In any relationship, disagreements sooner or later arise: the boss does not pay for overtime work, the neighbors listen to music at maximum volume and interfere with sleep, the partner ignores his part of the household duties. Often the discussion of the problem takes place in a raised voice: the participants argue, get personal, blame each other. It would seem that the best way to maintain a relationship is to avoid conflict situations. However, in this case, the problem will not be solved, and negative emotions will accumulate like a snowball and may break out at the wrong moment.
There is a way to constructively resolve disagreements – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron MacMillan and Al Switzler write about it in the book Difficult Conversations. The authors offer simple tools that allow you to calmly discuss problems and find solutions that are beneficial to all parties to the conflict.
Let’s use the recommendations from the book on the example of a domestic conflict of a conditional couple – Irina and Oleg.
The essence of the conflict lies in the uneven distribution of household duties: most of the cases fall on the shoulders of Irina, while Oleg reluctantly performs individual assignments, but more often finds excuses. Irina considers the current way of life unfair: both work, which means that they should do the housework together. The girl wants to talk to her husband and redistribute duties equally.
How to behave in a conflict situation
1. Start with yourself
Answer the questions as honestly and in detail as possible.
- What do I want to get as a result of the conflict for myself? For example: “I want more time for rest and favorite activities”, “I want a fair distribution of household chores”.
- What do I want to get as a result of the conflict for my opponent? For example: “I want Oleg to have time for rest and favorite activities.”
- What do I want to achieve for our relationship? For example: “I want cleaning to be no longer a reason for quarrels”, “I want to spend more time together.”
Questions will help you understand your true motives and more consciously approach the dialogue. “I want Oleg to help with cleaning” in our example is just a strategy for achieving real goals – equality in everyday life and free time.
2. Watch for signals
In a conflict, it is important that the parties feel safe. In this case, the participants communicate on an equal footing: calmly, frankly and respectfully. However, conflicts are often accompanied by strong emotions and sometimes it is difficult to understand from what point the conversation went wrong.
There are a number of signs that will help you recognize the moment of loss of trust and security.
- Physical reactions: fists clenched, eyebrows moved, tears welled up in his eyes, a lump in his throat, his voice trembled.
- Emotions: fear, resentment, anger, sadness.
- Behavior: indifference, withdrawal from the dialogue, categoricalness, labeling, insults, threats.
3. Restore security
When you have caught dangerous signals, it’s time to restore safety.
- Apologize if you lost your temper or showed disrespect to the interlocutor.
- If the interlocutor misunderstood you, explain what you really mean: “I don’t mean to say that you are lazy, I notice and appreciate your help. I mean, since we both work, it would be fair to share household chores equally.”
- Find a common goal that serves the interests of both parties: “Let’s think about how to maintain order with minimal effort.”
4. Control your emotions
When we are overcome by strong feelings, it is difficult to continue the conversation in a constructive way. Sometimes fear, resentment or anger is so strong that you want to completely leave the dialogue. To avoid getting trapped by emotions, ask yourself questions that will help you look at the situation differently. We will analyze unproductive behavior strategies and ways to change them.
Victim – “It’s not my fault”
The question to ask yourself is “Am I trying to ignore my role in creating this problem?”
Spending free time cleaning is Irina’s choice. It’s not my fault that she doesn’t have enough time to rest.
Am I trying to ignore my role in creating this problem?
If I had helped Irina, she would have had more time to rest. Now she simply has no other choice – otherwise the house will be dirty.
Villain – “It’s all your fault”
The question to ask yourself is: “Why would a reasonable, decent and rational person do this?”
Oleg is looking for excuses not to participate in the cleaning, because he is lazy.
Why could a reasonable, decent and rational person do this?
At the beginning of the month, Oleg said that the boss had entrusted him with a responsible task with burning deadlines. Since then, he sleeps badly and stays late at work. Maybe he’s tired?
Helpless – “I can’t do anything else in this situation”
The question to ask yourself is: “What can I do to move towards achieving what I want?”
I can’t convince Oleg, I’ll have to clean it myself.
What can I do to move towards achieving what I want?
