Family-Conflict-Resolution: Why Can't We Ever Work Things Out?

Conflict Resolution tends to be the sticking point in most relationships. If everything is going fine, you have a good relationship, when conflicts arise, you can have a terrible relationship.

Every negative button you have can be pushed during a conflict. Sometimes relationships simply end because one or both partners become too frustrated with their inability to be heard and to resolve a disagreement once and for all. Amazingly, unresolved conflicts can exist in a relationship for decades, sitting below the surface waiting for the next eruption, and then receeding back below ground until the next go-around. Eventually, these conflicts erode away at trust and well-being.

Once intimate, loving, partners become enemies where winning the argument is paramount. They just keep entering the arena of conflict wearing the same old armor and using the same old battle strategies.... and ending up defeated as usual. Is it any wonder that being able to use conflict-resolution techniques is so important in building a satisfying, nurturing relationship?

Please use the following model to try something different this time. You've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain! Anytime you learn a new skill, approach it as if you are learning a new language. Assume that you know NOTHING about conflict resolution and start from scratch. Remember, just like a new language, this model may seem awkward and contrived at first, but the more you practice, the more sponteneous you will become. In order for family-conflict-resolution to become integrated,practice at least 3 times a week to start.


WOULD YOU LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION?

A MODEL FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Time: Approximately 45-60 minutes
Purpose: To develop a solution-oriented model for resolving conflicts

Each partner will take a turn being the sender and the receiver. The sender will start with a small, but real, conflict which has occurred in the relationship. By using this strategy, arguments will become problem-solving sessions.


I. COMMUNICATING THE CONFLICT

1. The sender will introduce the conflict by using an “I” message. The “I” message format facilitates the sharing of a concern without casting blame or accusing the receiver.


“I” MESSAGE FORMULA:

“I FEEL (a feeling, NOT a thought) WHEN YOU (a nonjudgemental description of a behavior/s) BECAUSE (focus on yourself and try to figure out the reason for your feeling).


Example:
Sender: “I feel frustrated when you leave the dishes in the sink because it makes the kitchen look messy, and also we agreed to put our dishes in the dishwasher.”

2. The receiver then mirrors the message back to the sender indicating that he/she has been listening and also to make sure he/she understands the message.

Example:
“So, you feel frustrated when you see the dishes I left in the sink. Is that right?”

3. The sender clarifies or validates that the receiver has understood the message.

“Yes, that’s it.”

4. The receiver then says “Is there more about that subject?” This response is essential so that the receiver will have time to present the message in it’s entirety. It also indicates that the receiver is listening and willing to hear the full message.

5. The sender may then add more if she chooses:

Sender: “Yes, I feel powerless and angry because we had agreed on something and you just continue to disregard our agreement.”

6. The receiver mirrors again:

Receiver: “It makes you angry, and you feel powerless that I didn’t keep our agreement, right?”

Sender: “Yes.”


NOW THE MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT, RECEIVED, AND CLARIFIED. THIS CONTINUES UNTIL THE SENDER FEELS IT HAS BEEN ACCURATELY COMMUNICATED.

7. The receiver now provides validation to the sender. The receiver does not have to understand why the sender feels as they do, he/she can still validate their feelings.

Receiver: “I can see why you might feel angry and frustrated when you see the dishes because you feel I’m not doing what I said I would do.”

Sender: “Yes, thank you.”


II. PROBLEM SOLVING


IT IS NOW TIME TO TRANSITION INTO THE PROBLEM-SOLVING PHASE. IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS ALWAYS THE SENDER WHO HAS THE PROBLEM. IN THIS EXAMPLE, IT IS THE SENDER WHO IS FEELING FRUSTRATED ABOUT THE DISHES. SO, IT IS UP TO THE SENDER TO SOLVE HIS/HER OWN PROBLEM.

1. The sender is to brainstorm 3 solutions to the problem she/he presented. It is important to come up with three solutions. This forces the sender to consider options OTHER than the main one. It is easy to get stuck on the idea that if the receiver just does……, the problem will be solved. The three proposed solutions then become requests the sender makes of the receiver. In the spirit of a healthy, giving relationship, the receiver may then give to the sender as a gift, one, two, all or NONE of the requests.

Example:

Sender: “So, would you be willing to:”
a. Always put your dishes in the dishwasher.
b. Change our previous agreement to something you can follow through with, or…
c. Agree to do the laundry as a trade-off for me putting your dishes in the dishwasher?

2. The receiver will then mirror the requests in order to validate that the requests are understood.

Receiver: “So, you’re asking me if I would consider:”
a. Always putting my dishes in the dishwasher
b. Try to agree on not putting them in the dishwasher under certain circumstances
c. Agree to do the laundry, and you’ll put my dishes in the dishwasher for me?

3. Sender (clarifying): No, option B was to talk about some other type of compromise, but I still want the dishes in the dishwasher.

4. Again mirroring, Receiver: “B was to talk about this again and reach some kind of compromise we can both agree to and follow through with. Is that correct?

5. Sender acknowledges that the full message has been accurately received.
Sender: “Yes, that’s it”

6. The receiver then thoughtfully considers each option (Don’t be quick to agree to all three). Make sure you agree to something you can follow through with.

Receiver: “Well, I would be willing to consider any of the three requests, but I really don’t think I want to take on the laundry. And I haven’t really been able to follow through very well on a. So, how about if we revisit this and try to reach a compromise we can both live with?

7. The sender thanks or acknowledges the Receiver in some positive way and works toward a resolution.
Sender: “Great. When would you like to do that?”

8. It is always helpful to be concrete rather than leaving loose ends.
Receiver: “How about after dinner tonight?

Sender: “Sounds good. Thanks”

REMEMBER THAT THE RECEIVER IS GIVING THE SENDER A GIFT. IN THE SPIRIT OF COOPERATION AND GIVING, THE RECEIVER MUST MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO RESOLVE THE CONFLICT USING THE FAMILY-CONFLICT-RESOLUTION MODEL. THE SENDER WOULD THANK THE RECEIVER FOR ANY WILLINGNESS TO HELP WITH HER/HIS PROBLEM.

NOW SWITCH POSITIONS, AND PRESENT ANOTHER CONFLICT TO RESOLVE, USING THE SAME FAMILY-CONFLICT-RESOLUTION MODEL.


Family-Conflict-Resolution: Communication for Couples
Taking Personal Responsibility




Pointers for Negotiating Conflicts

1. Identify and accept the problem.
2. Look for solutions that are in the best interest of the relationship.
3. Be open to various solutions.
4. Learn to combine emotion with reason.
5. Don't take problems and differences personally.
6. Don't deny an adversary reaction if it's present, but don't assume one either.
7. Learn to combine detachment with appropriate action strategies.
8. Practice deliberate time-limited practice.
9. Be clear about what you want and need.
10. Consider the wants and needs of yourself and others as important.
11. Separate issues from people.
12. Communicate.
13. Healthy boundaries are critical.
14. Consistent foregoing what you want and need is not conflict negotiation.
15. Avoid power plays.
16. Learn to recognize when you're negotiating with yourself.
17. Forego naivete and cynicism.
18. Save ultimatums for absolute non-negotiables or late-stage negotiations.
19. Don't waste time negotiating non-negotiables.
20. Let each person keep his or her respect and dignity.
21. Take full responsibility for your behavior.
22. Look for the gift of the lesson.


These Family-Conflict-Resolution Pointers are from Melody Beattie, Beyond Codependency.