A major stumbling block in any relationship can be settling disagreements, which often reduce to emotional shouting matches rather than caring problem-solving. Basic ground rules for effectively facing conflict in a relationship include:
Maintain a spirit of good will - remember: you care about this person.
Avoid attacking one another - discuss behavior, not personalities.
Share your feelings - explore and discuss them.
Focus on the present - past disappointments cannot be changed. Concentrate on here and now.
Specific Techniques of "Fair Fighting"
- Choose a time to have the discussion - make it an appointment. Avoid those times when either of you are fatigued, ill, or under pressure.
- Be specific: take time to reflect on what you are upset about and focus on specific actions, feelings, and attitudes.
- Listen carefully. Allow each individual uninterrupted time to explain his/her viewpoint.
- Work on one issue at a time. Decide what is the main concern and discuss it.
- Ask for reasonable change. Determine what you really want from the person, then ask yourself if it is realistic and authentic. Give the person a chance to correct the situation. Or if the situation cannot be changed, learn to soothe yourself – calm your own emotions.
- Try to accept: be open to the other person's feelings and accept them without being judgmental.
- Be willing to compromise: avoid trying to win. Try to find a solution that is satisfying for you both.
- Realize the need to accept an incomplete resolution of a conflict. At times, completely resolving an issue is impossible.
- If you have extreme difficulty expressing your feelings, try writing them down in a note or letter.
- After the discussion is over, EXPRESS YOUR APPRECIATION for the other's listening to and discussing the issue with you. Reaffirm your respect and affection for each other. Finish on a positive note.
These strategies can help you establish an atmosphere of cooperative problem-solving. If you feel the relationship has deteriorated to a point where these methods can't be tried, you may want to consider a neutral, non-judgmental third party to mediate the discussions. Or seek couples counseling at CLU’s Student Counseling Services.