As a contract manager and a freelance writer, one of the most challenging skills I have had to learn over the years is understanding the other person’s perspective. I shared this story on my personal social media, and I feel like it is an important message to share here the lessons I have learned on that journey. One of the best teaching moments in my freelance writing has also served me well in resolving conflicts during contract negotiations. When I covered local and state government as a freelance writer for a publication in southern Indiana, I was tasked with hearing both sides, or all sides if there were more than two positions, then writing the article with any bias removed. The first couple of articles were difficult, and the editor and I had several conversations on rewrites to ensure the bias was removed. The goal was to present each side sufficiently to let readers draw their own conclusions. I found that it became easier when I didn’t just hear the different perspectives, but rather I actually researched and listened. Researching and actually listening were two key factors in honing in on the root of the conflict. In this process, I learned a valuable lesson. Instead of skewing articles to get others to agree with me and my position, I found that looking at and listening to both sides of an issue to dig in and truly understand the conflict gave me a perspective that facilitated effective problem solving and generation of new ideas that can lead to resolution. This process is lacking in our country today, from citizens all the way up to our political leaders. Just a few days ago, I was in a conversation where someone presenting their side of the issue wouldn’t listen to my thoughts, but rather kept interrupting me with their thoughts as if we were in an argument, rather than a discussion. When I’m in a situation where a person is more bent on hearing themselves, rather than hearing all sides of an issue, I will shut down the conversation and walk away. It’s not productive. I encourage people to research both sides of an issue, discuss rationally, and keep in mind that as Americans, we are each allowed to, in fact, entitled to our opinion, whatever that may be. This process doesn’t make one a hater of either position, it makes one an independent thinker.
“Bravery is the choice to show up and listen to another person, be it a loved one or perceived foe, even when it is uncomfortable, painful, or the last thing you want to do.”
― Alaric Hutchinson
“Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is *not* the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and of poor communication.”
― Harriet B. Braiker