It’s easy to be swept up in the emotion of the moment. In such cases we may not be able to deal with conflict in our best way. So, it’s always beneficial to remind ourselves how we can deal with disagreements, in a way that allows us to feel empowered, while also conscious of the other person’s feelings and/or the wellbeing of a third party, like a child.
Below are some tips for couples or co-parents who wish to participate in constructive conflict resolution.
We all deal with conflict in different ways and require different boundaries to feel safe in expressing our frustrations or emotions. It can be helpful to set boundaries and tell the other person what you need before engaging in a heated discussion. In return, listening to their boundaries is necessary to ensure both people feel their needs are being met. An example of a boundary could be “no name-calling”. Set the rules of engagement and abide by them!
Practice Active Listening
Although it may be tempting to interject or interrupt to express yourself when things get heated, it’s important to resist this urge and instead actively listen to the other person and expect the same in return. Just “listening” is not enough. Listen to understand not to respond, taking a moment to process, then repeat their concerns as you heard them, to confirm that you have understood them correctly. Active Listening involves mirroring back what you heard, validating or making sense of the other’s perspective and empathizing, which involves perspective taking.
Aim For Clear & Direct Communication
After active listening comes clear communication. Instead of playing the blame game, or inferring meaning that may not be there, express how you feel. Simply re-framing your concerns to include how the action has made you feel can help! An example could be: “When you play on your phone while we’re talking, I feel like you don’t think what I’m saying is Important” or “When you make this decision for our child without giving me the heads up, I feel like you don’t care about my opinion”
Leave the Past In the Past
It’s no secret that the past can inform the present and this is also true for how we deal with conflict. That said, dredging up old events or feels can often distract from a resolution. Experiences in past relationships may leave us weary of certain behaviors, but this does not mean that our current partners should be judged by our past expectations. In the case of co-parenting, past behavior within the container of that relationship, does not always predict future behavior as a co-parenting partner. Try your best to keep an open mind and focus on the topic at hand, not past conflicts or issues.
Remember the End Game
Romantic relationships and co-parenting arrangements are for the long haul! It’s important to come back to your shared interests and investment into the relationship at the end of a conflict. This could be your shared interest in maintaining a happy marriage or your desire to provide your child with the healthiest environment you can for them to grow and feel safe. It’s important to reiterate that despite your differences you share a common goal.
Practice makes progress, so continue to come back to these 5 rules whenever you need a reminder.
Need more help with conflict resolution for co=parents or couples? Contact Reflection Centre today to work with one of our trained professionals.