Conflict Resolution Strategies


July 20th, 2020

Hi there!

As a couples counsellor specializing in premarital counselling, I love talking about relationship resources and tools.  

Last week I spoke about communication, specifically active listening.  Be sure to check out that vlog.  In this vlog, I will share some conflict resolution strategies, including taking a time-out, apologizing, and my favourite conflict resolution exercise that I use with my couples – The 10 Steps to Conflict Resolution.  It is part of the Prep-Enrich program that I use with my premarital couples.  

Couple Boxing Gloves

In the coming weeks, I will also be doing videos on other key topics in relationships, including:

3/ Intimacy and keeping the love alive (Esther Perel)

4/ Boundaries (Cloud and Townsend)

5/ Adult Attachment (Susan Johnson)

6/ Love Languages (Gary Chapman)

7/ How to manage the inevitable struggles in a relationship (John Gottman)

8/ Personality Differences (MBTI)

 

When I first decided to open my private practice, Prep-Enrich was the first training I did.  My husband and I were actually on vacation in Florida in September 2011 and he graciously agreed for me to take a day from our vacation to take this training.  I had written a few papers on premarital counselling prior to that, and really loved how useful and effective it is for couples. 

I love the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  We do not tend to learn these relationship strategies in school or even at home, so I feel it is invaluable for any couples to really take the time to invest in their relationship in this way.  There are tools that couples can learn at any point in their relationship that can bring them closer, enrich their bond, and help them navigate the inevitable challenges that they will face.    

Click here to see my vlog on conflict resolution:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C_04roQtUE&t=2s

If you ever want to get into a conflict with a loved one, just try hanging wallpaper together or do some kind of home renovation!

Last week, my dad came over to help me put wallpaper up in my dining room. We were arguing about how to hang that first crucial strip of wallpaper, and in the middle of that, I then had to go into an appointment.  It was actually my own therapy session that I had booked weeks ahead.  As much as it was an interruption to our wallpaper project, the timing ended up being a blessing in disguise, because it gave me a necessary emotional break.  

That time-out was an opportunity to process what was happening and reflect.  I returned much more calm and realized I was not exercising two important fruits of the spirit – patience and kindness.  So, I went back to my dad and apologized, and we finished the project in a much better emotional space.  By the end we got into a really good rhythm, and we felt so pleased with the new beautiful wall design.

So, if you ever feel that you get heated with a loved one try: 1/ taking a breath, 2/ taking a few moments away as a time-out to gain perspective and clarity, 3/ apologize if needed, 4/ forgive each other and 5/ move forward.  

If it is a larger issue or point of disagreement, try the 10 Steps to Conflict Resolution.  This is how I use it:  

1/ Decide on a good time and place to have a discussion about what you might have a difference of opinion on.  This is crucial so that you do not try to have an important conversation when one of you is in a rush, tired, hangry or distracted, etc.

2/ Figure out what the actual problem is and describe it in detail in one sentence.  Sometimes couples are fighting out two different things, so really take the time to define what the actual issue is.

3/ Describe how each of you contribute to the problem.  That’s right, it takes two to tango!

4/ List some ways that you both tried to resolve the issue in the past that did not work out well.  This helps to avoid repeating past mistakes.

5/ Step 5 is the crux of the exercise – brainstorming potential solutions to the problem.  No idea is outlandish, everything is on the table.  Just write them all down without thinking too much about it.

6/ Look at each of your brainstormed items and discuss the pros and cons of each.

7/ Decide on one (or two) best solution(s) to try.  I say it could be two, as sometimes one solution involves a second one.

8/ Figure out what each of you will do to work towards that solution.  Remember that whole it takes two thing?

9/ Arrange a follow-up meeting to discuss how the solution went.  Schedule in the date, time and location of the follow-up meeting during your initial brainstorming session.

10/ During your follow-up meeting, review your progress.  Congratulate each other on a job well done if you feel it went well.  If it did not go so well, then go back to the drawing board of the brainstormed items and decide on another plan of attack to the solution.  Work as  team to continue this process until you feel that a solution has been made.

Hope this was helpful.  Let me know if there are any other relationship videos that might be useful to you.

Be Well,

Melissa