Conflict is a part of every relationship. Whether it is a friendship, familial relationship, or romantic relationship, there is potential for conflict to arise. Learning how to resolve conflict in a positive way is essential to having a healthy relationship.
Communication is a necessary part of conflict resolution. Learning the appropriate communication tools to allow for trust and respect is an essential component of healthy conflict resolution.
Taking a break is a simple yet effective way to decrease the intensity and longevity of a fight or argument. The most effective time to take a break is when you begin to notice increased feelings of frustration and tension paired with a decrease in productivity. Signs of increased tension include: increasing volume, decreased patience, tension within your body, and defensiveness.
It is important to discuss with your family or partner a phrase you can each use when noticing you need a break. When taking a break, it is imperative that all discussion stop once a break has been requested.
Return to the Conversation in a Timely Manner
After the break has allowed for tension to be reduced, the individual who asked for the break should reinitiate conversation on the conflict. This is a step that is often overlooked in conflict resolution. Returning to the conversation within a timely manner would be within 24 hours of the initial conflict. This time frame will decrease as conflict resolution and communication improve. Most families and couples find that by the end of treatment, they are able to return to the conversation within one hour.
Within this step of conflict resolution, it is important to utilize active listening and “I” statements. Active listening helps to reduce speaking over one another, escalation, and defensiveness. A “you” statement would be “you never help around the house”. An “I” statement would be “I would feel more supported if you could help with straightening the house each evening”. “You” statements can often feel accusatory, leading to a breakdown in communication. “I” statements help to reduce defensiveness within a conversation.
Work Towards Full Resolution
Often times in relationships, partial resolution is what concludes conflict. For example, partial resolution could be verbalizing an apology without further exploration of long-term solutions to the conflict.
It is essential that full resolution be reached within a conflict in order to reduce cyclical arguments. Cyclical arguments are arguments that are repeatedly present within a relationship – fighting about the same thing over and over again.
Full resolution requires the ability to understand the perspective of the other parties within the conflict. Once there is perspective sharing, it is important to work towards finding balance in meeting both party’s needs to prevent the same conflict in the future.
Communication and Conflict
Healthy communication is necessary to see a reduction in conflict within relationships. Family and couples therapy can help in developing healthy communication patterns to allow for a decrease in conflict.
Therapy can allow for a neutral perspective and accountability as you explore negative communication patterns within your relationships. If attempting the above steps does not reduce conflict, in a way that meets your needs, a therapist may be able to help you identify and overcome barriers.
Once healthy conflict resolution and communication become a consistent part of a relationship, it allows room for emotional and physical intimacy to grow.
The Gottman Institute – Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps