Today’s class on resolving conflict at our church really punched a pack. Hard to believe I do not remember learning these stages of conflict resolution when my husband and I attended our pre-marital counseling, Prepare-Enrich. It was refreshing to hear couples married a decade or two or three say they have revolving issues, and to see them practice some of these stages also. No doubt, we will all be able to practice these better in the weeks to come… and maybe some of you may want to try also.
Notes from Prepare- Enrich Marriage Mentoring course
All couples have disagreements.
Studies show they are not related to marital happiness as much as how they are handled. Happy couples do not avoid disagreements, they resolve them while remaining respectful of each other, therefore strengthening their relationship. The first person sets the scenario for the other person’s response by the tone of their voice. ( if accusatory, sarcastic, derogatory)
The following stages provide an effective way to resolve conflict: Step by step.
1 Set aside a time and place. Agree to a time and place for discussion. Ie. “Can we find some time to talk about this?”
2 Define the issue/situation -be specific “I know you get a lot of enjoyment from watching sports, but I have felt we’re not connecting enough lately. I miss quality time with you.”
3 List the ways you both contribute to the problem. This was the most difficult step for most in our class. To take the time and see how each contributes. i.e. The upset person contributes by not being open and honest, if, instead, they are seething inside…allowing thoughts like “he doesn’t even care about me.”
4 List Past Attempts (if any) to resolve the issue that were not successful.
5 Brainstorm possible solutions. Try to come up with 10 possible solutions to the situation. Do not judge or criticize any suggestions by each other. Don’t shut down brainstorming before it’s done. Write List.
6 Discuss and evaluate possible solutions. (be objective and give useful, constructive feedback)
7 Agree on one solution to try, and agree how you will work toward the solution. Sometimes it takes many attempts to find something that works and these problems repeat themselves.
8 Set up a meeting to follow up: Date , time, location. How is it working?
9 Be intentional– plan to meet again in a week or a month for follow-up.
How to Use Time Out’s
Even with great communication, we still have conflict- because we can disagree. The point is it doesn’t have to be heated. Great communication is listening to understand. Avoid you statements, use I statements. No you always, you never statements. Start with affirmation. “I appreciate how you groom yourself and keep a nice appearance but I feel resentful when I have to pick up your clothes, feel I am the only one doing the laundry, etc.”
TIME-OUTs are from 20” to calm down up to a day… It takes 15 minutes for an anxiety attack to pass.
Recognize the need for time-out if : Face red. Breathing fast. Tears streaming. Fists clenched. Feel like screaming or throwing something. Afraid of partner’s intensity. Feel emotionally closed off.
Request a time-out– for yourself. “I’m just too angry to talk right now. Please give me time to calm down and gather my thoughts”
Relax and Calm down. Deep breathing. Go for a jog or drive. Journal. Read. Pray. Don’t use the time to gather ammunition to come back and use against your partner!
Remember what’s important– identify what you’re thinking and feeling that became difficult to discuss.
Restate you are both a team. Your relationship wins when you both work toward solutions both of you feel good about!