Conflict in Relationships
A healthy relationship requires the ability to tolerate and deal with conflict in a respectful way that maintains personal dignity and avoids hurt and wounding. Conflict is normal and teaches us about our differences. The skills of friendly conflict require a couple to agree to rules of engagement that allow them to work out differences without triggering their deepest fears of criticism or rejection. It means engaging without hurting or blaming one another.
Here are some tips to ensure that conflicts will strengthen your relationship instead of harming it.
In my Denver couples counseling practice, I offer counseling that recommends these seven rules of health relationship engagement:
1. Active listening. Everyone needs to be heard. When people are defending their own position they are not open to listen to another’s point of view. Active listening means silencing the internal desire to interrupt and be right. Listening with respect means letting the other person speak and, when they are done, to reflect back what you’ve
heard so they know you understand.
2. Don’t dredge up the past. Using ammunition from the past will only escalate conflict and lead to hopelessness. Stay in the present and stick to the issue at hand.
3. No name calling. The impact of contempt lasts forever. Name-calling is a wounding of the person and their self concept leading to degradation of love and good-will.
4. Own your own feelings. Everyone has the right to feel intensely. Your reactions are a result of your own wound history, use your emotional response to educate your partner about who you are and how you feel, rather than blaming them for your reactions.
5. No yelling. Everyone has a different threshold for loudness, depending on their family background. Yelling is a power play, which only leads to more distance and fear. If you are agitated enough to yell, ask for a time out.
6. Stay with the need. Underneath every hurt or frustration is an unmet need. Your partner is more likely to support you in distress if they knew your need and how to support you getting it met.
7. Request a solution. Help your partner find a solution by suggesting possible options for resolving your conflict.
Don’t wait for your challenges to become overwhelming or destructive. Seek and get help NOW!
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