5 Steps to Change from Conflict To Communication

Good communication in a marriage is not something that just happens simply because two people want it to happen, good communication is a skill, and just like any other set of skills, it only improves with commitment, a good mindset and constant practice, preferably with the co-operation of your partner.

Like learning any new skill, when you practice these steps they will initially feel awkward, cumbersome, not quite right, unnatural, or even that they don’t work or are confusing to you both.

However, it is through practice that it will eventually come together…. your thoughts, your intentions, your feelings, your brain and critically what comes out of your mouth… but it requires a commitment to practice.

The five steps are:

Step 1 : Don’t Run Away With Assumptions

Find out what is really going on. Do a reality check.

There are two major obstacles that impede effective communication in a marriage.However,

First: Assumptions about the problem or issue: The initial problem arises from the lack of evidence to back up the assumption that is being made about what one’s partner is thinking or feeling.

Second: The difficulty comes from the fact that the reaction, whether defensive or aggressive, is all based on that assumption rather than actual evidence.

A simple way to do a ‘reality check’ is to ask the following questions…

  1. “What’s your experience of this issue or problem so that I can better understand what’s going on for you?”
  2. “Why do you think that I might be upset?”
  3. “So you have this experience and I have that experience, where’s the disparity?”
  4. “Where do you think things went wrong?”
  5. “What is it in our communication?”
  6. “What do you think is happening?”

Lastly, you can say… “This is what I am thinking and feeling…”

The questions asked have the effect of inviting your partner to share their realtity with you instead of attacking you. This approach uses emotional intelligence to stop the situation for escalating.

Step 2 : Always Try To Use A Neutral Tone

In order to effectively contain your emotions, it is important to be aware of your reactions and take the time to choose how best to express yourself. This does not mean ignoring your feelings, rather, it is a method of allowing yourself the space and time to think through what you want to say before you act. You should also be conscious of the tone of your voice, as being too charged can lead to your partner feeling threatened or attacked, resulting in a defensive reaction. Therefore, it is essential to work hard to keep your voice neutral and controlled, even if you are feeling extremely emotional.

You might be feeling incredibly agitated and want to discuss the issue with your partner, however, it can be hard to remain composed when you are so emotional. That is why it is important to let them know how you are feeling, so that they can better understand the situation. You could say to your partner, “I am feeling so worked-up right now, and I want to have a productive conversation with you, but it’s difficult when I’m so overwhelmed. I need to tell you why I’m so upset, so that we can come to a resolution.”

Step 3 : Use The “I” At The Beginning Of Your Sentence

In managing both conflict and differences as they show up in a relationship, it is important to use ‘I’ statements.

When addressing the conflict, it is important to avoid using an aggressive statement such as “You had a go at me, you put me down in front of the kids. That made me really angry, who do you think you are?”. This type of statement will only serve to further escalate the conflict rather than help to resolve it. Instead, it is important to attempt to defuse the situation by using calming language and addressing the issue in a way that is non-confrontational. Your goal should always be to de-escalate and diminish the conflict, rather than increase it.

A couple sitting together watching the sunset

A better way to being the conversation with your partner might be….. “I would like to propose a different approach to how we interact with each other. This morning, your comment to me was extremely hurtful and demeaning. Even if it was not your intention, it still had a very strong effect on me. It made me incredibly angry, and I felt the need to step away for a couple of days, so I could process my emotions. I would greatly appreciate it if you could be mindful of how you talk to me and create a mutual, loving environment in our relationship.”

Step 4 : Understand The Difference Between Assertive And Aggressive Communication

An example of assertive communication is taking the initiative to express your feelings in a direct and honest way. In this example, I’m conveying disappointment that the agreed-upon parenting responsibilities were not being shared equally. I’m also making it clear that it is important to me to feel equal in our marriage and that I need to know that agreements will be honoured. I am expressing my feelings calmly and not placing blame on the other person. This helps to create an atmosphere where my feelings can be validated and the other person can be open to understanding.

