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Communication Skill
Published: March 17, 2017

This WAC Communication Model Can Help You Resolve Conflicts Instantly

Conflict doesn’t care if you are a vocal person or one who values harmony, it will come to you almost every single day — at home, at work, on the streets, even online. For people we know, it’s easier to communicate and resolve the conflict; but for strangers, we usually shut our mouths and let our anger pile up inside.

But what should we do when someone keeps bugging us? There are usually two routes we take: either avoid direct confrontation or confront violently. The longer we remain in the avoidance state, the more anger we pent up. At the same time, the latter doesn’t do anything apart from allowing us to vent. As far as I’m concerned, both solutions aren’t the healthiest for us.

You may think: man, it’s hard to raise the conflict and confront someone.

We are worried of the possible consequences after a confrontation, especially facing strangers. Business Communications and Etiquette Coach Barbara Pachter has the solution to these sticky situations and confront others face-on.

In her book The Power of Positive Confrontation, she introduces the WAC model1 — What, Ask, Check in — to teach people how to resolve conflict in a fast second. She points out the main mistake people makes in conflicts is retaliating instead of responding to the problem, which creates more tension between two parties. So here is how the WAC model works:

1. What

The first step to resolve conflict is to identify the root of your agitation. Focus on one incident that bothers you and start from there. Avoid using words like “always” or “never”, and simply describe your concern without blaming or criticizing the action of the opposing person.

2. Ask

After you have clearly and logically raised the conflict, ask the person kindly of what you want them to do. Make sure you are clear with your request, if not, you are giving the other person to chime in and redirect the conversation to his/her favor.

3. Check in

The last part of this model is to check in on the other person’s reaction, and the conversation usually ends with a question like “do you agree” or “is that okay for you”.

Stay calm, cool, and collected.

With the WAC model, there are some other pointers for you to perfectly execute a positive confrontation. It is so important to pick the right time and space. If someone is rushing to get to somewhere, or someone is in an emotional state already, it doesn’t hurt to wait for a while. You also have to make sure you are in the right headspace and mood when you confront others.

So how do you actually confront positively?

Let’s take a simple workplace conflict to demonstrate — Your co-worker always takes stuffs and puts them everywhere, and it’s hard for you to find the things you need. With the WAC model, you can talk to him/her like this: “(What) It might not be a big deal for you, but when I need something at the office, I couldn’t find it. (Ask) I hope you could put things back in place after using them. (Check in) Is it okay?”

Does it really work though?

It seems to be so complex with so many steps and considerations. But with the WAC model, when you slightly change the tone and the words you use in conversations, it greatly affects the listener’s reception. Confronting without putting blame on the other person produces a much more positive outcome, which puts you and the other person at ease.

Of course, learning a new skill needs time. Start with simple situations to handle first, and build your confidence to take on more complicated conflicts. Over time, you have no fear facing tricky people and master the skill of positive confrontation.

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