ended, reflective question. This usually provides the space for my coachee to open up about his practice. But after he feels he has answered the question, he will often look to me to for confirmation. Instead of adding my own thoughts, this is the perfect time to say, “say more about that”. This simple phrase gives my coachee permission to keep talking, keep reflecting, and to address his own challenges.
Whether in a conflict or a coaching conversation, I encourage you to use the phrase “tell me more” to provide someone the open space they need. You will both benefit!