My wife and I had an issue.

One day she asked me "How come you won't use the dish rag when you're cleaning up?"

I responded "Because the dish rag always feels icky (yes, I said icky) because you like just leaving it in the sink with all sorts of stuff being spilled and thrown onto it. I'd rather use other stuff when I clean."

She said "But you use a lot of paper towel that we go through quickly, and you clean up kind of messy (I tend to splash a lot of water when I clean). The dish rag would keep things much neater."

I said "At least things are getting clean. And I do use the rag on occasion when it's not all icky."

She said "True, but then you ball it up and set it on the counter and it doesn't dry."

I said "But it doesn't dry anyway because you always have it in the sink in some way."

Then she said "What do you suggest we could do to fix this?"

And there it was; the minor issue had finally been asked to be resolved. As goofy as our conversation might seem, it was something that we'd never really talked about. She'd laugh here and there as I went about my business, but I'd never really seen it as an issue and she'd never said anything about it as if it was an issue.

Most of the time in business you find people conflicted about something, and many times it's something really small and insignificant. One person might show up 3 minutes late every day, or someone always seems to not close a cabinet or any other small thing. We all tend to see these things and try to put them out of our minds, but what happens is we keep them in the back or our mind. When it happens again something builds inside of us, and if something else small happens we pile it onto the first thing and start making our mental lists.

One of the points of the book Crucial Conversationsicon was that opening up dialogue early on, before things build up, helps diffuse situations and actually solves problems that are probably minor anyway. It's a much better way to go and deal with things than the reverse. Managing conflict doesn't always have to be a tense negotiation; often a simple solution is right in front of your face.

In the case of my wife and I we weren't angry in any way, but it was an issue to be solved. So I said "Instead of hanging the rag where it's always getting wet or leaving it in the sink, what if we hang it on the faucet instead, since it sits high above the water?"

She said "Okay, that works for me if you'll do it."

I said "I'll do that". And I do, and life as we know it has improved just that little bit. But sometimes that little bit is all one needs.

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