Healthy Conflict Rules. Respectful Conflict
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, conflict will be inevitable in any relationship. However, how we argue is just as important during times of conflict, if not more important, than during times of peaceful engagement. When these disagreements or miscommunications happen, they will often cause large emotional reactions inside of us. Our emotions can be powerful, and at times overwhelming. When this occurs, it is easy to get caught up in an argument, carried away, and inevitably we will say things we do not mean and make a bad situation even worse. So, when these conflicts occur, what can we do about it?
I encourage every couple to sit down and develop a list of Rules for Engagement. These are the rules that we promise to abide by when these difficult conversations must occur. However, this can be a difficult process, so I’ve listed a few to help get you started.
First, acknowledge that we are about to have a difficult and emotionally stressful conversation. Consider grabbing a glass of water, and I always encourage people to sit down 90° from each other or perpendicularly to each other. When we sit across from each other, it can look and feel adversarial. Sitting side by side, me to the left and her to my right, makes our paths cross, and looks like we are working together. (Consider eating before hand too. Hangry is a REAL thing).
Second, write out a list of rules on a sheet of paper and put them down on the table so that we can refer to them. Having a list of rules in front of us can be a good reminder when things get heated.
Third, I always encourage remain polite and respectful to be the top of the list of the rules. This includes keeping a reasonable volume and tone. Remember, we start to get louder when we feel like we’re not being heard.
Fourth, remained engaged, but wait your turn to speak. Avoid shutting down and withdrawing completely, but let your partner finish and even consider taking two deep breaths before and after each person speaks. Slowing down the pace, will slow down your brain activity, and allow for better outcomes.
Fifth, remind each other that we want a win-win situation, where neither person feels like they have lost something. Reminding ourselves that we are on the same team will go a long way to allow for a better outcome.
Sixth, stay on one topic at a time, and stay in the present. Do not keep bringing up the past or past incidents. This will only make people feel attacked and defensive.
Seventh, words have power, make sure to choose your words carefully. We do not want to make a bad situation worse by rushing into something, or using phrasing that triggers people. (Again, slow down the conversation).
Eighth, feel free to come up with your own rules to add to this list. Try to write them in the “do this” positive aspect, versus, “don’t”, and keep it to around 10 rules.
As we said on the farm, the best way to win a fight, is to not have a fight in the first place.
Come heal, grow and create together
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