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  • When people get emotionally escalated, they are fundamentally different people than when they are calm.

    • Adrenaline flows faster
    • Strength increases by 20%
    • The liver pumps sugar into the bloodstream
    • More oxygen is demanded from the heart and lungs
    • Veins become enlarged
    • The rational “thinking” part of your brain can’t perform as well

    “This is an emotional condition that the person is in, and it means that, while he’s beautifully equipped for a brawl, he’s very poorly equipped to get a problem solved.”

    George Odiorne, management consultant




    The 1-2-3 Dialogue can be thought of as a simple set of rules that govern conflict. We are familiar with this concept when it comes to the sports arena or even war between nations.

    However, in the most important areas of our lives, conflicts are largely unregulated, with no agreed upon rules to protect the participants or the relationship.

    Step 1: Treat the other person with respect

    Respect for another person is an attitude backed up by specific actions such as the way you listen, your tone of voice, selection of words, and type of reasoning. Even if you greatly respect another person, you are likely to judge, attack and criticize in the heat of conflict. Words or non-verbal actions of disrespect are often done carelessly, but they block communication and create wounds that may never fully heal.

    Step 2: Listen until you hear the other side

    “We do not understand an opposing idea until we have so exposed ourselves to it that we feel the pull of its persuasion, until we arrive at the point where we really see the power of whatever element of truth it contains.” -Dr. Richard Cabot

    When you are listening, it is not the time to offer explanations, apologies, or make any other statements except to reflect your understanding of the other person’s point of view or experience. Allow the other person time to think about your reflection, indicate that it was correct, explain their point of view further, or correct any inaccuracies in their speaking or your listening. If the other person adds or corrects your reflection, summarize that addition to their satisfaction. Visit my previous article: Listening 101 for more details.

     When the other person feels heard, you have earned the right to speak your point of view and express your feelings.

    Step 3: State your views, needs and feelings

    • State your point briefly.
    • Avoid loaded words.
    • Say what you mean and mean what you say. (Don’t withhold information, don’t focus on one issue when your main concern centers on something else, don’t make more extreme statements than what you really believe).
    • Disclose your feelings.

    There are four ways to use the 1-2-3 Dialogue

    1. You can use it even when another person is not. By listening with respect and responding in non-inflammatory ways, you can help the other person calm down and engage in a more productive conversation
    2. In the heat of a conflict, you can introduce the method briefly and ask the other person to join you in this way of communicating.
    3. Introduce the method when things are calm and peaceful.
    4. You can use it to help others resolve conflicts by helping mediate in a third party role.


    The best human relationships are usually found on the other side of a conflict


    The following was excerpted in part from People Skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflicts by: Robert Bolton, Ph.D. This article is the third in a five part series about clean living through toxin-free communication. To read Part I about Nonviolent Communication, click here. To read Part II about Emotional Liberation, click here. To read Part III about Listening, click here.

    Next week stay tuned for how to creatively solve problems in the midst of conflict!


    Aline Bethea Defiglia LCSW, MPH, CADC  is a licensed psychotherapist, life and career coach, trainer and consultant practicing in Chicago and Elmhurst, Illinois.  You can find out more at abwellness.life