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  • Writer's pictureGraham Norris

Words in Conflict – The challenge of shared understanding

I have been a fan of Stephen Covey for many years and see his work as timeless. I regularly employ all his seven habits, none more so than Habit 5: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." This is hardly surprising given that one of the key objectives of any coach or mediator is to truly understand a situation.


From a conflict management perspective, the process must go one stage further. The holy grail is to achieve shared understanding, between you and the other person or between the two parties if you are mediating.


Although critical in conflict management, achieving shared understanding is challenging when communication is distorted due to various types of noise in the communication exchange. Many people are unaware of this and participate in conversations assuming that others understand their words and process the language exactly as they do.


Nothing could be further from the truth. Semantic ambiguity is such that accurate communication requires effort, as there is always room for different interpretations of commonly used words, especially within a conflict management context.


If you would like a simple but effective tool, that will change how you use language, add a like in the comments below and I will send you the document. Sharing it with your colleagues will improve the nature of your relationships.

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