Dealing with and resolving conflict is easily one of the most difficult things for most relationships! Conflict is a crucial part of any relationship. The key to a healthy relationship isn’t avoiding conflict, it’s learning how to do conflict healthily.
CPR of Conflict Resolution
The three main components of conflict resolution can be remembered with the acronym CPR. CPR stands for Communicate, Protect Attachment, and Receive. This week, we’ll dive in to the “communicate” step.
What is Communication?
Communication, in a nutshell, is the process of getting a message from one person to another as intact as possible. If you are the one bringing up the issue or thing that needs to be discussed, you are the presenter (or quarterback). As the Presenter, it is your job to do all in your power to help the other person receive all of your message, just like a quarterback’s job is to throw a good pass. If you communicate the issue or concern healthily, you can set the conversation up to go well from the beginning.
How to Communicate Well:
Before you speak, REMEMBER THAT THE GOAL OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION IS JUST THAT — TO RESOLVE SOMETHING! So, you want to do all in your power to set it up to go well! Ask yourself the following questions: Is the complaint any of my business? If it is, is it necessary? If the answer to either question is “no,” don’t bring it up!
Some examples of things that are probably not your business: how they load the dishwasher, how they do their job, or what clothes they wear. You can ask your spouse to load the dishwasher, but you don’t get to micromanage exactly how they do it. You don’t do that with an equal. When it comes to an equal, if you want something done a certain way, then you can do it yourself. If you want your partner to do it, then you need to respect their right to manage themselves.
Some things may be your business, but they may not be necessary to address. A good test is to ask yourself, “Is this going to bother me next week? Next month? Next year?” If not, it’s probably bothering you because you’re tired or sucking mud. However, if it will continue to bother you in the future, it’s probably worth addressing. For example, if you asked your spouse to put a new toilet paper roll on, and they didn’t, it’s your business, but it probably won’t bother you tomorrow.
If the complaint is your business and it’s necessary, proceed with the following:
- Ask for and receive permission to address the issue. It’s not ok to force your spouse to talk about something just because you want to at that moment. Simply say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about something. When would be a good time?” That respects their agency.
- This leads naturally to the next step, which is to be alone with the person at a mutually agreed upon time and place. You don’t want to have a serious discussion in front of a bunch of people.
- Consider the reservoir and the size of the issue. A good way to do this is to communicate to your partner how big the issue is to you on a scale of 1-10. They might have the resources to deal with a 2, but they might need time to prepare for a 10 so they can come to the discussion in a good place. This can help the conversation go MUCH better!
- Be in emotional control and logically explain your concern without yelling, crying, swearing, etc. Stay in your Window of Tolerance! It is almost impossible for a conversation to go well if one or both partners are out of their Window of Tolerance.
- Stay focused on the issue at hand. Do NOT attack self-worth! Separate the issue from the person. Ex: “It bothers me when you leave your shoes out” instead of “You are so lazy!”
In My Life
Honestly, this is a hard one for me in my personal life. Because of my O temperament, I really hate conflict. I want there to be pleasant, enjoyable feelings all of the time. I tend to do pretty well when someone comes to me with an issue, but I struggle to be willing to bring things up when they need to be addressed. Consequently, all too often they end up coming out when I am out of my Window of Tolerance in unhealthy ways. It is really helpful to me to remember that unresolved things create distance in my relationships and I absolutely want healthy closeness in my relationships. When I follow the CPR steps, I am consistently amazed at how well they work. Even though it is certainly not normal to communicate well, it works so well when we do!