I was doing a fun run with my 14 year old son at the weekend and it reminded me how ever present the potential for conflict is. It started with the usual heated debate with my wife as we were rushing out the door of ‘where are the car keys’ …quickly diffused by son number two reminding us that we were walking.
Potential conflict removed I was soon rewarding myself for making the effort to leave early in order to walk to as I saw the massive queue to get parked. My , dare I admit it, slightly smug mood was quickly distracted by the sound of a car horn being furious beeping and a man jumping out of his car to hurl abuse at the car behind him. I say car, not person because I don’t actually think he was seeking to get into a one-on-one argument he just responded to the ‘trigger’ of the car horn and it clearly was the last straw for him that morning. There were two adults in the front of the car…a ..shall we say quite large gentleman driving and I’m guessing his mum or Grandmother to the two red-faced kids in the back seats who, as you can imagine, just wanted the ground to swallow them up with embarrassment. Whether she knew what she was doing or not I’ll never know but as the man got out of his car to face his aggressor this senior lady nimbly positioned herself between the two and smiling at the abuse hurling man said “lovely day for it” clearly not expecting this response the abuse man was left to agree it was.
What a fantastic open question, completely at odds with the situation and friendly in intention.
I don’t know what happened after that because, as my wife reminded me, it’s rude to stare but as I heard no more shouting and the cars moved slowly on I can assume all was resolved.
So…..as I was saying I was reminded of the ever present potential for conflict. Intentionally or otherwise the woman in question diffused an aggressive situation by positive body language and an open and unexpected question that by its very nature united them. It was a lovely day for “it” and “it” was the fun run with the kids. She established common ground and a shared purpose. She positioned herself alongside the ‘aggressor’ and showed she was willing to listen. Essentially she demonstrated a number of key communication skills to manage conflict situations that I summarise in my acronym P.O.L.I.T.E. where ‘P’ is for position, ‘O’ observation, ‘L’ listen, ‘I’ intuition, ‘T’ talk and ‘E’ emotional state. I’d even go as far as to say it was almost text book perfect.