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How To Manage & Resolve Conflict In Relationships

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in an argument that’s escalated quickly and got you nowhere

Disagreements and misunderstandings are part of any relationship (yup, even the healthy ones). Learning how to dialogue when in conflict is a learnable skill. A lot of what we know about relationships is learned in early life experiences, as early as our relationship with our caregivers (typically parents) in infancy and childhood. Yes, it is wild to believe that how we communicate and respond to disputes today is highly influenced by the relationships that were modeled to us early on in life. To help create understanding and cooperation, the Gottman’s have come up with a blueprint to manage and resolve conflict in relationships. We wanted to share a few of those tips with you. **These tips are also effective in any relationship in our lives not just romantic*”

4 tips for conflict resolution:

1. Listening & validation

The first and most important step in conflict resolution is being able to listen and validate one another! This step is crucial before attempting to solve the problem. There are two roles when resolving conflicts, the speaker, and the listener. It’s SO important that each person is given an equal amount of respect and space within each role.

When speaking…

  • Focus on using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Instead of saying “You make me so angry when you say things like that” avoid blaming by reframing your intent to something like, “When you say things like that I feel so angry”. 

  • Talk about how you feel. This is your time to describe and communicate what feelings are coming up for you. 

  • State what you need. When you have a complaint or problem, it’s likely that you have an unmet need that’s being triggered. What are you fearing and what are you needing? 

When listening…

  • Commit to understanding the speaker. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to postpone your own agenda to fully hear them out. Ask questions, be interested to understand, and show authenticity. It’s okay if you don’t completely understand what the problem is, so ask questions to fully understand.

  • Actively listen. Do this by nodding, naming emotions, and try to empathize with them or put yourself in their shoes. 

  • Validate them by repeating the speaker’s feelings and perspective. This can sound like, “It makes sense that you would feel angry when I say things that hurt your feelings because it triggers your fear of being unsafe and misunderstood.” 2. compromise & problem solving

2. Compromise & problem solving

In order to feel safe and understood, identify what your core need is. This will help your partner better understand the core of the conflict. After communicating your core needs, you will be able to access areas of flexibility to compromise and better solve the problem at hand. 

3. dreams within conflict

Identify what each person’s dreams are. What is the meaning behind this conflict? How can you honor one another’s dreams, wishes, and hopes? To do this, you must both be willing to understand and accept each person’s differences. 

4.the aftermath of regrettable incidents

Process, rather than reliving the incident. Avoid going back to the conflict, this might reignite reactive emotions and make it more difficult to honor the two valid realities that you both are experiencing.  

Find the similarities in each perspective. Are you focused on a negative quality or behavior in your partner? Try to identify that in yourself. Additionally, when you find a positive quality or behavior in yourself, try to identify that in your partner. 

3 things to keep in mind:

  1. Conflict is not only inevitable, but necessary in a healthy relationship. The base of conflict is about failure to connect with one another’s perspective. So, instead of having the goal of being “right” or making sure that the other person knows they are “wrong”, remember that the goal of a conflict is to better learn and understand one another. 

  2. Understand that there are two valid realities. The human experience is vastly different from person to person so keep in mind that what might upset someone else might not affect you in the slightest. That doesn’t mean that their version of reality is not real or deserving of compassion. 

  3. Remember, behind every conflict is a need. That means with every conflict, a resolution exists. This can be difficult to access when emotions are high, but try to remember that there is a remedy to your unmet need. If you aren’t sure exactly what that need is, take a moment alone to reflect. Do you need to be comforted? Do you crave more time together? Are you afraid of abandonment and need reassurance? When you transform a criticism into a positive need, you are creating space for mutual understanding and validation. 

For more on healthy relationships, check out our blog on what makes a relationships healthy, and why relationships are so damn hard.


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