By Raymond F. Angelini, Ph.D.
Every relationship we’re involved in will experience its share of conflict. How well we resolve this conflict is a key predictor in terms of how successful and long lasting our relationships are likely to be. Communication is a basic component of our everyday lives, yet effectively negotiating conflict in our most intimate relationships is perhaps the greatest challenge to our ongoing long-term happiness in these relationships. If couples fail to work through conflict effectively, the entire relationship can be thrown off-balance.
In his ground breaking book, Learning to Live with the Love of your Life…and Loving It! Dr. Neil Clark Warren offers eight key secrets to successfully work through conflict in our intimate relationships.
1. Recognize relationships as a “we” business
When we are embroiled in conflict, it is very easy to adopt an “I” or “me first” mentality. Dr. Warren advocates developing what he refers to as a “we” perspective. Intimate relationships are a partnership and just as there is no “I” in team, there is no room for selfishness when it comes to conflict resolution. As Stephen Covey says, “We must develop a win-win, rather than a “win-lose” mentality, because “win-lose” really translates into “lose-lose”.
2. Process data as quickly as possible
When it comes to resolving conflict, “tell the truth and tell it fast”. Don’t let conflicts linger. Strive to bring issues out in the open and deal with them directly and promptly. As stated in the Bible, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath”.
3. Stick to the subject
When it comes to resolving conflict, stick to the present. Never bring up conflicts from the past or worries about the future. These only serve to cloud the issue at hand and often result in intensifying rather than diffusing the current conflict.
4. Don’t intimidate
Never employ power tactics or other forms of intimidation in an effort to win an argument. In fact, “winning” the argument shouldn’t even be your goal. Increased understanding and sensitivity to each other’s point of view should be your goal! Intimidation will never lead to a “win-win” situation for the relationship and will only serve to undermine trust and intimacy.
5. No name-calling
Name-calling will only serve to intensify anger and hurt. Words have a tremendous power to wound, so weigh your words carefully, especially when tensions are running high.
6. Turn up your listening sensitivity
Listening is the greatest gift you can give your significant other, especially when conflict arises. Understanding your partner’s side of the conflict is key to resolving it. Also, listening tends to be contagious. The more your genuinely and openly listen to your partner, the more likely they are to listen to you. Listening is perhaps the most important tool in conflict resolution. So don’t forget to implement it early and often.
7. Practice give and take
As mentioned earlier, intimate relationships are a partnership. If both partners focus more on giving, rather than receiving, conflicts will occur less frequently, and when they do arise, they will be resolved more quickly.
8. Celebrate every victory
When you are successful in resolving a conflict, celebrate your success. With every conflict successfully resolved, your relationship grows stronger. Remember, conflict is not to be feared, it is an inevitable part of life and relationships. Learn to face conflict head-on when it arises, and your life and your relationship will benefit immensely as a result.
Dr. Raymond Angelini of New Horizons Coaching has been in private practice as a clinical psychologist and business & personal coach for over 15 years specializing in helping people have more fulfilling careers and relationships. For more information visit www.newhorizonscoaching.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.