Relationship

 

Guidelines for Resolving Conflict & Fighting Fairly

By Suzanne E. Harrill

Who among us doesnít need a reminder here and there on how to live peacefully in our families, and specifically in our primary love relationships? I know my weak points when it comes to good communication ─ I donít listen well when my partner is expressing something I donít want to hear, I am good at finishing sentences, and have been known to interrupt. Recently, when I picked up a copy of my book, Inner Fitness for Creating a Better You; I landed on page 49. It gives guidelines for resolving conflict and fighting fairly. I thought to myself, "This is a great reminder to help me grow in my communication skills." Here are the eight points as a reminder for you, the reader, too.

1. Stick to the subject. Discuss one topic at a time. Do not confuse issues. If your partner attempts to change the subject, simply say, "Thatís important, but let's finish this first." (It goes without saying that you monitor yourself, too) Completing a discussion on one topic produces feelings of satisfaction and closure.

2. Deal with feelings. If you or your partner gets emotional, express feelings before even trying to problem-solve. Effective communication gets to the bottom of issues that may look insignificant on the surface, so it is necessary to move beyond the content level of the conversation where the focus is only on the words spoken. It is at the feeling level where the real messages hide. Recognize that strong emotional reactions are a clue that something is going on beneath the surface. Anger, for example, may be covering up other primary emotions; like, shame, rejection, fear, embarrassment, abandonment, or feeling controlled or "taken advantage of." Be a detective and ask yourself and your partner questions, such as, "Whatís really going on? What are you feeling? Whatís this bringing up from the past? What do you need that you are not getting?"

3. Take turns listening and expressing. Good communication requires that partners express themselves honestly and openly. Each has a point of view that requires respect. Hear what the other partner is saying even if you do not agree. When one person is talking, the other keeps quiet and listens without interrupting.

4. Stay in the present. Express what you are thinking and feeling right now, even if the event you are talking about happened in the past or will take place in the future.

5. Speak from your own experience. No two people experience an incident the same way. Do not expect your partner to know what you think and feel. You are unique. You have your own history, conditioning, perceptions and beliefs. Take responsibility for yourself by using statements, such as, "I believe..., As I see it..., I feel..., In my opinion..., My experience is..."

6. Use empathic, active listening. Listen between the lines and look for meaning beyond the spoken words. When your partner is talking, show caring and respect by making eye contact, facing your partner, nodding your head, or saying things like, "Yes, I understand," or "I donít understand, tell me more." Repeat what you heard. Use a supportive tone of voice.

7. Attack the problem, not the person. Avoid unkind personal comments, criticisms, or name calling. Agreeing with everything your partner says is not necessary, but hearing her/his side of an issue is. Respect your partner, even when you don't like what s/he says, thinks, or feels.

8. Find win-win solutions. After you and your partner have thoroughly discussed an issue, take time to look for creative solutions that are agreeable to both of you. Compromise is necessary sometimes, as is letting your partnerís needs have a higher priority than yours at times. Honor your partner and do not attempt to dominate the solution process. It takes two to win.

If you are the instigator to improve communication in your relationship, you might take some time to get clear on your issues, how you feel, what you want, etc. I do this in two ways. One, I go for a walk and have a serious "think" with myself. (The older I get this method works to help me clarify why I am upset and what I need to express to my partner.) Two, I start writing in my journal, allowing upsets and frustrations to flow on the page. (This method I used a lot when I was younger when I did not know myself as well. I use this method today when I am really upset and not understanding what is bothering me.) At this point I may not be objective and am simply getting my thoughts and feelings out privately. Sometimes I need to sit on it a day or so to let more information come forward or to review what I have written to see what my true messages are. This helps me gain clarity with my own issues and the results I would like to work towards when I open communication with my partner. When ready, I ask my partner if we can talk. I remember to reread the guidelines for resolving conflict and fighting fairly. Why? Because I am usually the instigator in opening communication when experiencing conflict with my husband and I want to grow in my personal skills and awareness.

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