Emotions then judgment then language.

The old advice no longer holds in addressing the language of conflict. The new advice can best be articulated as “Sticks and stones may break my bones, and words will really hurt me.”

We often focus on the language of conflict, to avoid addressing the structures of emotions that actually drive the language.

Focusing on the language allows us to hide effectively and to avoid doing the courageous work of addressing conflicts at their root.

Focusing on the language allows us to anchor people to positions, using the language of principles, without ever addressing people’s expressed needs.

Focusing on language allows us to continue to rest comfortably on our assumptions, prejudices, biases, and pre-conceived notions about the other party (or parties) without ever doing the hard work of addressing the impact of their needs on us.

Focusing on language allows us to render quick judgment, maintain the shorthand of conflict, and to continue to allow our own emotions to go unexamined, without self-awareness or change.

Make no mistake, words have meanings, they tell stories, set the table for conflict, and can be used as weapons to create problems.

But if we’re going to be successful in a future less and less defined by equanimity and peace, then we’d better get really good at overcoming our thin-slicing, our first impressions, and our reactions to language—and the words ensconced within them.

Otherwise, we face a conflict fueled future of escalation around eggshell sensitivities and trigger warnings.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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