Conflict happens in even the best of relationships. Rather than trying to avoid conflict, use these methods to resolve disagreements with your partner before feelings of disappointment, bitterness and anger can build up.
Remember: The goal is to find a solution that benefits both of you. After all, you’re in this together!
Avoiding Certain Behaviours
It’s hard to not want to “win” a disagreement or argument. But as you tackle an issue with your partner, try to avoid:
- Jumping to conclusions.
- Unrealistic expectations, like absolute perfection.
- “Communication Blocks” such as:
- Blaming or accusing
- Not listening
- Changing the subject
If the discussion starts to get a little heated, buy yourself some time by telling your partner you “need some time to think about this”. Take a few minutes to cool down and gather your thoughts before you continue. While you’re taking a break:
- Inhale deeply 4 or 5 times and talk yourself back into being calm.
- Block any hostile thoughts and change your focus.
- Get rid of extra adrenaline with some exercise. Go for a short walk.
- Listen to calming music.
- Find or remember something funny and laugh.
- Clear your mind for some creative solutions.
Ways to Resolve Conflict
Since every relationship has its difficulties, it isn’t a question of avoiding conflict, but instead how you manage the conflict is important. You and your partner will resolve conflicts more easily when you:
Before you reach a disagreement:
- Decide what kind of behaviour is acceptable while discussing the conflict.
- Determine what you both are willing to do to try to resolve the conflict.
- Agree on the problem to be solved.
- Choose the time and place to discuss the problem.
Listen to Understand
It’s easy to assume that your partner means one thing when in fact they meant something completely different. As you discuss the situation make a genuine effort to:
- Actively listen to your partner and strive to clarify misunderstandings.
- Respect his or her values.
- Not interrupt.
- Ask questions to clarify points your partner is making. (For example, if your partner feels you are “lazy” because don’t help enough with housework, ask him or her to give an instance.)
- Paraphrase – confirm you understand what your partner is saying. (For example, if your partner is angry that you teased them in public you might say, “I made a joke about your new haircut at the party, and that really embarrassed you.”)
Use “I” Messages
Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements will help keep you and your partner from becoming defensive.
- Remember that the words you choose are important and how you say them will either resolve or aggravate the conflict.
- Watch how often you begin a sentence with “you” (e.g., “You never” or “You always”). Saying “you” too frequently when discussing a problem will make your partner feel accused and defensive.
- Describe the situation and how it affects you (e.g., “You didn’t buy propane for the barbeque.”)
- Say how this makes you feel (e.g., “I’m angry because we agreed you’d buy propane after it ran out last time. I need to start dinner, but I can’t because we don’t’ have any propane.”
- Say what you need to see happen (e.g., “I need you to refill the propane tank next time the meter shows that it’s empty.”)