How to Resolve an Argument With
Your Mate Every Time
By Dr. Greg Smalley
Smalley Relationship Center
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but
with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more
important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal
interests, but also for the interests of others." -- Philippians
As in my home, one of the few things that I can guarantee is
that all couples will experience conflict. Since conflict is a
normal part of any relationship, learning how to resolve them
without emotional injury is crucial.
Resolving every argument with your spouse may seem impossible
at first thought. You may be thinking, "Yeah right--you've
never met my mate!" However, by doing five important things,
you not only can improve your ability to resolve conflicts, but
can also decrease the emotional injuries as well. My wife, Erin
and I discovered this while in the middle of a heated argument.
During my doctoral studies, I was required to take a class in
research design. I knew I was in trouble when during the first
class meeting, the professor recited a list of statistical concepts
and formulas that we should know. My stomach sickened when nothing
he said sounded remotely familiar. I rushed home and informed
Erin that I was dropping the class. Unfortunately, Erin didn't
think quitting was the answer and a major argument erupted.
The conflict might have lasted longer except my two year old
daughter, Taylor interceded. "That's enough guys!" she
yelled and walloped me on the backside with a wooden spoon. The
shock of being reprimanded by our two year old caused us to double
over with laughter. Once the tense moment had ended, Erin and
I realized that our disagreement was starting to cause hurt feelings
and emotional injury. We were definitely not abiding by Philippians
2 and honoring one another. As a result, we used the following
four steps to resolve our conflict.
Four Ways To Resolve Conflicts Without Emotional Injury
1. Take a time-out!
For many couples an argument is a time of heightened emotions.
Because it can be difficult to think clearly, physically distancing
yourself can help your emotions to settle. However, never leave
without giving an explanation or without agreeing to resume the
discussion at some later time.
2. Communicate to uncover hidden needs.
Erin and I would not have resolved our disagreement without having
made a transition from intense conflict to some type of useful
communication. In other words, we needed to get past the arguing
and selfishness towards some productive dialog. The best way to
do this is found in James 1:19. "...But let everyone be quick
to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." Begin your communication
with the mind set of listening and understanding one another.
As you attempt to clarify the conflict, repeat, using your own
words, your mate's position. Actively listen and understand what
your mate is saying. In turn, this slows down the process and
allows each person to feel heard and understood.
After the conversation has shifted to slow speech and quick listening,
try to uncover any hidden needs. Erin and I I each had needs that
were difficult to express. I didn't want to spend extra time to
pass such a difficult class; while Erin wanted us to finish school
Addressing those hidden needs was essential as we moved toward
a solution. As you attempt to uncover such needs, it can be helpful
to ask questions like, "What is really going on?" or
"What must change or happen to meet your needs?"
3. Create a "win-win" solution.
Once your emotions have settled and constructive communication
exists, the third step in resolving conflicts is to find a "win-win"
solution. This doesn't necessarily mean compromising. Sometimes
compromising creates a quick-fix solution where no one is pleased
with the outcome. Furthermore, important issues may be overlooked.
Instead, in a "win-win" situation, needs are met on
both sides. In our conflict, a "win-win" situation was
found when we decided that I would ask two different professors
what they thought about me dropping the class. After seeking wise
advice, Erin and I both felt that the right decision was for me
to remain in the class. As it turned out, I got an "A"
and Erin was right once again! Win-win solutions can be created
in a variety of different ways. Techniques like "brainstorming"
and "pros vs. cons" lists work great.
After a "win-win" solution is found, the resolution
process isn't complete until you've made sure that forgiveness
has taken place. This step is so crucial because emotional injury
can occur when resentment or anger continues after the conflict
has ended. Although feelings may be hurt once the argument has
finished, it's important not to let the sun go down on your anger
(See Ephesians. 4:26). Therefore, try to identify your own contribution
to the problem and seek forgiveness.
When All Else Fails …
If after unsuccessful attempts have been made to solve a conflict,
or if you are exhausted from the physical as well as emotional
strain, it might be time to find a person (e.g., counselor or
pastor) who can intercede and help bring about reconciliation.
Remember: "The way of a fool is right in his won eyes, But
a wise man is he who listens to counsel" (Proverbs 12:15).
© Copyright 2005 Smalley
Relationship Center. Used by permission.
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