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Warning: You Must Use This Key or You May Lock Yourself Out

Have you ever gone deeper into something you didn't expect to like, only to discover you actually did like it after all? I did that with business law in college. The course I took to prove to myself it wasn't a good fit turned out to be something I liked so well I went to law school and got a license to practice law. And you can see how law school can change the way you see the world around you. A banana, for example, is no longer just a fruit; it is also a harbinger for a tort. Life experiences, especially as a first-year law student, suddenly present as questions for a final or a bar exam.

When we change our perception of one thing, we are in a different position than we were in before, and that means we are now in a different position with respect to other things. That's why if we quit looking for our keys or glasses and focus on something else, the keys or glasses turn up. Conflict resolution works the same way.

When I am mediating cases, one of the best things I can do is change the order of things. I mean, if it were as simple as following a logical path, the parties would have done that themselves. But just because it isn't logical and sequential doesn't mean that we can't have a system in order to resolve or prevent it. In fact, if anything, that suggests we should have a system.

Systems don't have to be sequential; the human body is one system made up of other smaller ones that don't have just a single sequence. Communication among people, especially in the context of conflict resolution and de-escalation, has that same intricacy and complexity, so much so we can't afford to leave it to chance.

We need the flexibility and structure of a deliberate communication strategy. Without the flexibility, we feel as though we are trapped, backed into a corner with no options. But if we have an effective communication strategy that gives us a better understanding of communication, its parts and how they relate, we can find more options to keep us out of the corners. And at the same time, we also need that structure because it allows us to know roughly what needs to happen and how to do it so we can focus on the discussion instead of using the time someone else speaks as an opportunity to plan the next step, causing us to miss opportunities.

Rapport is an essential part of a deliberate and effective communication strategy. Next month, we are launching our course on rapport. This course is going to get your communication started on the right foot, creating an environment of trust, empathy, and respect. You may be surprise what that'll do for you. Rapport is not only the key to communication, conflict resolution, and de-escalation, but is also the key to creating opportunity.

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