A New Dance
One of my most important rules for fair fighting contains a strong resistance, even though it doesn’t always work, to defend myself, or to shut down completely.
I do this by taking whatever time I need to really, really understand as best I can what the other person is trying to say to me. Sometimes I have to put my own response aside for a moment and question the other person in the disagreement to ensure I really am as clear as I can be about what they are saying.
I also think about what it is I want or need from them and may even put this down on paper to clarify it for myself first in an attempt to prepare myself better for the conversation.
Finally I ask the other person if they are willing to take the time needed to hear me out as well before responding to what they think they are hearing.
I also strive to take full responsibility for my feelings and so try not to blame others for what is happening for me. I always try to keep in mind that it takes ‘two to tango’, so when considering how to communicate to the other what’s going on for me I try to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements”.
To put it simply, the difference between these two kinds of statements is this; “I” statements start with an “I” and “You” statements start with a “You”.
Consequently, if someone is constantly late, the message I want to get across to them is this; “I feel angry and annoyed when you are regularly late and you haven’t called me”. This is much better than saying, “You’re always late. You make me so angry!” One is about accepting my responsibility for my feelings and the other is about blaming another for what I’m feeling. And here’s another ‘NO-NO’- Be careful of using broad generalizations like: ‘always’ or ‘never’. Be truthful about what is actually happening.
I also make a point when I am in conflict to attempt to be objective in hearing all sides of the argument. If I can hear all sides then I am more likely to be able to work with the other person to a better outcome.
And of course, humor, used appropriately, can be helpful too. Try and take a playful attitude towards developing the skill of emotional self-control in high conflict situations. If you are able to do this then it is more likely that the other person will relax and consequently get both of you to a better ending.
If you use all of these skills, conflict will not be as difficult to manage as it first might appear, and you might get to an even more satisfactory resolution, one that leads you both to a win/win outcome, rather than a win/lose or both lose.
Of course this is not always achievable, but if you both understand the importance of finding a good resolution to your conflicts then you can expect that your partner will help you here by being considerate of your feelings and thoughts and help you to explore them as you speak about what is bothering you.
This then opens up the possibility of finding a whole ‘new dance’, and a better way to resolve conflicts that steers you away from your old ways of doing it, laying the path for a more successful outcome, knowing that you can meet your needs in a more appropriate way.
So until next time – Relate with Love