Updated: Nov 13, 2019
In our couples counseling clinic, the most common request is for conflict management skills. In this article you'll find the four simplest ways to manage conflicts in a way that brings you closer together, rather than splits you apart.
Breathe. As silly as it sounds, breathing ends up being one of the smartest things you can do. Why? Because your nervous system is not always trying to help you. Sometimes when your partner is upset, your body instead thinks that your life is in danger, causing an overreaction. When you breathe, your brain gets the oxygen it needs in order to reset itself and see the situation as it really is.
Validate. This is not the same as "agree". What quickly calms one's partner down is to communicate that you're following their logic, and that if you were in their shoes you might have a similar reaction. What we've found is that once this message is sincerely communicated (without a "but...." at the end), your partner no longer needs to fight for their point of view. You get it. In fact, you not only get it, but you can also see how they came to that conclusion. Now that they no longer have to fight for their point of view, they are now ready to listen to you.
Stay friends. When was the last time you told your partner how much you admire them? Have you done anything random and fun together recently? When two people argue, the tone of the argument ends up being lighter and softer if they're both aware that they are friends, rather than adversaries. Work on your friendship in those moments when conflict isn't present.
Allow. Finding small ways to let your partner influence the issue at hand shows that you're invested in a solution, and to the relationship. You do not have to give in to every demand, but giving into even small components of the compromise communicates that you are looking for ways to get on the same page again. Also, once your partner sees that you are allowing them to influence the situation, they are more likely to allow you to do the same.
These simple things end up making a world of difference. Out of the sixty-four different tools we have for couples, they're the ones we grab to most frequently. Give it a try and let us know what happens; you can comment below or send an email on the Contact Us page.