Have you ever been arguing and you both find yourselves going back and forth and back and forth without any resolution? You don’t understand your partner’s point of view and they don’t understand yours. No one is giving the other a chance to make their point fully. You both keep rehashing past issues just to buttress your point and there seems to be no way out. Or maybe you’re familiar with another scenario involves one or both people who seem to give up soon after the conflict starts and many things get swept under the carpet and issues never get resolved satisfactorily.
So here’s my two pence about conflict resolution:
1) Argue Constructively: It was always somewhat painful for me that we would go round and round in circles during an argument and still we didn’t seem to have come close to a resolution. So we decided to talk about how to argue. Yes, how to argue. Since the most important part of an argument is hearing your partner’s point of view – you gotta hear it first before you can even understand it – we decided to take turns in hearing each other out. Usually we start with the first person to raise an issue. If you want to try this out and find both of you often talk over each other, you might want to give the speaker an item to hold (we’ve used wine bottles in the past).
2) Allow your partner make their point – avoid filters: So we all think we know our partners and in the same vein we feel we know what they are going to say when they start to speak. This means some of us are finishing their sentences, correcting them or planning how we respond to words we haven’t yet listened to. The problem with this is that more often than we’d like to admit, we’re wrong. The same way we give our colleagues at work or others a chance to speak, we need to do the same with our partner. This way, we will truly hear them, understand them and respond to them appropriately.
3) Feed back to your partner: Feeding back to your partner what you believe you’ve heard and/or understood ensures a good level of understanding between partners. This is because when you feedback to your partner they feel understood and they get a chance to respond or correct the feedback. Once your partner feels understood during a conflict, it becomes easier to resolve the conflict, perhaps apologise and move on.
4) Talk, please talk but stick to the point: The first thing is, we gotta talk in a relationship – you know the same way you talk to your friends or get to the bottom of that issue at work by talking it through. The same applies in a relationship. Although, I agree that there are other ways to resolve a conflict…wink wink… that can only carry you so far. There has got to be a good mix in there, with a readiness to talk and listen playing perhaps the biggest role. The second part of it is sticking to the point. Once we start talking, you start to remember and link up a lot of things. If you decide to introduce any of the myriad of things that come to mind do remember to stick to the point. Try and keep away from issues that are already resolved (if you feel an issue was not effectively resolved, wait till another occasion to bring it up); try not to say hurtful things; try not to refer to areas you know your partner is hurting or an area of contention. Just stick to the point you are trying to make and state your side in as logical and straightforward a way as possible.
5) Remain friendly – one team: You know and I know emotions can fly high when we are trying to resolve a conflict. This may result in name calling, harsh words spoken, tempers rising and a whole lot of unfriendliness. As we go through all these during conflict resolution, let’s remember that we are still on the same team. We have not suddenly signed up to opposing teams because we are trying to resolve a conflict and many people before us and many afterwards will resolve the same conflict and continue on their journey together. In fact, they will be stronger for it. So let’s maintain an air of respect and friendliness and as much as possible remain on an even keel as you resolve a conflict – it helps to get your point across clearly.
Think I have more to say from my experiences and other people’s but I’ll leave it there for now. If you guys don’t cover it all in your contributions, I might carry on next time… Please share your own tips about ways you have resolved conflicts – we’d love to hear from you.