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!