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Work out Conflict
This is the essence of
conflict: trying to get the other person to see it your
way. People fight over anything - from the stupid to the
serious. Misunderstandings and conflict happen even in
the best of relationships. Unless you do something
positive, conflict between two people can grow and affect
others as well.
Steps to resolving
mutual respect. Try to understand and accept
the other's point of view without making
judgments about it. Treat each other as equals,
where the tone of voice is caring and the
vocabulary communicates an interest and concern
in relating effectively. Listen to what the other
person is really saying.
- Identify the real
issue. Often, in a heated argument, the
topic being discussed, or argued, is often not
the real issue. You may be discussing the color
of the walls, the time of day that an event
should occur, or a division of responsibilities.
The real issue, however, involves beliefs and
For their four years of marriage, Mark and
Sharon have gone to Mark's parents for the
holidays, and visit them at their summer home.
This year Sharon wants to visit her family for
the holidays. Mark believes they've established a
tradition and it will cause problems if they
don't go as usual. Sharon says it's unfair, and a
fight ensues. Mark and Sharon are locked in a
struggle for power. Until they recognize this, no
solution to the conflict will occur. They need to
respect each other's feelings and search for
common ground. Once they truly listen to each
other, then they are in a position to generate
alternatives which could meet both their needs.
- Seek areas of
agreement. When people enter the conflict,
they start with an agreement - they've agreed to
fight. Conflict takes cooperation - no one can
fight without an opponent. The goal is to change
the agreement from fighting to positive
cooperation by seeking new areas of agreement.
They can begin by asking, "What can I do to
make the relationship more cooperative and
agreeable?" Search for an idea, topic, or
belief that you agree on.
participate in decision-making. After you
have identified the issues and areas of agreement
and disagreement, the next step involves
developing a tentative solution. Brainstorm
ideas, no matter how far-fetched they seem at the
moment. Review all the proposed solutions and
work toward a mutually acceptable one.
- Articulate the
bottom line. Once the solution or agreement
is reached, there needs to be a clear
identification of your role in carrying out the
mutually agreed upon decision and deciding what
is to be done if you or the other person does not
follow through. When you both participate in the
conflict resolution, you can develop agreements
acceptable to both of you and in line with your
shared or common goals. The problem is
mutual, the solution must be mutually
Gary McKay, Ph.D.
is a psychologist in private practice in Tucson, Ariz.,
and director of Communication Motivation and Training
Don Dinkmeyer, Ph.D.
is a psychologist, Fellow of the American Psychological
Association, and director of Communication Motivation and
Training Institute in Florida.
Drs. McKay and Dinkmeyer
are co-authors of several books, including the
three-million copy bestseller, STEP: Systematic
Training for Effective Parenting.
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concerns, critiques, tips and ideas.