Conflict...And How To Manage It - Part 2
- Neil Clark Warren for the eHarmony Research Library
- Published Dec 31, 2002
I believe that conflict can be a very useful relationship gauge. I'm not suggesting that you pick a fight with your significant other tonight, but I am suggesting that conflict is natural and the way it is managed can bring a relationship to a higher level of satisfaction and understanding.
I've got a plan that I'm going to give you that's almost guaranteed to resolve conflict. It works time after time. It has worked in a very effective way in my own marriage with Marylyn. I think it can be helpful to you too.
Before I give you this plan I want to mention the most important single factor in two persons being able to manage their conflict: respect. If two people really respect each other, then they have all the chances of being able to develop a conflict resolution style that will work wonderfully well for them.
When two people come into my office and they're thinking about being married, I always look for the amount of respect that they have for one another. I can determine this by the way that they look at each other. I can determine it by the way they listen to each other. I can determine it by the way they bring each other into the conversation. I can determine it by the way they talk about each other.
If there's a nice pace to their conversation, he talks for a while and she talks for a while, and then he talks and then she talks. If they look each other in the eye, if they ask questions of each other, if they treat each other with dignity, with kindness, with respect, then I know that any conflict resolution problem that they have, I can teach them how to deal with it.
On the other hand, if they come in and they sit far away from each other, if they interrupt each other a lot, he seldom listens to her or she doesn't listen to him, if they don't bring each other into the conversation but seem competitive in the relationship, I worry.
Maybe they don't have the respect they need to have. But if that respect is there, then I can teach them this five-step model I'm going to teach you right now.
Maybe you already know most of this, but if you don't it will help you a lot. And if you do, it may help to hear it repeated.
Step Number One: Every person on earth deserves to have their own feelings and thoughts, even if those feelings and thoughts disagree with the feelings and thoughts of the person they love the most.
Every person on earth has a right to their own feelings and thoughts. We need to say that to each other. Pin it on the refrigerator door. Pin it all over the house. Each of us has a right to our own feelings and thoughts, even if our feelings and thoughts disagree with the other person's feelings and thoughts. That's point number one. Atmosphere will provide all the basics for this conflict resolution style to work extremely well.
Step Number Two: We all need desperately to be heard and understood when it comes to any feelings and thoughts that we have, especially when they disagree with the other person's feelings and thoughts.
Marylyn and I used to have a way of carrying on our debates well into the night. I would say something and she would say something in disagreement to it. It was obvious to me that she must not have heard what I said, so I would say it again. It was obvious to her that I must not have heard what she said, so she would say the same thing again. Sometimes we would go on in this way for two, three, even four hours. It was a creative contest. I would try to say as creatively as possible what I had said in the first place.
Sometimes I was a little louder than I was in the first place. And she would say as creatively as she could the same thing she had said the first time, maybe a little louder, until our discussion had become quite a conflict.
But somewhere in there, one of us would do this magical thing and say something like, "Okay now Marylyn, let me see if I understand what you're saying." If I happened to be the one to say it that night, I would say as precisely as I knew how exactly what I heard her saying.
I could always tell a big change had taken place. There was quietness in the room. Just understanding her meant so much to her. We all desperately need to feel heard and understood. Especially when our thoughts and feelings are in opposition to the thoughts and feelings of the person we love the most.
In the final article of my series on conflict management I will review the final three steps that will help you make conflict resolution one of your very best relationship skills.
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