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Fighting Fair: Dealing With Conflict
by Cate Russell-Cole
10/19/2015 / Marriage
Some couples seem to fight all the time over every little thing. Others only have an occasional row, generally after a lot of unresolved issues have built up, and then there is a major explosion. Accusations fly, and the real issues still aren't dealt with adequately. Obviously, as you can never eliminate conflict completely, the ultimate way to resolve them is somewhere in the middle. Managing differences in opinions and needs with the least stress is the goal, but just how do you actually achieve it?
Conflicts can actually make relationships stronger if they are handled with respect for both parties' needs, feelings and priorities. Dealing with each other's differences can lead you to a deeper understanding of them, plus you also become more familiar with your own values, strengths and weaknesses. Working together as a team, rather than as the opposition, can also give you the opportunity to bond more closely, and come up with creative solutions. However, if you handle conflict with complaints, accusations, nagging and the stand that the only answer is the one which meets your needs and desires best, don't expect anything other than to leave a trail of pain and destruction behind you.
Just because you disagree on something doesn't mean that the relationship is in trouble. Dealing effectively with conflict takes a choice to be loving, compassionate, unselfish and to be prepared to really listen to the other person, and consider their view. You must be willing to cool down, and step into their shoes.
Conflicts have two components, neither of which can be ignored if you want to resolve the issue. The first is the actual topic which is at the centre of the 'hot' debate. For example, it may be him spending too much time at work or watching sports on T.V. Or it may be her spending too much time nagging, or expecting the house to be perfect. The second component is the emotions which are going on underneath You may be feeling jealous, inferior, rejected or hurt in some manner, and that is what makes you fight back. You are taking a stand for survival emotionally, whether you are aware of it or not.
A common example is a wife is complaining that he never helps around the house, the topic may be his perceived laziness, however the emotion may be insecurity or hurt. Her belief may be that time spent helping her gives her more value. She may feel neglected, unwanted and inferior. Not only does a more equal distribution of work need to be negotiated, she may need the reassurance that she is not worthless and hasn't been abandoned. The same goes the opposite way. Men often think the housework is more important than them. They may need to know that it is not the case, and maybe some tasks may need to go undone to spend some more time with him doing other things.
You must address both topic and emotions, or resolution will never come. In a conflict when you stand to lose something that is of importance to you, you need to know you have been listened to, and that the whole story, and all the reasons have been considered. Otherwise you will feel the final outcome is unfair and that you have been cheated. You need to be able to talk and listen without feeling attacked or that you're facing a brick wall. That alone can stop any conflict from blowing up into a monumental disaster.
Below is a list of steps for resolving conflicts which will work successfully for you with love, patience and practice. They have come from the Conflict Resolution Network (United Nations).
1. Be willing to fix the problem.
2. Broaden your outlook; try and see the whole picture, not just your point of view.
3. If the problem is complex, write down what is happening and with whom.
4. Think up as many solutions as you can, and then pick the one that gives everyone more of what they want (within reason).
5. Treat each other as equal.
6. Try and calm your emotions, and tell people how you feel.
7. Get all the facts you can.
8. Be clear.
9. Attack problems, not people.
10. Work on the positives, not the negatives. Look for opportunities.
11. Think about what it is like to be in the other person's shoes.
12. Would bringing in a neutral person help you come to a solution?
13. Work towards solutions where everyone's needs are respected.
If you are still having problems, or it seems it's a conflict that just can't be resolved so both parties win consider whether someone is backed into a corner and needs to be let out. If there are areas of misinterpretation, do you need to develop a more trusting relationship, or make an effort to talk more? Try and find areas of common ground and ensure you are truly trying to see if from the other person's view, rather than using control to get what you want out of it.
If all else fails, you need to step back and do what you can towards your own resolution. The other person may have too much invested to be willing to sort the problem out. The problem may be pride, needing to win, or they may be controlling and in need of power. In that case, the problem belongs to them, and you can't sort it out unless they are willing to let go of their stance and be co-operative. That is the final goal, to co-operate, not compromise. With compromise, one party always has a greater loss rather than achieving a win-win situation. Win-win is when both gain something positive equally. In the midst of the heat and the pressure, try to find something positive to say about the relationship. Remember, you chose to be together for a reason. Don't let the little things create major obstacles. There are ways to resolve problems without anyone feeling its time to call the relationship quits. You can both win.
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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