In contrast to the style of communication which is aggressive such as, ‘Well, you said that you were going to step up and do more of the housework and do more with the kids. What have you done, and look what do I have to do – hold your hand and show you what to do each time.” It is much more beneficial to use positive communication techniques in order to share needs and expectations. Instead of implying criticism, it is better to express your thoughts in a more constructive and understanding manner.

In this example, it is plain to see that the other partner will likely feel threatened and attacked, leading to them either withdrawing physically from the marriage or retreating within themselves emotionally. This is an undesired outcome for both parties as it decreases the connection between the two and ultimately can have a detrimental effect on the marriage.

When feeling attacked or threatened, a person will often withdraw as a protective measure, whether it be from their environment, or from a situation or even from the relationship itself. This withdrawal can come in many forms, such as refusing to engage in conversation, becoming defensive and/or pushing away any advances from the other partner. It can also lead to physical or emotional distance between the two as they either actively try to distance themselves, or the other partner may feel a subconscious push away.

In order to prevent the other partner from feeling attacked or threatened, it is important to be mindful of how one speaks. This includes speaking in a calm and respectful manner, avoiding being critical or judgemental, and truly listening to the other person before responding. Additionally, it is important to try to be understanding in the situation and to think about how their words or actions may make the other person feel.

It is also beneficial to ensure that both partners make an effort to connect with each other on a regular basis. This could be through taking time out to talk, taking part in activities together, or simply spending time with one another. This can help to strengthen the connection between the two, and encourages a feeling of safety and security within the relationship.

It is also important to remember that communication is key in any relationship. When communicating with the other partner, it is essential to be honest and open, and to avoid any negative language or tones. It is also important to remember to take the time to listen and understand how the other person is feeling, and to acknowledge their feelings.

Couple talking in the kitchen

Step 5 : Don’t Use ‘Should’ Statements On Your Partner

AS soon as you start saying to your partner that… “You should” )pointing your finger of course!), your partner is higly likely to shut down and become defensive. A More effective and respectful way to sat it is… “Have you though about doing such and such”, or “I wonder if you could come home early two nights a week and you start dinner,” or “I would really appreciate it if you did such and such”, instead of saying “YOur really should be doing this or that.” It’s a way of letting your partner know that you are a team member with these matters. so don’t SHOULD your partner. The rong goal is to resolve the conflict, the right goal is to make the process work. Remember, all good things in life take effort, and beieve or not, the reward itself is in the effort. Some couples need a little direction to get it right and this is where couples counselling will be of great help to you.

When couples experience difficulty in their relationship, one of the most common pitfalls is when one partner is telling the other what they “should” do. Using this type of language is often seen as judgmental and can lead to the other partner feeling defensive and shut down. If you are looking for ways to communicate effectively with your partner, it is important to be respectful and mindful of their feelings. Instead of telling them what they should be doing, try asking them questions such as “have you thought about doing this” or “I wonder if you could come home early two nights a week and start dinner”. This is a much more effective way of allowing your partner to know that you are on the same team.

It is important to remember that resolving conflicts in a relationship takes effort and that the rewards are found in the effort itself. Sometimes couples need a little direction in order to get it right. This is where couples counselling can be a great help. Through couples counselling, couples can learn more about communication, conflict resolution, and how to work together to strengthen their relationship. The counsellor will also be able to provide guidance on how to best navigate difficult conversations and support the couple in understanding each other’s perspective.

Overall, communication is key in any relationship, and it is important to be mindful of how you interact with each other. Instead of telling your partner what they should do, try to communicate in a respectful and open manner. This will help to ensure that both parties feel respected and heard and will help to foster a stronger connection. Couples counselling can also be a great way to help couples learn to communicate more effectively and to understand each other’s perspective. By following these tips, couples can work together to build a strong and healthy relationship.

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