Copyright 2014 by Roberta Gallagher
All through my life I avoided conflict. A raised voice frightened me. If I did not avoid conflict I came out of my corner defensive and attacking. “You are crass and deserving of my contempt.”
In marriage, the dance was on and in a way I was fighting for my life. I cried and I felt like my heart was breaking if I was not understood. We simply did not know how to work through conflict and that is a significant reason that the marriage ended. It is frustrating for all of us not to feel understood.
Avoiding conflict may ruin a relationship. Do address the small stuff. If not they will evolve into bigger problems that are like a chain that is all knotted up because you did not fix the first knot.
To make sure conflict does not ruin your relationship it must be approached in a constructive and effective way.
Listening Skills: Yes, skills. If you want to be heard you must become a good listener. That means not rehearsing your response before your partner has completed their thoughts. Learn empathy by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes.
1. Learn active listening. One example of active listening is to tell your partner what you heard them say on a literal and an emotional level. Ask if you got it right. If not, try again.
2. Learn effective speaking skills. An example is to be brief, specific and direct. Have good eye contact.
3. Learn how to do shared problem solving. Each of you lay out your concerns, and then brainstorm solutions together, instead of each partner arguing his or her point. Often times, what we may perceive as control is coming from genuine concern. For instance one couple kept fighting about her taking a cab when she would meet her friends for a drink and dinner. What really concerned him is not fear of her overdrinking but fear she would break down at a late hour in a bad neighborhood.
4. Have an attitude of curiosity rather than aggressiveness. The point is you can much about what makes your partner tick if you do not assume you know how they will respond. There is a sense of connectedness and peace that comes from resolving conflict rather then letting it simmer.
These are skills you both can learn. Invest the time. The rewards are great.