It’s unrealistic to think that we can be avoid conflict in our relationships. Relationship conflict is a natural and normal aspect of any connection. So much so that if a client tells me they never argue with their loved ones, I immediately think something is wrong.
Preparing for conflict in our relationships is key to creating and sustaining healthy connections. Since 2003, I have shared the tools from this incredibly simple guideline with clients. The moment my clients notice conflict arising, I encourage them to enact the tools below. You might post this guideline on your refrigerator or on your computer to remember it more readily.
Guidelines for Relationship Conflict
1. (BE) GENTLE: Be courteous and temperate in your approach.
No Attacks: No verbal attacks or bad language. No aggressive tone or unhappy facial expressions. No passive aggressive behavior. No diminishing tone or put downs. Work to express your thoughts and feelings directly.
No Threats: No “manipulating” statements, no hidden threats. No, “I’m leaving,” or “I want a divorce.” Tolerate a no to requests. Stay in the discussion even if it gets painful. Exit gracefully.
No Judging: No moralizing. No “You should…,” “You shouldn’t…” No, “What is wrong with you?” Be non-judgmental and focus on the FACTS.
2. (ACT) INTERESTED: Listen and be interested in the other person.
Listen to the other person’s point of view, opinion, reasons for saying no, or reasons for making a request of you.
Don’t interrupt, talk over, or leave.
Be sensitive to the other person’s desire to have the discussion at a later time.
3. VALIDATE: Acknowledge the other person’s feelings, wants, difficulties, and opinions about the situation.
Be nonjudgmental out loud: “I can understand how you feel, but…”, “I see that you are busy, and…,” “I am sorry that you are upset…”
4. (USE AN) EASY MANNER:
Use a little humor, SMILE.
Ease the person along. Be light-hearted.
Use a “soft sell” over a “hard sell.” Be political.