Learn to resolve conflict without damaging your relationship

Finding Calm in Conflict
Learn to argue without damaging your relationship.

When you live from the heart you feel calm and energetic, accomplished, joyful, strong and at ease. Great relationships thrive in this place.

 When I work with couples, I observe how they  argue. I can tell a lot about whether couples are going to make it and help them move towards more loving and successful relationships. There are changes couples can make in their responses to each other that can make a huge difference to their relationship.

Frequent arguments, lack of communication, fear of conflict, heated exchanges, and avoidance of issues are all common complaints among couples I work with.

Learn to argue well = conflict resolution

The impact of high conflict in relationships creates negative emotions and anxiety for everyone including your children if you have them, your parenting skills are no good when you are arguing.

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse

These are four hostile forms of communication that put couples at high risk for breaking up or divorce when these patterns become habits.

Criticism blame and character attacks general complaining. Antidote stay specific, issue simple complaints using I statements; I feel taken advantage of when….

Defensiveness be aware of your own behaviour; righteous indignation, or being an innocent victim as a way of turning your back on a perceived attack. Defensiveness is destructive because it escalates tension and creates an adversarial interaction. You might feel taken advantage of, just as much as you might not accept your accountability and responsibility in the situation. The antidote, try empathy active listening repeat back what your partner has described as their complaint adding empathy and accepting responsibility.

Contempt bolstered by hostility and anger is damaging, eye rolling and name calling are markers of contempt it is damaging to health and builds a lack of respect. The antidote to this is to build fondness and admiration, express admiration and gratitude to build appreciation and respect.

 Stonewalling withdrawing, lack of expression, no emotional connection, monitoring gazes, not listening exiting the room avoiding conflict.

Antidote ask permission to disengage with the conflict if it is too much instead of disengaging in a hostile way and reconnecting in a more connected way. Arranging a time when this is possible.

Flooding John Gottman has a vivid word for this physiological “fight-or-flight” reaction. Flooding occurs when you have hostile arguments where the Four Horseman (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) are allowed free reign.

Physical signs of flooding are; rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, sweating, and the overwhelming urge to leave or to say something hurtful. When flooded, you operate from a self-preservation mind set. You seek mainly to protect yourself from the turmoil of an escalating argument, either by becoming aggressive verbally or physically, or by trying to get away.

Take notice of your partner’s anger to resolve conflict before it erupts.

How to resolve conflict

  • Focus on building friendship, appreciation and goodwill toward each other. This provides a solid foundation for effectively using communication and conflict resolution skills.
  • The greatest relationship needs are; being seen, heard, and understood. Getting these three basic desires met takes empathy and compassion. Mastering empathy is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy long-term relationship, it is key to being happier.
  • Conflict is bad for children, conflict puts children at risk of acting out behaviours, depression, anxiety, poor self esteem, trouble sleeping and health problems- Children learn how to fight and resolve conflict from observing you.
  • When you are in conflict, it is easy for ‘opponents’ to do damage if  you are trying to win the situation or not take responsibility, make a choice to solve conflict together. If you think separately I am going to win this argument there will be a win / lose situation rather than a win / win.
  • Are you over invested in ‘being right’ and in your own point of view? There are some things worth arguing about, as there are times when you need to accept a different point of view and move on.
  • Successful couples commit to having the tough discussions, by focusing on a shared desired outcome. It is easier if you can focus on kindness first.
  • Many people clam up when it’s time to express your true feelings. You may want to be tough and strong. You may be afraid of looking foolish. Being vulnerable is about the bravest thing you can do.
  • Learn to patiently accept others for who and where they are, open your heart, and notice how your relationships soften.
  • You may unconsciously choose relationships that force you to learn what you need to learn. Be open to the lessons that your relationships can teach you about yourself.

3 steps to conflict resolution

  1. Start with I statements and an expression of appreciation then a statement about how you feel taken for granted or unappreciated etc…
  1. You need to stay calm to be able to problem solve, the effort used by part of brain when you are angry is not conducive to conflict resolution, your heart rate may increase you may be flooded with anger, you might be entering a zone that is dangerous need to stop the conversation and come back 20 mins later. Try to reengage when you feel flooded.  Stop-  put the brakes on. Take a walk get the adrenaline out of your system try meditation. If someone is really angry with you be neutral in the situation. Learn to self-soothe and soothe your partner through appropriate time-outs and self-reflection. Many people store up resentments and unexpressed grievances until they are furious, leaving the other person feeling blindsided and attacked. It’s much more effective to talk about problems when you are not upset.
  1. Accept your partners’ influence and learn to solve the problem together Are you able to take on board your partners suggestions and point of view? This is not just about compromising. See and accept your partner, they are likely to do the same in return if you do not set them up as your opponent. Sit side by side look at the problem together, brain storm solutions to resolve conflict find a good enough solution you are willing to try. You are more likely to be left with something each of you really want. Accept and hold your own ground. Learn to accept your differences and not be threatened by them.

Recognise the cycle that you have created together, take ownership of your part in that cycle. Change the cycle by interrupting it, by changing your usual response, step back and doing something different. This is often the very opposite of what you feel like doing in the moment.

What fight have you recently found yourself starting? How will you approach the problem in the future?


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Get in touch with Aisha directly on 07855 781210