My Spidey Sense Detects Conflict
Just this month a movie remake of Spider-Man was released in theatres. From the comic books to the movies, one of my favorite super powers that Spider-Man possesses is his spidey sense. It’s the sensation he gets when danger is near or when something is wrong. But the more I think about it, I may have some of that spidey sense, and I think you have it too.
I’m not talking about magical super powers contracted from the bite of a radioactive spider, but I am talking about the intricacies of nonverbal communication. Most of us have had experiences where we could feel the tension in the room, or had someone turn cold in their responses toward us, or even getting the look from a parent or teacher. Experiences like these are examples of times that we have ascribed meaning to others’ nonverbal behaviors. In reference to nonverbal communication Knapp and Hall (2009) point out that “While we are in the presence of another person, we are constantly giving signals about our attitudes, feelings, and personality” and that “Others may become particularly adept at sensing and interpreting these signals” (p. 4). So, experience and research suggest that we may indeed have a sort of spidey sense in our relationships with others… and I would add that it is especially sensitive when it comes to conflict.
The average person does not enjoy conflict and will generally make efforts to avoid conflict. In relationships with others, humans tend to be watchful for interactions that would potentially injure or damage the relationship. This is especially true in close relationships in which one has a greater vested interest (more to loose if the relationship goes bad). So, your spidey sense may be
Use your spidey sense to seize the moment and address the conflict or change the typical pattern of behavior before argument starts. Be aware of, and change your own facial expression, tone of voice, posture, and distance to be open, caring, and less defensive. Your spidey sense is a subtle act of empathy that you can use to broaden your perspective and see things from the other’s point of view. As your empathy grows, you can strengthen the relationship and reduce conflict. So, the next timeyour spidey sense tells you that conflict is near, use that super power for the good of your relationship.
Knapp, M. L., & Hall, J. A. (2010). Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction (7th ed.). Wadsworth: Boston.