Fighting in a relationship is an inevitability. Any time there is a disagreement between 2 people, there is an opportunity for conflict to bubble over into a fight; and the more distance there is between the 2 positions, the more destructive those fights can be.
But what if there was a way to make fights simple, easy, and constructive? They wouldn’t be quite so scary anymore! Well that’s what I want to share with you today! I’ve boiled fights down to 3 basic steps that can carry you through just about any conflict.
Navigate Your Experience
The first step toward having a constructive conflict is understanding your own position. If I don’t know what it is that I am needing, then it becomes impossible for me to tell you. So keep your needs in sight when you have a disagreement!
The Truth About Anger
I’ve talked about anger before, but I want to share a secret about it: You are almost never actually angry because of the thing you’re angry about.
Generally speaking, anger crystallizes from another, deeper emotion. We get angry at our partner for not doing the dishes because we feel taken for granted. We go into a rage at being told to calm down because we’re feeling invalidated. By speaking to these deeper feelings, we get into the driver’s seat of our emotional experience, and can actually talk about what we need!
Validate Your Partner’s Experience
So now that we have a good picture of what is going on in our own world, take some time to understand where your partner is coming from! By seeking to better understand their position, you open yourself up to moving toward them in the discussion (which we will come back to in a bit.)
Egocentrism, Not Just for Kids and Teenagers!
Egocentrism is the term for the innate belief that the world revolves around us as individuals. As infants, we have to learn that just because something is out of sight doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. As we grow, our egocentrism doesn’t really go away, it just changes shape.
In adults, egocentrism tends to look like the Fundamental Attribution Error; which is the concept that we overestimate the environmental influences on our own behavior, and overestimate the personal influences on others. (In other words, I cut you off because you were in my blind spot; you cut me off because you’re a jerk!)
Validating one another’s perspective requires a suspension of egocentrism; you can’t see the truth in another person’s perspective if you are only looking for how they’re in the wrong.
Negotiate to Find Resolution
Once you have a good idea of what you need, as well as what your partner needs; you can have a productive conversation about how you can both get your needs met! Negotiating is about seeking the best possible resolution for both partners.
Yield to Win
John Gottman, Ph.D describes the behavior of working together to come up with solutions “Yielding to Win.” What this means that if I understand your needs, and you understand mine; we can prioritize meeting each other’s needs and meet somewhere in the middle. This gives you the unique power to actually argue FOR each other’s needs, instead of trying to win all the time!
Navigate, Validate, Negotiate
So there you have it: 3 simple steps to making your conflicts simple, approachable, and constructive. Navigate your emotional experience and dig down to figure out what it is that you need. Validate your partners needs, and find the truth in their experience. Negotiate on one another’s behalf so that you can meet in the middle and grow your connection to one another!