I have years of conflict resolution under my belt. In my prior life, as an estate attorney, I watched families nearly come to blows over who would get the beaten-up old armoire, and I’ve seen others peacefully divide diamonds and fortunes. Those who learned how to handle day-to-day conflicts are definitely better at the really big issues that life inevitably throws at all of us.
Handling conflict with ease is a skill worth developing, especially in our marriages. In a way, conflict resolution is like a dance. It requires both partners to know the steps and to execute them properly. And, just as you can learn to dance, you can learn conflict resolution. In dance, you start with the good old four-point box step, then build on that to learn the more complicated moves, like the tango—a dance in which no one is the leader all the time, you take turns. Good point. In conflict resolution, you have to be willing and able to step up and step away from the “lead.” In other words, successful conflict resolution requires that both partners be willing to “lose” and to let the other guy “win.” If you insist on always getting your way, you’ll soon be dancing alone. And if you don’t stand up for yourself, you’ll constantly have sore toes from having them stepped on.
If you’re tired of daily arguing and bickering, here’s my suggestion: invite your partner to dance. Agree on the basic steps: speak and listen. Easily said, not always easily learned. If necessary, get a dance instructor—a coach—to help you. Without the basic steps—the ability to honestly and calmly say what’s on your mind, to appropriately stand up for yourself, to really listen and hear and to let go of a stubborn need to win—you’ll never learn the conflict resolution dance.
Start by practicing on the garden variety, day-to-day stuff. It should go without saying that the first step in minimizing conflict is don’t create it. It’s not necessary to get your undies in a knot over every little thing. When, however, there is genuine conflict, start with the following:
If you usually acquiesce to whatever it is your partner wants, just to avoid the argument (and in so doing, build a mountain-high pile of resentment), stop! Resist the urge to give in, listen to what your partner is really saying and then share your own thoughts and ideas. The more you do this, the easier it will get.
If you usually push and pull until you get your way, stop! Say what’s on your mind, calmly and honestly, and then encourage your partner to do the same. The more you practice self-restraint, the easier it will get.
Don’t worry about making someone right and the other wrong. Let go of the concept of “winning” and “losing.” This is an exercise in avoiding that. The idea is to build a new comfort level with the little things, to learn a new way of communicating and a back-and-forth dance that leaves room for each of you to move. If you master sharing your needs honestly and hearing each other—without criticism or excuses being the first language you turn to—you’ll be better able to handle the tougher issues that we all face.
With love, Shela Dean
Relationship Coach and Author of Frequent Foreplay Miles
Get your download of Shela’s best-sellling book at no cost by signing up for her Everyday Foreplay Tips. http://EverydayForeplay.com