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Dating & Relationships

I’ve been writing a lot lately about conflict resolution, which I feel is vital to any relationship. In my first post, I suggested using effective language in order to bring about peace and progress among conflict in dating. In my last post I gave helpful tips to move on from the hurt. Here are a few more ideas for how a conflict could be resolved effectively.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to take time before revisiting your conflict. After a bit of contemplation, lots of prayer and  some introspection, you may be ready to get together. But make sure both of you are in the space to get past the emotional land mines and work towards resolution.

Once you’re ready to reconvene, keep in mind the way you communicate and the language you can use.  Now, prepare yourself for the discussion.

1. No unfinished business. You might want to write down a list of main points you’d like to bring up before you start talking, so that you’re sure to cover everything and not leave unfinished business or lingering feelings.

2. Pray together. Something a priest suggested really stuck with me: pray together before addressing the problem. What a wonderful idea for us as Catholics!

3. Don’t interrupt. Decide who will open the floor to discussion. What works best is if you give each other time to speak individually, and make sure it’s uninterrupted. Interruptions disregard what the other person is saying and  leads to cross-talk, and inevitably, to yelling.

4. Be a good listener. When the speaker has the floor, jot down things you want to challenge or have questions about, lest you forget. And while you’re listening, use more body language. Nod in the places where you see their point. Make more eye contact. Give the other the chance to see when you feel empathy, or remorse, or understanding.

5. Clarify what you heard. After the speaker is done, a very effective tool of communication is to clarify what you heard. By simply saying, ” I heard you say …” you can avoid a lot of problems. He said/she said arguments are so common, and easy to prevent. This technique also shows your partner respect by listening with your full attention.

6. Use “I” statements. Once you have the chance to respond, it’s important to give your side of the story without making accusations. You can do this if you avoid “you” statements. Someone who immediately blames the other, such as, “you didn’t do what you’re supposed to do!” puts the other on the defensive. Bad move. Instead, use “I” statements: “I feel (unheard, disrespected, unimportant, belittled, etc.) when you appear to disregard what I asked you to do.”No one should want to make their partner feel belittled or disrespected.

7. Free the path to resolution. Finally, a word about the outcome: when you go into a conflict with the goal of being right, you’ve roadblocked the path to resolution. Keep in mind the adage: would you rather be right? Or would you rather be happy? Important food for thought. Consequently, if by the end of your discussion, you have little insight into your partner’s experience during your disagreement, or how your behavior took part in the experience, you may want to practice this technique a bit before re-visiting the conflict.

8. Practice. The idea of practicing how to fight may seem counter productive, but it works. Here’s what you can do: pick a conflict that is no big deal, one that isn’t complex, doesn’t take a lot of explanation, and is resolved easily with no pain to either party. Or you could practice your new found techniques in other situations—talking to your pet, for instance, or even to yourself when you’re thinking of a past conflict. You may want to practice the way I do, in public. I have two choices: just running it through mentally, or hooking up my hands-free device and carry my phone conspicuously. I find the latter more effective because I can really hear my own voice, and also it’s a great way to improve my mood, if only because it’s funny.

This is a great technique to use in all areas of your life, with all your relationships—familial, professional and with friends. I hope you get the chance to practice and that it serves you well. And if it works, let us know! God bless you in your journey!

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4 Comments

  1. Chad-988613 October 29, 2013

    Cate,
    I acknowledge the effort and intention you are attempting to put into helping others learn about conflict. Indeed conflict can be helpful if approached correctly. The eight points are important points to keep in mind. This being said, well intentioned people can get us all into trouble. For intentions aren’t enough. Any article or training termed ‘conflict resolution’ has already missed the mark. Conflict management is the proper term. While there may seem to be little difference –the difference could not be greater. The more conflict has been studied by researchers –the more the empirical data shows that the best approach to conflict is not seeking resolution –but learning how to properly manage it. The idea of ‘conflict resolution’ implies either overtly or subvertly that the conflict must have a resolution. This brings unnecessary stress & pressure to both sides experiencing the conflict. Further it completely misses the point that some conflict indeed will not have a resolution. Continually working to have something that is unattainable –only creates confusion, frustration, and does more harm than good. As Christians it is our responsibility to understand and attempt to manage conflict the best we can (with God’s grace). There is also additional help available for us as we seek to navigate these important waters. One example is Professor Michael Dues from the University of Arizona, who has a video lecture series ‘Art of Conflict Management: Achieving solutions for life, work, & beyond’. Resources like this, along with prayer & work, can greatly assist us in our journey towards attaining (for ourselves & others) the goal we all seek –becoming a saint!

  2. Joan-529855 October 29, 2013

    I have to agree with Chad. After a 25 year marriage, with lots of opportunities at “conflict resolution”, the more appropriate approach for a successful relationship would be “conflict management” as Chad suggests. This idea of “conflict management” also works very well in the work place, especially with difficult workplace situations. There are conflict situations that will never be resolved and the best approach is to “manage’ the situation rather than attempting to resolve it.

  3. Matt-61677 October 30, 2013

    Cate,

    Well written! But I must agree with Chad and Joan about the important distinction between conflict resolution and conflict management. Dr. John Gottman in his book “The Seven Principles to Making Marriage Work” points out that while conventional wisdom says that conflict resolution is the key to happy marriages his research shows many couples who have a lifelong and otherwise happy marriage that regularly only manage or even avoid conflict. Now this only applies to only some issues- on other issues they are able to regularly resolve their problems. Conflict management is easier that resolution (and avoidance is the easiest!) but they do lead to a weakness in the marriage, and if the problem happens to grow too big it will jeopardize the marriage. Conflict management and avoidance is the choice to be happy instead of being right.

    Conflict resolution on the other hand is the desire to be happy by being right. What I mean is we don’t falsely identify being right with winning an argument. Rather being right it the sincere desire to love the way God made us, and the regular practice of discovering all the ways that we are wrong and changing them to the right way. In other words the first step to being right is saying “I’m wrong, I need to change.” This requires regularly dying to ourself so that we become more like Christ. This is obviously not a common virtue, but when both spouses have it then conflict resolution is using pretty easy.

  4. John-49562 November 10, 2013

    Cate:

    I enjoyed the article and found it very well-written, as usual. Thank you for your insight.

    John

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