I will create an environment where cleaning is easy and fun. I will reduce the cleaning time with the help of modern technology. I delegate part of the work to the cleaning service.
5. Be respectful
Share facts, not opinions
Grade: “You’re lazy. You’re always looking for excuses.”
Fact: “The last three times you refused to help me with the cleaning, and I cleaned up by myself.”
Explain how you see the situation
Be consistent: before drawing conclusions, describe the chain of events that led you to these thoughts.
Badly: “You don’t appreciate my work.”
Good: “Last Sunday, you refused to help me with the cleaning, and I cleaned up by myself. And when I returned from work on Monday, I found a dirty stove in the kitchen, and a stain from spilled tea on the floor in the bedroom. I felt offended: I cleaned up all Sunday, and on Monday the apartment was dirty again. I got the feeling that you don’t appreciate my work.”
Avoid being categorical
Remember that the interlocutor has the right to an opinion different from yours. Make it clear that you respect the other person’s point of view.
Badly: “In families where both partners work, household chores should be shared equally. Anyone who thinks otherwise is retrograde and sexist!”
Good: “I think since we both work, it would be fair to share household chores equally. What do you think about that?”
6. Listen thoughtfully
Ask for the opinion of the interlocutor
Maintain a safe environment for him to speak freely: don’t interrupt, don’t get distracted, stay calm and friendly.
Pay attention to non-verbal cues
If the facial expression or actions of the interlocutor contradict what he says, point out the discrepancy. Probably, the interlocutor is not completely frank, because he no longer feels safe.
— Oleg, what do you think about cleaning every Sunday?
– I don’t care. We’ll do as you say.
“You say you don’t care, but you look unhappy at the same time. If this option does not suit you, we can discuss another.
– You know, this option is really not the best. I just didn’t want to argue again.
Help the interlocutor to express his position
If, in a safe atmosphere, the other person still does not finish something, make a guess about his thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it only takes a little push for a person to readily continue.
– Oleg, you probably think that you will have less time for rest and your favorite activities?
– You’re right. I’m afraid to drown in the home routine.
agree out loud
If the interlocutor voiced an idea with which you agree, say so. In most cases, people continue to argue over minor disagreements, losing sight of the fact that they agree with each other on the main and truly important points.
— Irina, I don’t want to spend the whole day off cleaning.
– I agree, on the weekend I want to relax, and not clean up. We can devote 15 minutes to cleaning on weekdays, and leave the weekend for our favorite things. How do you like this option?
7. Come up with a plan
It is not enough to negotiate correctly and come to a joint decision. It is necessary to draw up a plan for the implementation of what was conceived: to think over specific steps, agree on deadlines, distribute responsibility. Otherwise, the agreements will remain words, and the conflict will not be resolved.
As a result of the conflict, Oleg and Irina figured out how to cope with cleaning with minimal effort and not lose motivation.
- Allocate money from the family budget for household appliances: a dishwasher, a robot vacuum cleaner, a slow cooker. Deadline: Until the end of the week. Responsible: Oleg.
- Delegate the cleaning service to clean the hood from grease and dirt. Deadline: Until the end of the week. Responsible: Irina.
- Cook dinners for 2-3 days together. Listen to podcasts while cooking. Start today.
- On weekdays, after dinner, it’s jet cleaning time. The timer counts down 15 minutes, you need to have time to clean up your area. Start today.
- Add game elements to cleaning. Assign points to each household chore: throw out the garbage – 3, wipe the dust – 5, vacuum – 10, wash the toilet – 15. Enter the points in the table, and summarize at the end of the month. The loser prepares a surprise for the winner: a massage, a cake or a book – any pleasant little thing. And if the rivals scored the same number of points, then you can arrange entertainment for two. The start of the game is the beginning of next month.
What to do if the conflict cannot be resolved
In an ideal world, the parties to the conflict respect each other’s needs, control emotions and find a joint solution to the problem. In reality, there is a possibility that the conversation will not work out, the conflict will not be resolved the first time or at all. Evgeny Ilyin in the book “Psychology of Communication and Interpersonal Relations” identifies three unfavorable outcomes of a conflict situation: avoiding conflict, confrontation and coercion. Below we will consider what can be done with each of them.
