How to Resolve ANY conflict
By Miriam Kearney
Managing differences in a relationship is one of the most difficult of skills. We come from different families with our own unique expectations of what marriage should be like and how many things should be done. Show me a marriage without conflict and I’ll show you a couple on the way to divorce!
The word ‘conflict’ often brings up images of raised voices, arguments and disconnection. Yet there are ways to resolve conflict that leave you feeling closer than before you started. It’s called Fair Fighting. It’s not hard to learn but it calls on your willingness to be patient and see it through.
In a fair fight, each person needs to focus on two things and only two things: clearly describing their position and why it’s important to them AND understanding their partner’s position and why it’s important to them. The trick is you can’t do both at the same time.
So in a fair fight, you take turns being the speaker and the listener. When you’re listening, you mustn’t continue to debate in your head, arguing every point silently. Instead you need to be focussed on listening really hard to your partner so you can understand them and you need give them a ‘receipt’ which demonstrates your understanding. You do this by restating what you understand your partner said; not by parroting back the same words they used, but by reflecting back the gist of the information and more importantly, the feeling they are trying to tell you about.
Which one has a greater impact on and why? In Sorry, Wrong Number and A Thing of Beauty, there are four conflicts that can be seen, internal, how a character struggles with himself or herself, relational, between two peoples, societal, between a character and a group and situational, conflict with a certain situation. Internal conflict is portrayed when the character, Mrs. Stevenson, is struggling ...
After you have restated what you understood – and this is crucial – ask your partner if you understood them correctly. Don’t be upset if they say: “yes but”. Understanding another person is actually hard work and we can’t expect to get it 100% right every time. Be prepared to listen to the correction and then restate that. One thing that is very important to keep in mind here – reflecting what you heard is not the same thing as agreeing with it. At this point in the dialog you must not include your own ideas, thoughts or feelings at all – it will be your turn next. This is one of the hardest parts because we are so accustomed to debating as a way of communicating and debating is all about convincing. A Fair Fight is not about convincing – it’s about understanding each other so both of you can know each other better and make better decisions together.
Your partner may want to state their complaint in two or three segments and have you reflect it back one piece at a time. This step may seem tedious, but it serves several functions—it slows the communication process so you both have time to think; it allows you to clarify areas in which there are misunderstandings, and it keeps you from presenting too much material at a time.
Now that you’ve understood your partner, it’s your turn to speak about your needs and feelings. Don’t be tempted to rely on “tradition” or “experts” for your reasons. Tell your partner what you want and why it’s important to you. Ask your partner for your receipt.
It may take several rounds, but when two people work at understanding each other rather than trying to convince each other, virtually any problem can be resolved. When you know why something is important to your partner it makes it easier for you to decide to make some movement on your side. And vice versa.