Jun 16, 2021 in Therapy

How to Turn Conflict into Collaboration, When You and Your Partner Disagree

Here are the top five ways to turn argument into learning conversations, and improve your relationship and connection.

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Five ways to turn your arguments into collaboration when you and your partner disagree

We’ve all been there, when our partner says something which upsets, hurts or offends us – and we respond instantly with some pointed jibe of our own. Within minutes we can go from calm to a heated argument, leaving both parties feeling frustrated, unheard, and hurt.

Here are my five tips to empower you to turn your arguments into Learning Conversations.

Since your power is with yourself and not with your partner, it is up to you to take the lead.

1) Listen

Before you can influence another person effectively, you need to get into their world. You need to listen to their story, to explore why they feel what they do, and understand the impact your communication is having on them. You can influence someone far more when they first feel heard and understood, even if you don’t share their views.

2) Change from using a Conflict Frame to an Agreement Frame.

A Conflict Frame is just that – and uses the word “but”. “But” can be one of the most destructive words in the English language, because it deletes whatever has gone before it. When we say, “Yes, but…” all the person usually hears on the other side of the conversation is your objection to what they are saying, leaving them feeling unheard.

Instead of using a Conflict Frame, use an Agreement Frame, and see the difference this makes! This is what some of the world’s top negotiators do. Instead of using the word “but” use the word “and.”

You begin by saying, “I appreciate that, and…” “I respect that, and…” “I understand you feel that way, and…” Using the word “and” immediately creates rapport. The person (theoretically) can’t disagree with you – because you are agreeing with them. Beginning this way creates the Opportunity to take the conversation to a higher level, where you are both exploring the issues with each other.

3) Adopt a Growth Mindset and State Your Purpose

A Growth Mindset as opposed to a Fixed Mindset is the best approach to any problem. To adopt a Growth Mindset and State Your Intention, simply say, “I want to grow and learn out of these experiences, so that we make things/become much better.”

4) Move from Blame to Contribution

Blame looks to the past, focuses on who should be punished, and how we are going to punish them. Contribution focuses on my contribution to creating this situation, looks to the Future, and asks How I am going to make things better?

You see in life we often act like one person is completely innocent and the other person is to blame. In reality what happens is that however innocent one party appears, we both contribute to creating the mess we are in.

Owning my contribution makes me accountable and actually gives me power to do something about it.

My contribution to the situation might be turning up to a date late. My partner’s contribution might be to over-react and say the whole day is ruined.

If we both take responsibility I would learn and say next time I will be on time, and my partner may say she will try not to react and end the date before it’s even started – giving us both a chance to make amends, learning and growing from the experience, and making the relationship more important than being right.

When we come to this level, we are approaching love.

5) Make the Problem Solvable

According to Robert Dilts there are 6 neurological levels. In order, from top to bottom, these are 1) Spirit/God/Source, 2) Identity, 3) Values and Beliefs, 4) Skills and Talents, 5) Behaviour, and 6) Environment.

If you ever walk into an ashram, Church, or a holy place you can see how their spirituality manifests right down through all levels to creating the environment.

What people frequently do in arguments is to chunk up problems from a behavioural to an identity level.

Say you spill a glass of water, the behavioural solution is simply to wipe it up – and on this level problems are imminently solvable. If however you spill a glass of water and I begin to say, “You are such a slob, you are always spilling stuff – remember the time when you split the curry 5 years ago and ruined my computer, this is never going to change is it?” I have brought the issue to the second highest level possible – to an identity level. Issues on this level become almost impossible to resolve

By doing the reverse when you get into difficult situations with your partner, and chunking down issues to the behavioural level, you can make the distinction between someone’s identity – which is good, and their behaviour. This make issues imminently solvable, and helps us to actually see our partner in a much more real, kinder, and wise light – which reflects upon us as a person, and the way we can be in the world and improve our own relationship with our partner.

Combine this with stating your Positive Outcome and you can turn a potential argument into a Learning Conversation.

The more you practice and embody these techniques, the more effective your communication will become. And the more you use a growth mindset with the conscious intention of learning and growing from experiences with your partner, with a willing partner, the closer you will become.

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