The most magical phrase when you’re in conflict

If you want to resolve even the trickiest conflicts, have someone trust you with their heart, or elicit others’ deep loyalty to you, there’s a key phrase that you simply must learn.

I mean, you’ll need to do some other things too. But you’ll need this phrase in your pocket, for sure.

If I’m honest, it’s less of a phrase and more of a prompt. It encourages us to think about and approach the person we’re talking to differently.

I believe it’s one of the bases for why so many people benefit from therapy. It’s what makes communication from a therapist feel so different from day to day interactions.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It requires thoughtfulness and attunement from us, and others know we’re bullshitting if we are truly committed to working the phrase/prompt.

Ready to hear it?

Cool.

You might have learned about the concept of reflective listening at some point. The idea is simple, but again not easy. It’s a practice in which each partner in a conversation says a short piece about their thoughts or feelings and the other person listens, repeats back what they heard, and ensures that they received the person’s communication accurately.

The magic phrase ties in nicely to a practice of reflective listening, and works best when paired with this kind of communication.

So if my partner explains what they are feeling, I repeat back (as closely as I can recall) what they just said, make sure I captured it, and then I’m going to unleash my magic phrase…

“What you said makes so much sense because…”

I’m then going to explain to that person why their thoughts, feelings, or experiences make sense to me in the context of what I know about them.

It makes sense to me that you would feel angry if you’ve been thinking I forgot about this being important to you. 

What you said makes sense to me given how your dad was so unreliable and you weren’t able to trust him. 

Of course you feel worried. It makes sense that you would be concerned given how she treated you last time. 

You are going to muster up every bit of empathy muscle you have and put your thinking cap on tight for this. Sometimes, coming up with why someone’s thoughts or feelings make sense is going to feel excruciatingly difficult. That might be because you don’t know their context very well yet or because yet or because you it’s so hard to pull yourself out of your own experience.

Sometimes it’s hard because we are holding on to the myth that understanding why something makes sense means giving permission or a free pass from accountability. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, understanding why something is happening (a reaction, a behavior, a thought process, etc.) is the most meaningful and lasting way to alter it.

Here are some of the reasons why this phrase is so powerful:

  • It’s disarming and demonstrates to the other person that you are giving them the benefit of the doubt.
  • It slows down the velocity of an argument or intense conversation.

  • It helps create connection without necessary agreement with what the person is thinking or feeling.

I assure you that if you commit to doing this in your conversations — both conflictual and non-conflictual ones – you will see a significant change in the flow and outcome.

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