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Improving Conflict Resolution Skills With Your Partner 

Romantic relationships can be difficult; not only do couples have to manage the day to day stressors such as balancing work and family, but also, find time to connect with their significant. Social media, constant distraction of text messaging, and an inbox full of emails can add to the difficulty of making time to connect with your partner in meaningful ways. Virtual components can influence a relationship in a variety of ways because it alters the way we can perceive and communicate with our loved ones. In today’s world, it is easy to hide behind our phones and loose the opportunity for meaningful connections, so you may ask, how does social media and technology affect the overall quality of your relationship? We all know that communicating face to face is important, and according to the Gottman Institute dealing with conflict within a virtual environment can be difficult for two main reasons; first, using cellphones to communicate with your partner takes away senses such as vision, tone, and nonverbal cues; this deprives the relationship of human connection. In addition to not being able to grasp your partner’s nonverbal cues, watching frustrations grow is also taken away from each other and therefore the ability to deescalate certain conflicts is absent. This experience can leave partners feeling disconnected from the problem at hand, and each other. Ideally, when arguments or disagreements arise, they are best handled in a calm manner, face to face.

To effectively communicate during times of conflict:

  1. Be an active listener: In order to become an active listener, it is important to paying attention to one another, showing that you are listening, and provide feedback. Rather than listening to respond, try listening to understand your partner.
  2. Ask questions: If your partner states something that is unclear to you, try to not interpret what it means; rather, ask what he/she means to open a clear and concise dialogue.
  3. Paraphrase what is being said to you: Whenever your partner states something that you want to grasp and confirm, it can be helpful to occasionally repeat what was just said. In doing this, you are not only clarifying what has been said, but also gratifying your partner since they can infer you are truly listening and understanding.
  4. Practice Respect: When two individuals are trying to get their own point across at the same time, it can be challenging to accept the others feelings and viewpoints. It is helpful to “take turns” when discussing conflicts so both individuals can be heard, and not engaging in name calling or blaming which can further fuel the issue.
  5. Turn off the TV & phone: Remove distractions so that you can focus on your partner intently.

Dr. Gottman’s research indicates that conflict based discussions end on the same note as they originally began. In order to avoid this, these 6 skills can be put into place:

  1. Soften Startup: Start the conversation without being harsh and instantly attacking your partner. If you begin the conversation with an abundance of tension, it is likely the conversation will end that way as well.
  2. Accept influence: Do not use blame words that can trigger your partner into feeling attacked.
  3. Make effective repairs during conflict: According to Dr. Gottman, it is far more effective to use “I” words then “you” words. Instead of accusing your partner with telling them everything they did wrong, express your feelings by talking about why you are bothered/hurt.
  4. De-escalate: As opposed to lashing out on your partner and creating a hostile environment, explain your feelings while being empathetic. Try to understand your partner’s feelings when approaching what you would like to get out of the conflict-resolution discussion.
  5. Psychological Soothing of Self and Partner: When approaching a conflict, try to not be disrespectful to your partner. Although they may have disappointed or hurt you, it is important to keep the respect and affection present in the conversation. Using key phrases such as, “thank you”, and “I would appreciate it if…” keeps respect within a conflict resolution conversation can take a conversation from going aggressive to calm.
  6. Compromise: At the end of the conversation, try not to list all of the things your partner has done wrong to prove your point. Listing everything that your partner has done wrong can create a hostile environment and make your partner feel overwhelmed. Listing everything they have done wrong will not prove your point and will only cause your partner to feel as though you are trying to “win” the conflict.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our couple’s therapist has received specialized training in order to provide evidence-based couples counseling to most effectively help couples, utilizing The Gottman Method of couples therapy.


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