How can we resolve conflicts without fighting?

By Glendyann Mejia

Fighting in relationships is normal, but how can we do it better?

Most of us can agree that in a perfect world conflicts in a relationship would cease to exist. The truth is conflicts in any relationship are inevitable. As much as we seek someone who is compatible with us and our needs, no two people have the same views, ideas, and values. We all have different journeys which shape our emotional responses, triggers, and thought patterns. Thus we all hear and process things differently. But if that’s the case why do we sometimes feel that all we do in our relationships is fight? Why do we sometimes feel like we aren’t being heard? Why do conflicts in our relationships make us feel so angry and out of control?
Welp! Believe it or not? Thoughts such as these are normal and conflicts can be helpful for a relationship. However, when we are in the middle of an argument or have reflected on a number of never ending disagreements, it might not feel that way. Conflicts can truly be an opportunity to learn about your partner, yourself, and how the two of you can effectively combat issues as one unit. Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate conflicts as they arise.

COLLECT YOUR THOUGHTS AND SET THE TONE

It’s easy for us to become impulsive and just start attacking our partner with accusations and/or throwing our disappointments out at them. Take a moment to collect your thoughts and think about what message you want to convey to your partner. Do you want them to know that you’re upset? Disappointed? Angry? Ashamed? Think of expressing that to them in a way that they can hear you. How a conversation begins will tell you how it ends. Be intentional when having a conversation that revolves around conflict. Your tone and volume shouldn’t sound harsh as it will disrupt the message you’re trying to convey.

Actively Listen

Active listening is really listening to what your partner is saying. Be present when they are speaking, even if you’re upset. Try to understand what message they are conveying to you and how they feel about the conflict. Step into their shoes and see it from their perspective. Align yourself with your partner, genuinely reflect, and ask questions that will allow your partner to feel heard. The message you convey when listening is that you’re an ally and not an enemy. You want to understand how they feel because it’s important to you.

Practicing Mindfulness

Sometimes when we engage in an argument with our partners we become very defensive and we lose our composure. We feel the need to defend ourselves and our emotions may sometimes get the best of us. Essentially we all want to be heard and understood. Active listening is just but a small piece of that. Being mindful also includes understanding body language. Giving your partner your undivided attention and making eye contact is just as important as identifying when your body tenses up because you’re triggered or are too upset and need a break. Being mindful of your body and how you’re responding will allow you to be more attuned to your partner and will help strengthen your communication and bond.

Effective Communication

Many times when trying to tackle a conflict we may impulsively respond out of frustration. This can cause us to say things that may be hurtful or inappropriate, only to later realize that we didn’t really mean it. Effective communication is about reflecting on the times we may speak out of context and see how we can improve. For instance, yelling instead of talking about how we truly feel or telling your partner they are worthless because they failed to meet an expectation as opposed to expressing your disappointment because you had an expectation they did not meet. Effective communication is about allowing yourself to convey effective, meaningful, and a heartfelt message to your partner where you both take turns to speak in a constructive way as opposed to destructive communication that ruptures the bond, respect, and friendship in which your relationship is built upon.

Compromise and Collaborate

Sometimes what really makes conflicts never ending is the unwillingness to compromise. But if we don’t compromise what does that say about our partnership? Compromise is making the changes necessary to improve your relationship, working on yourself, and apologizing even when we are not sorry. Being able to compromise takes time and such action is necessary in an effort to improve your relationship. Compromising also means thinking further than yourself and having the ability to take accountability, apologize, and be okay. Collaboration is about turning your conflicts into moments you and your partner can disagree constructively. Working together to problem solve issues is fundamental in the process of developing the skills needed to manage differences in a relationship. It also promotes a healthy environment where difficult discussions can be had and promotes trust in the relationship.

Reach out for Support

Sometimes we simply cannot come to terms with our partners and may need additional support. If you and your partner cannot come to terms on what’s effective and how to implement effective problem solving skills when it comes to conflicts, having an external source can be helpful. Consider investing some time to work on yourselves by coming to therapy and exploring the issues that might be difficult to see at the surface. It’s a big step and it may be a hard decision to make but rest assured, therapy can truly be life changing.
There’s no way to have a relationship without conflicts. Conflicts happen and it shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. Improving the way we handle conflicts can improve emotional intimacy with your partner and helps you create healthy boundaries. Remember effective problem solving requires time and practice. It also requires learning assertiveness and confidence in yourself. If you and your partner are ready to start this journey together, please contact our office at (212) 433-2384 or at info@parkavenuepsychotherapy.com to schedule an appointment with me and I would be happy to accompany you both on this journey!