Resolving disagreements is a critical skill that all people can learn.
Unresolved conflict can lead to bad fights. A bad fight is one that seriously alienates people but never resolves the cause of the problem. As a result relationships can build up bitterness, uncontrolled anger, hatred, and in more extreme cases this leads to divorce, violence, and abuse. In all relationships there are disagreements. Conflict is not the problem, it’s not knowing how to effectively argue that creates difficulty.
What many people lack is the skill to discuss disagreements and resolve them.
Specifically, they need the ability to discuss serious problems, reach an agreed plan to resolve them, and then put that plan into action.
Here’s some ideas to help get there
1. Recognise the little things that bother you before they build up until one of you explodes the issue into a large fight. If you are angry about something, try to talk about it with the person within 48 hours or otherwise let it go.
2. If the person doesn’t want to discuss the matter, set an appropriate time with them within the next day or so to have your discussion. Discuss where and when they feel most comfortable discussing things. Let the other person have input or take turns having your input.
3. To have an effective discussion means you know what the issue is. Then, both of you can stick to the subject. This also means not bringing up past history.
4. Keep the discussion between the two of you. Don't bring in third parties until you have reached an agreement to do so together.
5. Listen to one another fully. Don’t interrupt. This includes watching body language. Look at one another while you speak. Notice how you use language and tone of voice. Keep calm no matter what and take a break if things get too heated.
6. Try to use 'I' sentences instead of you sentences. This is so you don’t blame one another and make accusations. This also helps focus on a problem-solving attitude toward the issues, versus one of blame. Problem solving is much more practical and leads people in a different “and more productive” direction than blame. Assigning responsibility is useful to the degree it helps to generate solutions. Blame has a component of punishment attached.
7. Finally you can learn to take responsibility for your anger: You may think, “How dare he say that! He has no right” but this is your reaction to what was said and this may not help resolve the disagreement. When angry, you may need to discuss the issue at another time, or hold your discussion in a coffee shop (where the presence of others will keep both of you from yelling or insulting one another). Alternatively, you can “argue” in writing. The advantage of writing to one another is that you may end up explaining your position more clearly, and are likely to remain respectful, as you commit your thoughts and words to paper.
Overall it is hard to keep objective and resolve disagreements, however everyone can improve how they manage themselves during these times and work towards how things can be different for both of you once the issue is discussed or resolved.
Christine Castle, Counsellor & Family Therapist