At Vistelar, where I work as the media director, we teach “Verbal Defense and Influence.” This conflict management method works – because at its heart is the idea that we should treat others with dignity by showing them respect.

And, it all starts with being willing to listen to someone else. But the fact remains, the best way to manage conflict is to avoid it in the first place. Our Five Maxims, designed to help de-escalate conflict when it arises, really are best put to use before conflict occurs.



When conflict exists, the maxims can help keeping it from escalating. We refer to this as non-escalation. But more than that, the Five Maxims really are a recipe for conflict avoidance.

The Five Maxims are:

  1. Listen
  2. Ask, don’t tell
  3. Explain why
  4. Give options
  5. Allow for a second chance

When you show someone, anyone, that you’re willing to listen to what’s on their mind – to the challenges before them – to the worries that plague them – you’re showing them respect.

You’re also saying that their life and its concerns are worthy of your time. Dignity. Respect. You betcha.

Most of what we teach involves being willing to pause before acting. To respond and not to react. This can involve shared listening (often defined as silence).

We need to be comfortable with our self and another in order to allow for this shared silence. But it also allows for shared thought.


The ‘influence’ in Verbal Defense & Influence

This is where the influence truly comes in when we discuss Verbal Defense and Influence.

The influence can be your ability to influence another, or more importantly, it involves the influence you allow another to have with you. That’s the listening part.

You don’t have to necessarily agree with someone else to give them a dignified audience. To listen to them and allow them to feel heard. This will avoid a great deal of conflict. But don’t take my word for it. Try it sometime.

Give someone your full attention; hear them; and then ask them to hear you. It is a recipe for success. And, it will taste great. Thanks for listening.

– Ben

Ben Merens is the media director at Milwaukee-based Vistelar and Director of Podcast Network International. He can be reached at


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