Many of us
bristle when we hear “conflict.” Some people thrive on it, but most of
us take detours to avoid it. Why do we do this? If we had techniques to
help us deal with conflict, perhaps we’d be better equipped to
compromise while being true to our position.
of my clients is dealing with a difficult situation and struggling to
find a way to resolve the conflict within her before it destroys her
marriage. Lilly is a hard-driving attorney with a successful practice.
Her husband, David, is an equally successful writer who is struggling to
find his voice. He is a little burned out, and he’s decided that he
needs to take some time to regenerate. In his fantasy world, Lilly would
take time out from her career, and together, they would find some time
to enjoy life again.
Lilly isn’t on David’s time frame. She’s at a crucial point in her
career, and she believes that it is very important to stay on track. She
understands David’s need to recharge, and she has given him permission
to take a time out. The problem is that David is beginning to feel hurt
because Lilly works at least 12 hours a day. He’s tried to be rational,
but it hasn’t worked. He resents Lilly for paying attention to her
career, and, in his mind, deserting their relationship for the sake of
senses David’s resentment, and she is beginning to feel the stress of
trying to appease him while continuing to manage her overloaded work
schedule. The situation is dangerously close to exploding into a
and Lilly need counseling to resolve their differences. Lilly is the
avoider, and David is so frustrated that he is ready to deal with the
situation. There are many techniques that could help both of them face
the conflict and work toward a peaceful solution.
We’ll explore some of the following techniques in detail.
- Active Listening
- Ground Rules
- Negotiation Strategy
- Anger Management
listening will give each of the partners a sense that they are being
heard and understood. This can go a long way in helping to alleviate
some of the pressure.
Active Listening Techniques *
|Type of Statement||Purpose||To Achieve Purpose||Examples|
|Encouraging||1. To convey interest.
2. To keep the person talking
|Don’t agree or disagree.
Use noncommittal words with positive tone of voice.
|1. “I see…”
3. “That’s interesting…”
|Restating||1. To show that you are listening and understand.
2. To let the person know you grasp the facts.
|Restate the other’s basic ideas, emphasizing the facts.||1. “If I understand, your idea is…”
2. “In other words, this is your decision…”
|Reflecting||1. To show that you are listening and understand.
2. To let others know you understand their feelings.
|Restate the other’s basic feelings||1. “You feel that…”
2. “You were pretty disturbed by this…”
|Summarizing||1. To pull important ideas, facts, etc. together.
2. To establish a basis for further discussion.
3. To review progress
|Restate, reflect, and summarize major ideas and feelings.||1. “These seem to be the key ideas you have expressed…”
2. “If I understand you, you feel this way about the situation.”
* Source: Poynter.org
apologies are not always necessary in conflict resolution, sometimes it
is important to acknowledge that one of the parties may be injured. An
apology involves the acknowledgement of injury with an acceptance of
responsibility, affect and vulnerability. It is repair work. And in the
case of David and Lilly, David needs to acknowledge that his fantasy to
have Lilly join him in his sabbatical put them in the situation they are
we forgive, we have the power to be liberated from the past. So why are
we so reluctant to grant it? Psychotherapists say that forgiveness is
harmony, but how do we forget about the voice in our heads that is
screaming an eye for an eye? How do we protect our dignity if we
are tough questions. We need to balance the struggle in our heads
between the urge to get even and the need to move on. Ultimately, it is
more nurturing for our mind and spirit to forgive. At some level, we
need to be able to face the fact that some things can’t be changed.
Sometimes it means that we have to face the truth about ourselves.
Ultimately, the responsibility to forgive, whether we continue the
relationship or not, rests squarely on our shoulders. The real courage
occurs when we are willing to set our ego aside for the sake of moving
out of five Americans has an anger management problem. Anger is a
natural human emotion, and it prepares us to “ward off” a perceived
attack or threat to our well being. The problem is not anger; it is the
mismanagement of anger. When we avoid anger and rage, it becomes the
major cause of conflict in our personal and professional relationships.
For example, the anger will manifest itself in domestic abuse, road
rage, workplace violence, divorce or addiction.
you suspect that some of the conflicts in your life are being caused by
an anger situation, take a look at the root cause and look for ways to
channel your anger in a positive way.
Brandt, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist
specializing in couple counseling, divorce, custody issues, and women’s
concerns. She is a clinical member of the American Association for
Marriage and Family Therapy.