When the interlocutor leaves the conversation
Obviously, you should not start a dialogue if a person is sick, experiences strong emotions (anger, resentment, sadness) or is busy. However, it should be remembered that the interlocutor may hide behind excuses in order to avoid discussing the problem.
1. Be persistent and agree on specific deadlines
— Oleg, I value our relations very much. It saddens me that lately we often fight over cleaning. Can we discuss this problem now?
– I watch football, come on later.
Badly: “You don’t care about our relationship!”
Good: “When does the match end? Can we talk after him?”
2. Ask why the other person is avoiding the conversation
Ask or suggest. Perhaps he is uncomfortable discussing certain topics due to upbringing (for example, sex) or because of past negative experiences. It is important to maintain a safe atmosphere: do not pressure, do not blame, do not criticize.
– Oleg, I noticed that you are uncomfortable discussing cleaning. You may think that I will criticize you, but I just want to calmly discuss the problem and find a joint solution.
3. Explain that it is important to discuss the issue now
After all, otherwise in the future, negative emotions will accumulate like a snowball.
– Oleg, lately we often swear because of cleaning. The longer the problem exists, the more the quality of our relations suffers: irritation and mutual resentment accumulate. Let’s talk.
Repeated avoidance of dialogue without good reasons can demonstrate the indifference of the interlocutor to your needs. Consider whether you are ready to continue a relationship in which the other party is not interested.
When you can’t reach an agreement
You and your interlocutor cannot find a common solution in any way: everyone insists on his point of view. When all reasonable arguments are used, insults, insults, claims are used – the dialogue develops into a scandal.
1. Set the rules
They will help you stay within the framework of a constructive conversation. For example, use only “I-statements”: instead of reproaches and accusations, talk about your own thoughts and emotions that arose in response to the current situation.
Badly: “Oleg, you are lazy. Instead of helping me with the cleaning, you watch TV for hours. You treat me like a free servant.”
Good: “Oleg, I consider it unfair how household duties are now distributed. It saddens me that I do a lot of things alone: I cook, wash dishes, clean the apartment on weekends. Because of this, I have little time for rest and favorite activities. I want to redistribute responsibilities.”
2. Invite a moderator
An impartial third party will help guide the dialogue in a peaceful direction and find a common solution. A family psychologist, a colleague from a neighboring department, or a mutual friend can become a moderator – the main thing is that the person is not interested in the conflict.
When the opponent imposes his conditions
Sometimes the interlocutor tries to impose his point of view at any cost, even if this threatens to worsen or break off relations. He puts forward the conditions “be patient or leave”, “submit or wait for the consequences”: “Irina, I believe that a woman should do the cleaning, so I won’t help in principle. If you don’t like this situation, live with your mother”, “Oleg, if you don’t help me around the house, I will divorce you.”
Coercion is the least favorable outcome of the conflict: the participant demonstrates disrespect for your needs and intolerance for other people’s views.
Explain to the interlocutor that such categoricalness is inappropriate: by joint efforts, you can find a solution that suits everyone. If the interlocutor continues to insist on an outcome that is convenient only for him, think about whether you need an unequal relationship, where you constantly have to endure and give in.
Memo of a participant in the conflict
one. Answer the following questions to better prepare for the dialogue:
- What do I want for myself?
- What do I want to get for my opponent?
- What do I want for our relationship?
2. Watch for signals in order to recognize the moment of loss of safety in time: physical reactions, emotions, behavior.
3. Restore Security:
- look for a common goal.
four. Control emotions. Ask yourself questions that will help you look at the situation differently:
- Am I trying to ignore my role in creating this problem?
- Why could a reasonable, decent and rational person do this?
- What can I do to move towards achieving what I want?
5. Speak respectfully:
- share facts;
- consistently tell about your vision of the situation;
- avoid being categorical.
6. Listen carefully:
- be interested in the opinion of the interlocutor;
- point out inconsistencies between words and emotions;
- make an assumption about the thoughts and feelings of the opponent;
- agree openly.
7. Think of a plan:
- describe specific steps;
- agree on deadlines;
- distribute responsibility.