Conflict And Resolution

Conveying your true feelings is important, but how you convey them is extremely important. When you communicate, make sure you are not adding extra hurt or complications to the topic you are addressing. The point is to achieve better understanding and harmony after every conflict or conversation.

Fighting Fairly

In a perfect world, we would never fight. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and people often feel misunderstood, neglected, insecure, and defensive – all of which can lead to fights and disagreements. That doesn’t mean the relationship is headed for doom and gloom, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are any less connected.

Fighting or arguing can be healthy, if it’s conducted respectfully, and you both exit with no emotional (or other) bruises and better mutual understanding of each other.If you make cruel remarks, then you’re just creating relationship-garbage and will have too much clean up when it’s over. You can be colorful, but always be kind. If you say something so terrible that it is unforgettable, you’ve done permanent damage. Keep a cool head when disputing by remembering these 6 simple rules of engagement:

  1. Be specific when you introduce your complaint
  2. State what change would satisfy your complaint
  3. Get feedback to make sure you’ve been heard you
  4. Deal with one issue at a time: always get a resolution before moving on to another agenda item
  5. Be prepared to compromise
  6. Don’t tell each other how he or she feels: ask

Be especially mindful to not finish each other’s sentences. You can (and should) restate what you thought you heard to achieve clarity, but a fight is really not the time to put words into your partner’s mouth.

Agree on a Code of Behavior

In most relationships one person is more verbal than the other. If this is you, you might feel you have a partner who shuts down when arguments arise. People need to be allowed to quit – or at least postpone – the argument, but there are people who will always quit when there’s a conflict or emotional conversation, and will never approach or resolve the problem. If this sounds like your partner, go back and review the fight rules and write a few more of your own that apply specifically to your relationship. If you can first agree on a code of behavior, it levels the playing field for the verbal and less-verbal players, and will make resolution a bit easier. For example, you might agree that the one who is the talker has to wait a bit to allow the person who may not be as quick at communicating to get his or her point across.

There are rules in teaching and journalism that say if you ask a question and really want an interaction, count to twenty before you go on. Invariably, at twenty, a student or interview subject (or your partner) will speak up. But for a talker, twenty seconds of silence can be agony, and seems like the longest amount of time in the whole world, so counting it out in your head creates that balance between your normal rate of response and a less verbal one. If, after twenty seconds, your partner doesn’t answer, you can say, “Is there anything else?” If the problem hasn’t been resolved, usually there is something else.

Set Time Limits

A good rule is putting a time limit on arguments. Someone who avoids confrontation is often someone with limited focus and a desire not to be out-talked or steam rolled. A time limit helps hone focus on the topic at hand. Time limits also help the more verbal person to work on being succinct and get to the bottom line more quickly. Don’t explain why you want what you want, when you first wanted it, and so on, with so much detail that their ears are worn out before you’ve gotten around to saying what you want. Try saying what you want, quickly, with no explanation (unless requested) and you should be getting more of your wants and needs met. Help them help you by being clear and succinct.

Don’t Dredge Up the Past

Fights are often rooted in the past, but you can’t fix the past, only the present. The worst thing you can do in a discussion—other than physically or verbally attacking—is drag the past into it, and blame someone today for something done a week, a month, or even a year ago, virtually bringing up everything bad ever done. In transactional analysis, this is called “throwing it in the kitchen sink.” It’s opening the floodgates, and that’s destructive. Save the talks about the past for times when you’re at peace.

Listen, Listen, Listen

Tryingto communicate with someone, while also talking on the phone or using the computer, isn’t only ineffective, it can be hurtful. When you’re communicating on important issues that need resolving, make sure that’s the only thing you’re doing. When you’re working out a disagreement, be sure to give your undivided attention, keep eye contact, and stayed rooted to the spot. Your good listening skills help keep a calm atmosphere and the belief that you truly care. Even if you don’t conclude the argument, your partner will at least walk away feeling heard.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go to Bed Mad

Contrary to popular belief, going to bed angry is not the worst thing in the world. Couples’ fights often happen at night. Why? Sometimes it’s because people are tired, which makes everything seem more dramatic. If you can go to sleep with a truce, or a pause, whatever it was you were fighting over may not seem so bad (and sometimes not even memorable) in the light of day after you’ve slept on it.

No one wins if one of you is verbally battered or bruised, and you both win if the end note is one of harmony, love, and peace.

Click here for a complete list of all Dr. Janet Blair Page’s articles.
Janet Blair Page, PhD, author of Get Married This Year: 365 Days to “I Do”, is a psychotherapist with more than thirty years of experience in private practice in New York and Atlanta. She teaches at Emory University and has been in the New York Times, Glamour and on CNN, FOX, Good Morning America, and The Early Show. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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