Ending conflicts in a calm manner can go a long way toward making life a lot more enjoyable for everyone. One time-honored strategy for effecting solid results with less stress is called the perception check, which involves earning respect through measured analysis. The form of the exchange varies on the situation, but generally involves an objective assessment, followed by two hypothetical reasons for the misunderstanding, then a direct question about a person's course of action.
Just like two people can see the same glass of water half full or half empty, each person's perception can lead to erroneous assumptions about others and their intentions. Sometimes, assumptions are correct; other times, they are dead-wrong and a potential trigger for conflict. To avoid this trap, a perception check allows for the assessment of a situation while waving a flag of faith for the individuals involved.
The perception check is a common conflict resolution method taught to managers and parents for maintaining relationships that should be both respectful and constantly constructive. For instance, a boss may repress the urge to instantly reprimand an employee who has missed a deadline on a project. Instead the boss may use a friendly note: "It is Wednesday, the day after the deadline. Did you run into trouble filling in all the holes or did your dog eat it? When can I get that?"
By handling the situation with a perception check, this manager has posed the necessary questions to the employee, while leaving the door open for legitimate excuses. The employee will tell the boss exactly what happened to delay the project, yet not in response to an angry inquiry but a respectful one. For instance, the employee may have had the project ready in plenty of time but was still waiting for delivery from a printer, which the employee used to ensure an extra-savvy presentation. In this case, reward, not reprimand, might be merited.
Parents could use the same approach to great effect, but so too could those on more equal footing to promote the calmest environment possible. One roommate could ask another to clean the pool. The next day, when the pool remains uncleaned, the requesting roommate could complain that his or her roommate is a lazy bum who does not pull his or her weight. He or she could also say, "The pool's still a mess. Did it rain after I left or is the pump broken? When are you cleaning that?" A perception check like this could be just the gentle nudge needed for the average person with a conscience to act respectfully.