Everyone experiences conflict in their relationship at some stage and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How you manage it determines if it is a healthy part of your relationship or if it is working against you and causing problems.
Learning how to manage conflict is an important part of both personal and business relationships and can set you up for success in both areas. There are a few things you can do to make sure you resolve differences without the unhealthy conflict.
There is a tendency when people get frustrated, to raise your voice to speak over the other person and make yourself heard. This doesn’t work on any level because it turns it from a form of communication to a competition to win the point. The other person will either raise their voice to compete, or stop listening.
Be really aware of your volume and if you feel it is starting to increase, take a deep breath, pause for a moment and try again at a suitable volume level. If you are too emotional to do this, then take some time out to calm down and then return to the conversation.
Pick your Time
Often when there is something that you really feel you need to talk to your partner about, you pounce on them the moment they walk in the door, or even try to talk about it whilst at work. This is unlikely to have good results. It is important to know when the best times to talk to your partner are. This isn’t to say you need to wait a week to have your say, but do pick a time when they are likely to be able to listen and have the energy and interest to do so.
Don’t name call
Name calling is a distraction and a tool to win points, it’s not about resolving a point of difference. Most people learn early on the most effective way to push their partners buttons and when a discussion is not going as they want, tend to fall into name calling as a way of gaining a point and moving away from the topic at hand. Labelling your partner doesn’t help, it just hurts and you can’t take it back. So make it a rule in your relationship and just don’t do it.
Stay on topic
Pick one issue at a time that you want to resolve and stick with it. Look at it as a problem solving exercise between you and not a chance to get even and win. This is something I see often in relationship counselling sessions. One topic is being discussed and the person who feels that perhaps they were wrong or feels they are losing will throw in “Well how about when you….”.
This is a distracting technique and is used as a weapon to place blame on the other side. Sure you may have a valid point and that issue too may need to be discussed – but not now. Once an issue is dealt with, it is done and is in the past. Don’t bring it up again.
Acceptance not understanding
We all have different backgrounds and childhoods so our expectations and understanding of issues are different. Sometimes your partner may raise an issue that means something to them and has an entirely different meaning to you. This is ok. The problem occurs when we try and understand it from their point of view, are unable to get it, and so we discard it as being silly, irrelevant or wrong.
You are not always going to understand your partner’s point of view so learn to listen to them, ask them what it means to them and then accept that their point of view is valid. Tell your partner that you don’t understand but you accept how they feel and then work to find a solution that will work for both of you based on the differences.
Often all we want from a partner is acceptance that our view is valid and has meaning to us. Use this one carefully, it isn’t an excuse to stop listening and end the conversation.
Avoid ‘Should’ statements
‘Should’ is a word that usually indicates your expectations of someone else based on your own expectations and often sets you up for disappointment. For example, “My partner should always put me first”. This is a pretty general statement and indicates that you have a high expectation in terms of their behaviour towards you. Sure, you’d like to always be first with them, but chances are there are going to be times when that is not going to happen. Also, your idea of what is always being ‘put first’ may be very different than theirs.
We tend to use this word throughout our day. “That driver should drive better”, “People shouldn’t jump the queue”, “Everyone should be nice to me”. Probably all correct statements but the reality is that it isn’t always going to happen and you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Any time you use this word, have a think about the expectations you are placing on someone else. They may be valid to you but it doesn’t mean it is going to be that way.
Don’t be selfish
We are all the centre of our own worlds and sometimes we expect that we should be the centre of our partner’s world too. So where does that leave them? It leaves them with very little.
Try and think about your needs and having them met, but also put thought into meeting your partner’s needs. They may be very different from yours so it can be easy to dismiss as unimportant as we place no value on those things. Take the time to learn about your partner and what their needs are, then whenever possible, try and meet those needs.
It’s not all about us. Having a successful relationship requires you to not always expect to get what you want but sometimes work to please the other person. If you really want to be selfish and put your needs first all the time, you are probably better being single.
Don’t threaten to leave
Sometimes when people start arguing and feel they are not getting the result they want, they throw in the classic, “I’m leaving you – it’s over”, or “I want a divorce”. This is fine if it’s what you really want and it’s not just a threat, but most of the time is it used as a weapon to force the other person to get in line.
This makes the foundation of the relationship unstable and often forces the other person to back down from what they want. It is a way of manipulating to get your way and is a really unhealthy tactic to use in a relationship. If you don’t mean it – don’t say it.
Use ‘I’ not ‘You’
When we have an issue to discuss with our partner, we often point out the problems that lie with them and what they are doing wrong. Straight away you have them on the defensive and they will likely look for a way of coming back at you or defending themselves.
Using an ‘I’ statement takes away the blame from the other person and makes it about you and how you feel. For example, you could say, “You never help with the housework and you need to do more, I’m sick of doing it all and being treated like a slave”. Ok so you want some help around the house – fair enough – but that statement isn’t likely to change the situation much.
A much more effective statement would be something like “I feel like I’m doing all the housework at the moment and I’d really appreciate some more help from you. I feel that I am being taken for granted. Do you think you could help me out and then we could have more time together”?
The second statement doesn’t place blame, shows how the problem is making you feel and appeals for help. We all respond to requests better than demands and we don’t like being labelled as a problem. Own it, it’s yours.
Look for win/win outcomes
There can be an expectation in a relationship that when a difference becomes apparent, someone wins, someone loses, on every point of contention. Sure that may be the case sometimes but most of the time there are opportunities for you both to get a good outcome and sometimes there needs to be compromise.
The first step is to identify the problem and then try and distance yourself from it and look at it from a logical perspective. Work together as a team to try and come up with a list of possible solutions and then from there pick the one that has the most benefit to both of you.
Sometimes you will need to both give a bit and sometimes one person may have to change their thinking, but the best result comes when you can find an outcome that pleases you both. These win/win solutions are often there, just start thinking of other options rather than being stuck on the first one that occurred to you.
Resolving conflict can be hard at times but if you take the time to follow these rules, you will learn how you and your partner can resolve any issue that arises in the relationship and create a strong base for the future.
If you’re need professional help to guide you in resolving conflict in your relationship, feel free to call me on 0468 950 420 for a FREE 10-minute consultation and find out how I can help you or press BOOK NOW button to find my available appointment and schedule an online booking.