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Of course there will be times when you disagree. Having a system or process for dealing with conflict or disagreements will enable you to spare your relationship from undue stress born from misunderstandings, assumptions and misinformation.
1. Shift your perspective, believing there is a solution that will leave you both feeling strong.
2. One at a time, allow each person to clearly state all of his or her concerns, hopes, assumptions, fears, feelings, beliefs, values and fears about the situation.
3. Speak and listen without judgment. Avoid interrupting or justifying; just stay curious.
4. Find the common feelings and experiences.
5. Decide together what values and feelings you both must experience in whatever solution you strive for. Always ask, "What would it look like when it's working?"
6. Seek solutions together that meet the needs of both people. Be open to the solution being something completely different from either original stance.
8. Know that the ultimate goal is your shared positive experience. Commit to your decision together and reinforce how this decision is going to uphold the positive emotions you are both striving to experience. It helps to make a physical sign of your commitment: Sign a paper or cross a line together on the floor. Establish that breaking this commitment is a sign to yourself that you do not feel that you and your relationship are worth the effort. Putting things in those terms may sound harsh—but not if you're truly committed.
Solving conflict is one of the most challenging things for couples to master, and doing it effectively takes patience and practice. Many couples report that getting through a difficult conflict brought them closer together, deepening each partner's understanding of the other's values, hopes and dreams. Focus on the outcome of deepening your connection, and the conversation will have a much better chance of success.
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Published on November 16, 2009
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