7 Tips for Handling Relationship Conflict
Conflict in relationships is going to happen, so the ability to resolve issues is an essential part of any union. But dealing with those conflicts can be problematic and many people choose the easy but ineffective way out; like a lazy housecleaner they just push the dirt under the rug. The problem with that approach is that while the dirt may not be visible, it is always there, potentially nagging away at you and ready to reappear at any moment to contaminate the environment.
Successfully dealing with difficult issues and conflicts brings with it many rewards. The resolution of conflicts often brings couples closer as they develop a sense that they are working as a team and can overcome disputes and difficulties. So, here are 7 tips that can make conflict resolution more likely.
1. Find the right place and time to discuss the issues.
The issues need both parties full attention, so there should be no distractions. No TV, cell-phones, kids, parents, friends. Just the two of you in a quiet place giving full attention. Choose the right time, too, when you both have the energy to give the discussion the attention it deserves. So, not near bedtime, and not just prior to a busy schedule which would allow one party or the another to suddenly end the conversation by saying, “Oh, I’ve got to go.”
2. Listen and don’t interrupt.
Listen is an anagram of ‘silent’ so when the other person is talking, listen carefully to what they say. Don’t interrupt. Don’t be thinking about all your responses and arguments against what is being said. Pay full attention. Look at them and respect what they are saying even if you disagree with it. Remember you’re both likely to have different perspectives and those should be honored. Even if you disagree or have another version of the events, it’s critical to honor your partner. This is an issue because in the course of an argument, it’s very easy to dishonor your partner and that only makes matters worse and leads to comments such as, “See, you never listen to me, so why should I even bother talking to you.”
3. Take responsibility.
Nobody’s perfect and we are constantly making mistakes. The key is not to aspire to perfection but to own up when you have screwed up. Unfortunately, many people look to blame another person for their own mistakes and that is a sure recipe for not resolving any conflicts.
4. Don’t accuse.
In similar vein, don’t project your emotions or accuse other people of anything. Let’s suppose you did something dumb, like leaving your partner in the lurch somewhere and driving home without them. “You asked for it. You made me so mad I just had to leave,” is not helpful. Accept your emotions and your actions. “I admit I was angry (very different from ‘you made me mad’) and I decided to leave you there (rather than ‘I had to leave’). This, hopefully, would lead into a discussion about what was said that led to an angry reaction and how you dealt with your own anger.
5. Always respect each other.
You may be mad at what your partner has done but if you love them, you continue to honor and respect them. I know that it’s hard to be mad and loving at the same time. However, your anger will subside, so don’t do anything stupid while you’re mad that could seriously erode your love in the long term. And always apologize. Love IS having to say you’re sorry.
6. Take a time-out.
If the discussion is getting too heated and maybe not being productive, take a time-out. That could be ten minutes or two days. Agree to stop the discussion for the time being but plan when you’re going to resume. This has to be a mutual agreement. If not, then one partner will be continuing the discussion, while the other is trying to run away and that rarely leads to anything good.
7. Make a plan.
What has the discussion highlighted, and how can you manage it better next time? Perhaps some frustrations can be more productively vented. Instead of waiting until you explode, perhaps you can signal to you partner that you’re getting upset before you reach the point of no return. The good conflict resolution discussion not only gives you a chance to revisit those events more productively but learn how to better manage such situations in the future.
Effective conflict resolution isn’t about being right. It’s about being able to talk about tough issues and find ways of managing them more effectively. It’s a critical relationship skill, perhaps the most difficult, so it needs to be learned. If you can’t manage it yourselves then it is time to call a professional counselor who can analyze your conflict resolution styles, offer and train you in more effective options
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