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Friday, 06 August 2010 01:26

13 Simple, Straight Forward Tips for Dealing with Conflict

1)      Listen.

This means putting your own thoughts, ides, beliefs, opinions, wants and feelings on hold. Put them aside for a moment. Approach what is being said with a genuine desire to understand what’s going on for the other person.


2)      Listen and validate what you heard.

Validating means that you can see, from their point of view, how they’d be thinking that way. So it’s the point of view you are acknowledging – not whether it’s ‘the’ truth or not.


3)      Listen, validate, and empathise.

Validating means you are connecting intellectually. Empathising means you are connecting emotionally. In other words, given their point of view, you could imagine they’d be feeling…fill in the blank! And remember, this is where you describe emotions, not thoughts. People frequently get that confused.


4)      Ask for what you need.

We live in a culture that tells we have every right to be demanding…yet, I’d say most people find it quite difficult to simply put forward what they would like with their partners. There’s a lot to doing this correctly and there isn’t space to go into it here but some of these Tips form the basis of getting it done right.


5)      Create time and space to connect.

Couples often have this amazing time when they first meet – called the ‘honeymoon period’ – and then think the relationship can be sustained by what happened in those early days. Wrong. Like anything, we need to keep feeding whatever it is we want to grow to keep it alive and well. The better food it gets the more it will thrive. If you feed a relationship junk food, the outcome will reflect that. This leads to Point 6…


6)      Leadership.

Relationships require you to lead, to put your best foot forward. If you have strengths – use them. If you need to shape up, do it. It’s your relationship but more importantly, it’s your life. When you know something needs to be done (and sometimes that can mean not doing something, such as acting poorly, taking the bait, blaming etc.) put in. This builds your sense of Intrinsic Personal Value.


7)      Strength through vulnerability.

Blaming is easy. You might be right about something but blaming just doesn’t do anything helpful. Be accountable by speaking in the first person. In this way your partner can hear whats happening for you without having to be defensive. Most couples blame as a way of protecting themselves from being vulnerable. Whilst it feels uncomfortable, in the long run, being vulnerable is a far, far better way to live that by being aggressive with your feelings.


8)      Rules.

Set limits to what and where a fight won’t go. See Point 6 again! This takes leadership. Being strong is when you get an invitation from the other person to join them in the relational gutter – this is when you really have to lead and hold your centre. Don’t be high and mighty about it either. If not taking the bait from someone becomes a weapon (what I call the Sword of Superiority) which you use to cut the other down, then that is not what I am talking about. It needs to be enough that you know you are doing the right thing. This is about your sense if Intrinsic Personal Value; IPV: Have you got? Will you use it? I can’t emphasise this enough. Anything else just gets destructive, so knowing what rules are in place is about ‘fighting fair’ not ‘below the belt’.  And couples need to rely on this so they can have trust to work through difficulties and disagreements.


9)      Time out.

This is a great rule. You have to use it with integrity though. Using it as a weapon to regain power and control is not the deal. What it does is create space for people to simmer-off and regain their thoughts when emotions are heightened. Both parties have to respect it and make allowance for it. They way to do it though is that you must set a time to return to the issue. Otherwise the other person ends up feeling ripped off and the fight will escalate, not de-escalate.


10)   Talk quietly.

When something is really important to you. It’s a funny thing but have you noticed that the louder people talk, the harder they become to hear? And people tend to pull away from people who are being loud. The converse is also ; when peoel speak quietly, the listener automatically leans in, gets closer. If you want someone to take you seriously, speak quietly.


11)   Speak your truth.

If you do this, you won’t end up with lots of baggage. Baggage breads resentment. Resentment is toxic and corrosive to life and to relationships. So whilst people often try and take a short term approach and avoid conflict, the problem is that it builds up until something very little can be the spark that sets off a powder-keg and it becomes explosive.


12)   We are all equals.

Its an oldie but it’s a goodie. If you approach other people this way you are liable to

  • Be respected yourself and not feel threatened
  • Be heard
  • Be able to negotiate
  • Develop Intrinsic Personal Value.


13)   The Mel Gibson Rule.

Argue as if you knew everyone was listening around the world. I feel sorry for Mel. Truth is he’s human. He’s made lots of mistakes and he’s looking pretty silly. But it’s probably more helpful to recognise ourselves in what he is doing and be supportive rather than judgemental. Who hasn’t acted like a prat when things go badly in a relationship? We tell kids to behave properly yet often fall into some terrible behaviours, do things we regret, say things that when in our best hours we would never dream of. Stand up. Dust yourself off. Forgive yourself, find your courage and try something constructive.

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Guy Vicars

Guy Vicars is an individual psychotherapist and relationship therapist in private practice. Guy has two professional areas he is passionate about: helping people with their relationships and helping people who suffer depression.

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