Having a successful conflict conversation is not easy. But it is so worth it!
It takes determination, patience and intentional thinking to manage your emotions as they ebb and flow during difficult discussions.
As you think about what you’d like to discuss with your husband, keep these helpful strategies in mind before you begin.
Always remind yourself you’re on the same team.
Counter-balance negative thinking about your husband with the Assumption of Similarity.
During conflict, it’s natural to perceive someone with opposing ideas as dissimilar to you.
You think you have come up with all, or most, of the effective solutions and he hasn’t even considered them.
And you’re pretty sure his ideas are are half-baked or hardly worth considering.
When you think negatively about his ability to solve problems, that he doesn’t “get it” or his thinking is flawed in some way, you are ordering your brain to search for evidence to prove these assumptions true.
Take a mental step back and see if you can identify any of those same ways of flawed thinking in yourself. Where don’t you “get it.”? Become aware of your similarities.
And when you’re confident that you’ve come up with effective solutions, try to see that same confidence and ability in your husband.
Tell your brain to look for examples of his behavior that supports evidence of those positive abilities.
Recognizing your similarities, both positive and negative helps reinforce your connection.
You’re teammates, not adversaries.
When overwhelm threatens, put the discussion on pause.
Couples have productive conflict discussions when they manage their emotions. Which are bound to flare during sensitive conversations.
At its peak, overwhelm can cause couples to verbally attack lash out.
Continuing the conversation under these circumstances could cause unintended damage.
As you put up walls to defend yourselves, you create emotional gridlock ensues.
Dr. John Gottman’s research reveals that a simple 20 to 30 minute break can really help you calm down.
Allow yourself to feel the negative emotions all the way through to calm the overwhelm.
This step is key to processing the tense, frustrated or angry emotions that have caused the overwhelm.
Become curious about them.
Ask yourself these questions about your negative feelings to process them.
- Where in my body am I feeling these emotions? Your chest? Throat? Stomach? Head?
- What sensations do they produce? Heat? Tightening? Gripping? Search for the sensations.
- Do they have a color? A shape? Visualize them.
- How are these feelings helping me?
- What can I learn from them?
As you explore the emotions, watch them wash over you and recede, like the ebb and flow of a wave.
After you have allowed the emotions to wane, do something that helps you relax.
Have a strategy for calming down already planned in advance. Know that you can always:
- Take a walk.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Stroke your dog or cat.
- Putter with a hobby
While your relaxing and before you reengage, take a moment to focus on new thoughts that support your efforts to regain your equilibrium. One of these might be helpful:
- We’ll find a win-win solution, no matter what.
- I’d rather be loved than right.
- I can give the benefit of the doubt.
- I can keep my cool under pressure.
- I can find a way to come from a place of love.
When you reconnect and begin the discussion again, become a listener ninja.
Listen to your husband without trying to persuade him.
When your husband doesn’t feel heard, it’s unlikely he’ll feel motivated to open up. Or listen to your side of the story.
Trying to persuade your husband to compromise before both of you have explained your positions can lead to resentment and, too often, a shaky compromise.
When both partners feel understood, it sets the stage for finding an agreeable compromise that they can accept.
If your husband doesn’t feel understood yet accepts your persuasion, he may resent you or undermine the solution you thought you’d agreed upon.
So, slow down. When you take time to understand each other’s positions, the solution will have a better chance of success.
Express your needs with concrete details
It’s your responsibility to express your needs in a concrete way that your partner can actually do something about.
To often, people focus on how they want to feel: “I want to feel more loved.”
The problem is that it gives your partner no clue how to help you feel that way.
A better way to ask for more love is, “I need a romantic date night once a week and a weekend at a bed and breakfast by the sea twice a year with no cell phones.”
Be as specific as you can.
Believe you each have a valid point of view
In every disagreement or miscommunication, there are always two points of view, and they are both valid.
Although this is not always easy to accept, if you to agree in advance of the discussion that you accept this as a given, you won’t waste time debating that issue.
Settle it in advance.
This assumption is essential to making substantive progress during a conflict discussion.
When partners believe there is only one truth, and they have cornered the market on it, they argue to exhaustion for their own position.
Clinging to the belief that there is only right answer to solve your problem is a poisonous thought.
Think about the discussion an idea-finding mission.
Then it won’t be necessary to argue with everything you’ve got for your own position.
Put the focus on understanding and validating your husband’s position.
Validating and understanding his position doesn’t mean you have to comply with his solution or agree with it. Or that you have to forfeit or modify your point of view.
In this constructive conflict discussion, you are both less focused on dissecting all the “facts” and are more committed to understanding the other’s perceptions and exploring ideas for resolving the problem.
Are you trying to engage in a constructive conflict discussion with your husband?
What’s one issue that you’d really like to discuss? Need help figuring out how to get started?
Let’s talk about it. Click right here to get started.