The A-B-C’s of Fair Fighting and Conflict Resolution

(An excerpt from Cultivating Love: Enhancing Communication by Dr Ken McGill)

What follows are some simple suggestions to assist you and your partner to respectfully resolve any conflict that is currently creating an impasse between the two of you.

A   Attack the issue and not the person. Remember, the other person is not your enemy, but your teammate. Stay in your Adult Ego State and respond accordingly.

B   Brainstorm Solutions. Use your creativity as you approach the issue at hand. Ask questions that generate discussion and possible solutions to the matter(s) at hand.

C   Calm things down by taking a TIME OUT. Time Outs are to last for 20 minutes and up to 24 hours, and are marked by you brainstorming solutions to the impasse.

Deal with the Here and Now. Stay with the presenting issue, and use your communication tools to resolve one issue at a time. Stay present; don’t overwhelm.

E   Equal time goes to both participants. Use a 3 minute Egg timer to ensure that both of you have the same amount of condensed time to discuss your side of the issue.

F    Focus on solving the problem. After you discuss what you think and feel about the issue, make sure you suggest a specific, concrete and measureable solution.

G   Give your Adult Ego State (ES) the best opportunity to help you be successful in your conversation, by removing your Adolescent Ego State from the “Chairman” position.

Honesty, openness and being direct about your thoughts and feelings are the best practice in communication. Make sure you are truthful about your feelings.

I    “I” messages provide the best way for you to report what you think, what you feel, and the use of “I” messages helps the listener to feel like you are not judging them.

J    Justification, Rationalization, Minimization, Projection, Denial and other Ego Defenses block your progress due to their nature, which is to deflect responsibility.

K   Keep your discussion limited to 30 – 60 minutes at a time. You both need to be at your optimum when you discuss matters. Call a truce, but do return to the issue.

L   Listen and use your communication skills to hear and pay attention to what your spouse wants you to know. Retire defensiveness and rebuttals; focus on listening and absorbing.

Make every effort to move beyond your Wounded Child Ego State to your Adult ES as soon as you are able. It is your Adult ES that resolves conflict and solves problems.

N   Noutheteo is the Greek word for Admonishment. It means to warn another of an error, alert them to the consequences, and show them the way to correct the matter.

Offer any “Olive Branch” behavior that facilitates safety, peace, collaboration, insight, empathy, cooperation, sincerity, integrity, consideration and of course, love.

P   Paraphrase what you think you heard your spouse say. This is one of the best ways to help him or her feel listened to, understood, and that you “got it.”

Quietly pray for God to help you to hear what you need to hear, say what you need to say, and to provide respect to your spouse, even in the midst of your conflict.

R   Remember that Respect, Intimacy and Knowledge all come from the same Hebrew root Yada. Growing in knowledge of the issue facilitates respect and intimacy.

S   Speak softly and be aware of the other ways you communicate non-verbally. Try to be aware of your voice, your facial features, your posture, your breathing, etc.

T   Take Responsibility. If you are requesting some form of behavior change from your spouse, make sure that you hold yourself accountable to make positive changes as well.

U   Understanding, a goal of any discussion, occurs when the puzzle pieces you are working through “lock into place.” Understanding is the result and outcome of your work.

V   Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor are stances that prohibit you from taking Responsibility, Brainstorming Options and Negotiating “win-win” outcomes.

W Withdraw with an explanation. If you are getting too heated and feel you need a time-out, request one, and use the time to hit the psychological “Reset and Renew” button.

X   “X” out the “D” (Divorce) word, and any other incendiary words, threats, or manipulative phrases that you may be tempted to use in order to get your way.

Y   Yelling, Name Calling and other forms of Verbal or Physical Abuse facilitate intimidation, increase alienation, stir retaliation, and impede reconciliation.

Z   Zoom in quickly on what your spouse is thinking, feeling and may be suggesting as a possible solution. Consider what you could give, and give what you are able.


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