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Don't fight 'em, LUVEM
By Caterina Spinaris
Published: 02/18/2008

Heart yes Corrections staff are experts at containing incarcerated individuals within correctional facilities and managing frustrated offenders. Just as important for the staff’s well-being is the ability to contain and manage conflict that builds between them and coworkers or family members.

How can conflict management be done professionally and skillfully?

When confronted by someone or when in disagreement with them, our first urge is to try to overpower them. We try to prevail in the argument and convince our opponent that we are right and they are wrong.

However, conflict management experts advocate that when disagreeing with others, we need to do less “convincing” and more listening to them and “thinking together” about the problem at hand.

There are several reasons for that. One is that if we try to overpower a person and force them to accept our view, we have just made an enemy. This guarantees that we will continue experiencing problems with that person in the future.

Another reason for listening and discussing an issue is based on the assumption that all parties involved in a disagreement have some validity in their perspective. Therefore all parties can make worthwhile contributions toward managing conflict.

A third reason for working at listening well and thinking together is that these two activities are likely to provide us with the necessary data to come up with the best solutions possible.

The LUVEM tool described below for conflict de-escalation and management was presented in part in two prior installments. ( Are you really listening?, 5/29/07 and All you need is LUV, 9/17/07 ). This third installment adds to the prior ones and ties them all together.

LUVEM stands for Listen, Understand, Validate, Explain, and Maintain.

LISTEN
Listening aims to:
  • Convey respect

  • Understand the other party’s reasoning, foundational assumptions, and concerns

  • Discover what is acceptable to the other party and what they hold dear

  • Discover better ways to communicate with the other party through learning their “language” and presenting issues in terms of their interests and values
Listening needs to be done calmly, respectfully, attentively, and “deeply,” that is, with the goal of trying to understand the other’s agenda. The listener pays attention to the following spoken and unspoken messages: verbal, non-verbal (expressed through facial expression, tone of voice, body language), and “hidden” in the communication, hinted at, and implied.

Listening is done by:
  • Making eye contact with the other person (when in their physical presence)

  • Not interrupting

  • Making “ah hum” noises once in a while

  • Nodding periodically

  • Repeating back to the speaker what he/she said

  • Asking open-ended questions—What, How, When

  • Asking for clarification when unsure of what you heard

  • Summarizing the speaker’s statements after a lengthy amount of sharing by the other party
UNDERSTAND
Effective conflict de-escalation requires understanding the other party’s thinking process, perspective, fundamental presuppositions, prior experiences with the issue, and what they consider “sacred” and non-negotiable.

Therefore while listening try to understand the other party’s point of view, emotions, motives, needs, and difficulties.

VALIDATE
To express your understanding to the other party convincingly, validate them. Stay away from put downs and criticism, and point out even a kernel of wisdom, truth or usefulness in the other party’s perspective, requests, choices or behavior. Validating does not necessarily mean “accepting,” “agreeing with” or “condoning.” It is based on the ability to empathize—to put ourselves in the other person’s situation and look at the world through their eyes.

The following are some examples of validating statements:
  • “I can see how you arrived at this conclusion. My intent was to ....”

  • “You really tried. And this is how I’d like you to handle it next time ….”

  • “I can see how you ended up reacting this way.”

  • “This must have been a big disappointment for you!”

  • “I know. This is a handful.”


  • EXPLAIN
    After listening, understanding to the best of your ability and validating, you have increased your chances that when it is your turn to present your side of the issue, the other party will listen.

    So now it is your turn to explain, your goals for the discussion—what you aim to accomplish through talking with the other party; your position—your perspective of the situation; your objections to the other person’s conduct (if applicable); what you are willing to do on your end regarding the situation; what you request from the other party and why.

    For example, to ask for changes in someone’s behavior, you can use the following “recipe.”

    When you do ____, I/we/our team gets impacted in the following ways: _________.
    And what I need for you to do instead is _______.
    The benefits of that to you/the team will be _______.
    If you choose not to make those changes, then the negative consequences will be ______.

    Usually after you explain your position you will need to do some more listening, understanding and validating of the other party before you can proceed.

    MAINTAIN
    Throughout the exchange it is vital to contain your emotional reactions and respond professionally to maintain a creative problem-solving focus, which promotes thinking outside of the box to find solutions to challenges affecting both parties, and a respectful attitude, communicating that the other party is worthy of respect even if their premises are fundamentally different from yours.

    Containing emotional reactions is also important in order to remain optimistic about finding a solution, and to keep a considerate attitude about of the legitimate interests of all parties involved.

    “Win-win” solutions are more likely to be implemented and to last for longer periods of time compared to approaches that favor one party at the expense of the other.

    So, next time you have a run-in with another staff member, or with a loved one at home, remember to LUVEM! Containing the intensity of a disagreement and managing a fiery conflict with finesse is more than worth it.

    (www.desertwaters.com) , a Colorado nonprofit corporation dedicated to the well-being of corrections staff and their families.


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  3. Blissharshman on 02/21/2008:

    THANK YOU! Excellent!

  4. tcbphoto on 02/14/2008:

    Caterina touches on what many of us experience at work in the corections field. Many of our battles end up being with those that we work with and depend on in stressfull situations. It is interesting to see ideas on how to improve our skills to better deal with those around us and their affect on us. I would think that if we were able to tune into our own reactions in various situations even part of the time, we would be able reduce our own stress and those around us. I like the ideas presented and plan on incorporation much of what was presented into my plan of action.


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