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.
A MODEL FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Time: Approximately 45-60 minutes
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
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.
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?”
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.
Sender: “So, would you be willing to:”
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:”
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.
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
7. The sender thanks or acknowledges the Receiver in some positive way and works toward a resolution.
8. It is always helpful to be concrete rather than leaving loose ends.
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.
1. Identify and accept the problem.