We are giving away a copy of Happy Together: Creating a Lifetime of Connection, Commitment, and Intimacy, by Dr. Bill Cloke. Check out these five steps to help resolve conflicts, and then leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this book!
The 5 Steps to Resolution
(originally posted at Happy Together Book)
The five steps to couple conflict solutions are a good guide that couples can use to help diffuse angry feelings but also to solve problems. This process does not fit every situation because some issues are much deeper and require more introspection to resolve them but for many common problems this step by step process works well.
Step 1. De-escalate the Conflict. When angry feelings erupt and we feel hurt, the first step is to back off, cool down and think about what has made you feel this way. What were they thinking when they did that? What is it that you want, need and feel? When you feel calmer and have thought about the best way to say this to your mate, and then make a time to talk.
Step 2. Acknowledgment. Most couples have trouble listening to one another. The best way to calm a conflict down is to acknowledge each other after they have had a chance to say what it is that they feel (hopefully as considerately as possible and not too long-winded). At this point to acknowledge would mean to let the other person know that you understand what they are trying to say without necessarily having to agree but to simply acknowledge. You do not have to repeat word for word but to acknowledge what they mean to say. Try to not defend, criticize, yell, put down or swear at your partner during either the listening or the talking phase of the discussion. This can go back and forth until each person is satisfied that they feel heard. Often this is where it stops because being understood is so important.
Step 3. Define the Problem. Once each person feels understood and has made an effort to voice their concerns, values, needs and wants, then you are ready to make a resolution statement. Something like “When you ignore what I have said, I turn up the volume to be heard, then you get angry with me for yelling.” When you agree on what the problem is, then you are ready to go on the next step.
Step 4. What Can Each of Us Do in the Future to Make it Better? Each person at this point makes a statement about about what they will do next time. “I promise to listen and acknowledge you so you won’t have to yell at me to be heard.” By placing your concerns in a future context it feels positive rather than blaming and critical.
Step 5. The last step is to show our partner we truly understand by trying to do those things that we have agreed to do. Making an effort shows commitment and concern for the needs and feelings of our partner and creates positive attitudes and a more loving relationship.
Always use the following processes in your responses.
Dr. Bill Cloke has been a successful couples’ therapist for 30 years. His passion is to help both individuals and couples lead more fulfilling lives and relationships by learning essential relationship skills. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a PhD in Psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk radio psychologist, he is also a contributor to PsychologyToday.com and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he works with couples, families, and children from a cross-section of cultures.
Excerpted from the book Happy Together: Creating a Lifetime of Connection, Commitment, and Intimacy © 2011 Dr. Bill Cloke. Printed with permission.
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