Effective communication is key to resolving conflict
Happy, conflict-free couples seem the picture of perfection, but reality couldn't be further from the truth. A lack of conflict usually means one partner is repeatedly giving in to the wishes of the other. "Avoiding conflict in any relationship is unhealthy and can ultimately be destructive," says Psychologist Claire Newton. "Even couples with many things in common will always have ideas, issues and situations on which they disagree. This is to be expected and only becomes a problem when these differences cannot be discussed, as this usually ends up causing stress for all concerned." Explains Claire who cautions about what happens in these situations. "The person 'holding their tongue' so as not to disagree may eventually explode in inappropriate ways or situations. They may end up blurting out their frustration in a hurtful way and may complain to anyone else who will listen. While the person who bottles up their frustration and resentment feels more and more hard done by, eventually becoming depressed."
The best way to handle conflict is to address and resolve issues in a calm, respectful and non-blaming manner. Here are six solid steps for improving your communication skills during conflict:
1. Chose an appropriate location, away from distractions, where you can talk without interruptions.
2. Begin on a positive note such as something that you both agree upon and avoid using critical, judgmental tones.
3. Pay attention to what the person is saying and allow them to finish without interruption.
4. Think before you speak! Manage your emotions and avoid using words like 'never' and 'always' when referring to the other person's behaviour. Rather replace with options like 'sometimes' or 'I feel'.
5. Be honest in your faults and be prepared to compromise on issues that are highly emotional to the other party, while standing firm on issues that are important to you.
6. Be honest and tell your partner what you want, instead of focusing on what you don't want. For example, 'When you speak to me, please be less abrupt,' instead of 'You are so rude and abrupt!'
Claire warns about what to avoid when coping with conflict. These include:
- Do not make assumptions about the other person's feelings and motivations.
- Do not bring up past injustices – stick to the topic at hand.
- Do not ignore the other person by walking away, covering your ears etc.
- Do not be exceedingly defensive. Instead, Claire notes that really listening and empathizing is a powerful tool in conflict resolution.
Sources: Coping with Conflict by Claire Newton www.clairenewton.co.za; www.turnonyourinnerlight.com; www.communicationandconflict.com; www.squidoo.com