Mandy Kloppers

How to deal with conflict in relationships


couple arguing photo

How to deal with conflict in relationships

Deal with the problem, not the person

Focus on resolving the issue rather than blaming the other person. Blame never solves anything and leads to defensiveness. The other person will stop listening and want to defend themselves if you are insulting them or verbally attacking them. Once a conversation becomes insulting, the interaction is no longer productive. If a disagreement gets personal, pause the conversation. Act like an adult as much as possible.

Use reflective listening

Often, we focus more on getting our own point across instead of really listening to what the other person is trying to tell us. Get into the habit of repeating back to the other person what they have said to you, in your own words. This shows them that you are really listening to them and opens the way to better communication and to both people feeling understood.

In fact, reflective listening is an essential part of fostering civil discourse in communication both in personal and professional relationships. Being able to accept opposing views and different perspectives, opens gateways to the resolution of important issues and helps your partner feel valued and mutually respected.

Use “I” statements

When sharing a concern, start your sentence with “I”. For example: “I feel hurt when you  don’t tell me you’ll be late”. With this sentence format we show that we are taking responsibility for our own emotion rather than blaming our partner. The alternative sentence – “You never tell me when you are going to be late” will often cause the other person to close down and become defensive. Try to avoid using words such as “you always” or “you never”.

Know when to take time out

Know when to call a break if the conversation gets personal, insulting or stops becoming resolution focused. Spend some time apart to cool down and only return when you both feel able to listen and move forward in order to find a solution.

Work towards a resolution

Disagreements are part of most relationships. If it becomes clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead where you compromise and negotiate towards something that you both find acceptable. Ask yourself whether this conflict/disagreement really matters that much to you or whether you are willing to make concessions for the sake of the relationship. Sometimes it is better to be happy instead of right!

Mandy X