Resolving Conflicts In Resolving Conflicts In Relationships Conflict is inevitable in...
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Resolving Conflicts In Relationships Conflict is inevitable in relationships—even in healthy relationships. No two people agree on everything, except the authors of your text, of course. Unless you are a doormat, you will encounter occasional conflicts. Lack of skill in handling conflicts can transform social interactions into unhealthy burdens.
Conflicts in relationships arise over a variety issues, such as deciding how much should be spent for food or whether to turn off the lights when leaving the apartment. General sources of conflict include:
• Money (e.g., how much the partners are bringing in and how much to spend on what)
• Difficulties in communication (e.g., holding off complaining until you explode) • Personal interests (e.g., one partner in a relationship likes horror films, and the other is turned
off by them) • Sex (e.g., what kind? how frequent?) • In-laws • Friends (e.g., going out drinking with “the boys” or “the girls”) • Children (e.g., how many, when to have them, how to rear them)
When couples take up housekeeping, they need to decide who does what. Even among liberated partners, responsibilities are often delegated according to feminine and masculine stereotypes. Women often get stuck with the cooking and cleaning, while men are more likely to make repairs, take care of the car, or carry out the garbage. When conflict arises, several measures can be taken to help iron them out.
Challenge Unhealthful Ideas and Expectations People may assume that disagreements with friends are normal enough. But when they are with romantic partners, they may expect perfection and believe (erroneously) that well-matched couples never disagree. Some couples assume that a conflict about sex, distribution of chores, or their partner’s family means the relationship is on the rocks. Moreover, people with troubled relationships may irrationally believe that their friends or partners should somehow know what’s disturbing them without being told. They may also assume that their friends or partners can’t (or won’t) change.
Negotiate Differences Negotiation can help couples handle disagreements. For example, when determining who will do what household chores, here is a method that works: Draw three columns on a sheet of paper as shown below. We have provided eight chores. What other things have to be taken care of in your room, apartment, or house? List them in the blank spaces.
ChORES LESLIE’S PREFERENCES RONNIE’S PREFERENCES
1. Washing dishes
3. Washing the floors
4. Shopping for food
5. Shopping for toiletries
6. Doing the laundry
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ChORES LESLIE’S PREFERENCES RONNIE’S PREFERENCES
7. Cleaning the bathroom
Once the list is drawn, couples rank them according to desirability. Ronnie and Leslie ranked the most desirable task as 1. Since there were 12 items on the list, the least desirable task was ranked 12. how did Ronnie wind up doing the laundry and washing the dishes? Ronnie had ranked them as not too undesirable (5 and 6), and Leslie thought they were much less desirable. Leslie wound up vacuuming (3) and paying the bills (a chore that was added to the list) in a similar manner. The partners agreed to take turns washing the floors and cleaning the bathroom. (Both had ranked these chores as relatively undesirable.) They drew up a schedule for the least desirable chores so that they wouldn’t put them off and wind up arguing over them.
Make a Deal—Exchange New Behavior Another method for resolving conflicts is to make a contract to exchange new behavior. We all do things that irk the people we socialize and live with (yes, even you). Couples can list the behavior that disturbs them. They then offer to modify their own obnoxious behavior if their partners will modify theirs. Here is a sample contract:
RONNIE: I agree to keep the stereo off after 8 p.m. every weekday evening if you agree not to allow your friends to smoke in the apartment.
LESLIE: I agree to replace the toilet paper when we run out if you, in return, clean your hair out of the bathroom sink.
Communicate! Another key way to resolve conflicts is to enhance communication skills. Do you take communication for granted? After all, people communicate with other students, instructors, friends, and families on a regular basis. But do your methods of communication help you learn about other people’s needs? Do they express your own needs? how do you criticize someone you love? how do you disagree with a professor without hurting feelings or jeopardizing the relationship? Can you accept criticism and keep your self-respect? What do you do when you and the other person are at an impasse?
The following guidelines should help you communicate more effectively.
How do you get started on tough topics? Here are a couple of possibilities:
• Talk about talking. Tell the other person that it is hard for you to talk about problems and conflicts. This encourages her or him to invite you to proceed.
• Request permission to raise a topic. Say, “There’s something on my mind. Do you have a few minutes? Is now a good time to tell you about it?” Or say, “There’s something that we need to talk about, but I’m not sure how. Can you help me with it?”
Listen to the Other Side
hearing the other person out is an essential aspect of conflict resolution. Listening gives you information and shows the other person how she or he can better listen to you.
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• Listen actively. The other person is doing the talking, but don’t sit back passively. (It is not helpful to stare off into space or to offer a begrudging “mm-hmm” now and then to be polite.) Listen actively by maintaining eye contact. Show that you understand the other person’s feelings by nodding your head when appropriate. Ask helpful questions, such as, “Would you please give me an example?”
• Paraphrase. Recast or restate what the other person is saying to confirm your understanding. If your partner says, “You hardly ever say anything positive to me. I don’t want you to tell me you love me every minute or think about me all the time, but sometimes I wonder how you feel,” you can paraphrase by saying something like: “So it’s sort of hard to know if I care for you.”
• Reinforce the other person for communicating. Even when you disagree, maintain good relations and keep channels of communication open by saying things like, “I appreciate your spending this much time with me,” “I hope you’ll think it’s okay if I continue to see things differently,” or “I’m glad that we had a chance to talk about it.”
• Use unconditional positive regard. Unconditional positive regard refers to enduring feelings of warmth and acceptance that are not contingent on what another person does from minute to minute. When a person disagrees with a lover, he or she can say, “I care for you very much, but it annoys me when you . . .” rather than, “You’re a pig!”
• Learn about the other person’s needs. Listening is basic to learning about another person’s needs, but it can help to go further. Ask questions to draw the other person out.
• Use self-disclosure. Communicate your own feelings and ideas to invite reciprocation. If you want to find out if your roommate is concerned about your relationship with a friend, you can try saying something like, “You know, I have to confess that sometimes I worry that you feel much closer to your sorority sisters than to me. I get the feeling that I play a role in your life, but that there are some things you would only do with them . . .”
• Grant permission for the other person to be honest. You can ask your roommate, instructor, or friend to level with you about an irksome issue. Say that you will try your best to listen carefully and not get upset.
Ask for What You Want (You Just Might Get It)
Ask people to change their behavior—to do something differently, or to stop doing something that annoys you.
• Take responsibility. The first step in making requests lies with you. Take responsibility for what happens to you. If you want other people to change, you must be willing to ask them to change.
• Be specific. Be specific in requesting changes. It may accomplish little to ask your partner to “be nicer to me.” The other person may not realize that her or his behavior is not nice and may not understand your request. It is more useful to say, “I am concerned about your harsh tone of voice with me in front of our friends.”
Deliver Criticism Tactfully
Delivering criticism is a skill. It requires focusing other people’s attention on the problem and changing their behavior without inducing resentment or reducing them to trembling masses of guilt or fear.
• Be tactful. Is it your primary intention to punish the other person or to gain cooperation? If your goal is conflict resolution, be tactful.
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