Honesty and communication are the core of a healthy relationship. While it is important to share happy moments, it is also positive to recognize that conflicts are a normal part of a relationship. Learning to navigate conflicts can help you to resolve them. First recognize that being open is a goal to have with safe people. Sometimes simply being able to express one’s feelings to a concerned and understanding listener is enough to relieve frustration and make it possible for an individual to advance to a problem-solving frame of mind.
In order to communicate in a healthy way, there are five strategies that can help.
- Focus on the problem, not the person. When a disagreement leads to insults, raised voices or sarcasm the conversation will not be productive. Focus on the problem without placing blame. If the disagreement becomes personal take a break.
- Use reflective listening. When both parties focus only on getting their own point across neither will be understood. Try restating in you own words what your partner said and check with your partner that you understand. Next share your side. Your partner should reflect back what you say until they also understand. In this way both will feel understood even if they still disagree.
- Use “I” statements. Begin your sentence with I. For instance I feel…. Or I think…. In this way we show we take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings instead of blaming the partner. Using “you” statements will cause the other to become defensive. For instance you always… you never….
- Know when to take a time out. When things are becoming argumentative, insulting or aggressive take a break. Have a plan in place to have a time out that is agreed upon that either person can call time out. One acronym to keep in mind is HALT. If you are Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired take a time out. Make sure that you return to the issue, it is important not to leave them unresolved.
- Work towards a resolution. Disagreement is normal. If it becomes clear that you cannot agree focus on a resolution instead, find a compromise that is acceptable to both. Ideally a compromise would benefit both people. Ask yourself if this disagreement matters to the relationship and if not move on.
Anne McMaster & Irene Haire MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice at 9562 82 Ave Downstairs Edmonton, Ab 780-232-1055 http://edmontonpsychologistpros.com