Friday, July 21st, 2017

Fighting fair to resolve conflict

Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015

Article written by Terra Brunson, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

At the Bowen Center we work with people and where there are people there can be conflict. One of the many things we teach at the Bowen Center is Conflict Resolution. Conflict can arise whenever people- whether close friends, family members, co-workers or romantic partners disagree about their perceptions, desires, ideas, or values. These differences can range from trivial to more significant disagreements, but regardless of the content of the disagreement, conflict often stirs up strong feelings. So next time you feel like you are in a conflict, follow these ground rules for fighting fair.

Remain calm. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. By remaining calm it is more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.

Express feelings in words, not actions. If you start to feel so angry or upset that you feel you may lose control, take a “time out” and do something to help yourself feel calm: take a walk, do some deep breathing, play with the dog, write in your journal or whatever works for you.

Be specific about what is bothering you. Vague complaints are hard to work on.

Deal with only one issue at a time. Don’t introduce other topics until each is fully discussed. This avoids the “kitchen sink” effect where people throw in all their complaints while not allowing anything to be resolved.

No hitting below the belt. Attacking areas of personal sensitivity creates an atmosphere of distrust, anger, and vulnerability.

Avoid accusations. Accusations will lead others to focus on defending themselves rather than on understanding you. Instead, talk about how someone’s actions made you feel.

Try not to generalize. Avoid words like “never” or “always.” Such generalizations are usually inaccurate and will heighten tensions.

Avoid make believe. Exaggerating or inventing a complaint - or your feelings about it - will prevent the real issues from surfacing. Stick with the facts and your honest feelings.

Don’t stockpile. Storing up lots of grievances and hurt feelings over time is counterproductive. It’s almost impossible to deal with numerous old problems for which recollections may differ. Try to deal with problems as they arise.

Avoid clamming up. Positive results can only be attained with two-way communication. When one person becomes silent and stops responding to the other, frustration and anger can result. However, if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or shutting down, you may need to take a break from the discussion. Just let your partner knows you will return to the conversation as soon as you are able and then don’t forget to follow-up.

Establish common ground rules. You may even want to ask your partner-in-conflict to read and discuss this information with you. When both people accept positive common ground rules for managing a conflict, resolution becomes much more likely.