Three tips for effective couple conflict resolution.
Soften That Start-Up for Better Conflict Resolution. By Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D.
We all know conflict within marriage is inevitable. Two imperfect people under the same roof are bound to create sparks. Therefore, instead of trying to avoid having conflicts, it’s much wiser to learn how to have them effectively.
Usually, one partner is hurt or offended and begins with a harsh start-up to the conversation. Harsh start-ups usually begin with phrases like “you always” or “you never.” In response, the listener usually feels attacked and either becomes defensive or stonewalls, which usually creates even more tension.
Obviously, this is not a healthy cycle and countless couples experience it every day. The goal for the person who is hurt is to have their partner hear their heart and respond with empathy; however, beginning with a harsh start-up usually accomplishes the opposite.
Therefore, the remainder of this post will walk you through three practical ways to have a softer start up the next time you’re upset with your spouse to maximize them hearing and validating your concerns.
Step One- Benefit of the doubt.
When we’re hurt or offended, we usually assume the worst. Even though we are sometimes right, a lot of times we’re wrong. Furthermore, when we start off by assuming the worst in our partner, it quickly ignites indignation on their part. Therefore, think through all the possible ways the hurt or offense wasn’t intentional. What are all the ways they may not have meant it in the way you’re receiving it? Where could they be innocent in this?
Step Two- Focus on what they did that was right.
In the midst of your partner hurting or offending you, it’s easy to only focus on what they did that was wrong. However, what are some things they did that was also right? What did they do before, during, or after the interchange that you did appreciate? Focusing on what they did that was right and acknowledging those items will help them have more patience when listening to your concerns on what they could have done better.
Step Three- Focus on how they have improved.
When we are hurt or frustrated, it’s easy to get flooded and only focus on where our partner is making mistakes. This usually makes them feel defeated and defensive. Instead, try to intentionally focus on the areas where they have improved as well. Where have they gotten better? What areas of improvement do you appreciate most?
These three items aren’t intended to dismiss your hurt/offense so you don’t even bring it up. Instead, they are designed for you to reflect upon and then discuss with your partner before discussing what hurt or offended you. Doing so will maximize your chances of having a soft start-up, which will help your partner hear and validate your concerns in return.