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Managing Conflict: Six Skills

In a recent article provided by The Gottman Institute, Dr. Gottman has explained to his readers that initially it takes six skills to manage something we partake in often, which is conflict. While we all fall short of perfection in the area of conflict management, luckily in Gottman’s relationship blog he provides the fundamental skills that are the formation of constructive conflict: Soften Startup, Accept Influence, Make Effective Repairs During Conflict, De-escalate, Psychological Soothing of Self and Partner, and Compromise. His research has shown that when two individuals start an argument it tends to end on the same note it began with.

Here are the skills he has provided in his research that can help lead any couple to have a meaningful and healthy relationship.

1.  Soften Startup. This is where instead of taking an aggressive and destructive approach when you initially start arguing within the first 3-minutes, you will be far happier and more stable in your relationship if you start the initial argument in a soft manner.

2.  Accept Influence or known as Complain but don’t blame. This is where no matter how wrong you think your partner is or at fault do not approach them with accusation or criticism, or it will be very fruitless.

3. Make Effective Repairs During Conflict or known as Make statements that start with “I” instead of “You.” Starting a sentence with “I” instead of “You” automatically sounds less critical and doesn’t put your partner in a position where they feel they have to defend themselves right off the bat. The key is to focus on how you’re feeling, and now how your partner is feeling.

4. De-escalate or known as Describe what is happening, but don’t evaluate or judge. This is when you describe in a mature manner what is going on in the situation instead of blaming or accusing your partner. Although you may be ready to blow fire and act out impulsively, it is always better to hold your tongue. This is more likely to lead to your partner to consider your point of view.

5. Psychological Soothing of Self and Partner or known as Be polite and appreciative. Just because you and your partner are in a tiff does not mean that your affection and respect for them has completely vanished. Adding sentimental phrases like “please” can help maintain that warm connection even during a situation that is difficult.

6. Compromise is key to a healthy relationship. We have all experienced situations where nothing is going right, and we feel overwhelmed and exhausted. This most often leads to an individual letting out all their bottled-up emotions. The best thing is to not hold onto all these issues you feel and wait for forever to finally air out your emotions, this will only lead to escalation. Generally, the issues we bring in a heated situation may sometimes not be exactly related to what we are truly trying to say where it feels like both partners are not reaching a solution. This is where compromise comes into place, come to a settlement with your partner and meet in the middle so it does not lead to any unnecessary disagreements.