In every relationship, conflict is inevitable. It is a part of the relationship dynamic that couples will not always agree with each other. Since disagreements will occur it is important that couples are able to deal with their conflict in ways that allow both parties to feel that there is a fair resolution or what we can call a “win – win” resolution. One person should not feel slighted or not heard by the other. One enemy to this “win-win” resolution is the manifestion of uncontrolled anger responses. When involved in heated arguments the likelihood of saying hurtful words increases and feelings of shame, guilt, and disappointment are sure to follow. Not only are hurtful words likely but it is not possible to really hear the other person when the mind is clouded by anger.
So, how do couples effectively resolve conflicts? There are several things to keep in mind when attempting to resolve a conflict.
First, do not have a discussion when one or both parties is extremely angry. If the conversation turns into raised voices and hurtful words it is better to remove oneself from the situation until both parties are calmed down and ready to talk. This is simply called taking a time-out. When voices are raised neither party is trully listening to the other person and when emotions are too high there is the inability to trully process what the other person is saying. Nothing can be resolve under these circumstances.
Another practice to implement in resolving conflicts is to stick with the topic of discussion. One of the most damaging occurences in conflicts is the tendency of individuals to dredge up past issues or additional perceived problems. This leads to a discussion that jumps from topic to topic and the end result is that the initial issue is not resolved and that problem usually ends up being presented at a future arguement. Stay focused on the topic at hand and if the conversation steers away from that topic it is important for the couple to refocus on the topic at hand so that it is dealt with.
Next…. LISTEN! While one person is talking, the other should be listening.. not talking… not thinking of what they are going to say next. Pay attention to the other person’s words and body language. Emotional intelligence can be a helpful tool during discussions but if you are not paying attention you are not able to be in tuned to the words, thoughts, and feelings of the other party. Try to listen what is being said and see if you can put yourself in their shoes and see from their perspective.
No sarcasm, condesending statements, ridicule, or telling the other person what they feel or how they should feel. It is best to discuss the topic from your own point of view only. Besides your point of view is the only one you really know anyway. The use of “I” statements, where you focus on how the situation impacts your feelings, are much more effective than pointing the finger and insulting the other person. Finger pointing and insulting will only lead to the other person feeling angry, embarassed or belittled.. definitely not a step in the right direction for helping the relationship get back on track.
Finally, be honest. After all, honesty is the best policy! Honesty about the issues related to the conflict as well as expressing your feelings honestly is imperative so that at the end of the discussion both parties have given the other person the oppotunity to understand what is important to them and how the issues at hand have really affected them.
At the end of the discussion both parties should feel that they were “heard” and the couple should be able to feel that there are no loose ends to be brought up later. If either party feels unsettled then the conversation may not be over. It may be necessary to question if the presenting problem is the “real” problem or is it a symptom of a greater issue. If it is symptom of a greater issue then the couple needs to delve a little deeper.
The above ideas is not an exhaustive list. There are many other ideas to keep in mind when experiencing conflict in a relationship. The ones listed here are a few of the most important ones to keep in mind. If your relationship is experiencing serious problems and you and your significant other do not know how to get things back on track it may be a good idea to enroll in a couples anger managment class to improve communication skills, anger management, stress management and emotional intelligence.
By Tanya James, M.Ed., CAMF
“Anger Management Institute of Texas is a certified Anderson & Anderson provider.”
Anger Management Classes available 7 days a week in Houston, Texas
Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Director, Anger Management Institute of Texas
Diplomate, President of Texas Chapter
American Association of Anger Management Providers