As much as we may try, we can’t avoid conflict and have healthy relationships. In this episode with Marriage & Family Therapist Ann Taylor McNiece, we’re sharing some skills to help you engage in healthy discussion and avoid conflict that destroys. While most of this conversation is focused on spouses, these communication skills will impact every relationship in your life and change the dynamic of your household.
Key points from our conversation:
💍 All marriages struggle, but you can choose to engage in a way that shows honor or one that causes destruction. The first 5 to 7 years of marriage are hard with the hardest being the year when you have your first child.
❤️ A sound relationship begins on the firm foundation of knowing each other. Partners should begin by building a “Love Map,” which is the essential guide to your partner’s inner world. In an ideal relationship, you and your partner know each other better than anyone else. Start by listening to each other one minute at a time.
💋 Couples need to be comfortable talking about sex outside the bedroom. You’re also going to need to be able to talk to your kids about sex.
😡 Before engaging in a conflict discussion, emotionally self-regulate so that you can approach the other person softly. A hard approach can cause unwanted conflict. Don’t have conversations when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
🕒 When you feel yourself moving out of your tolerance window, set a time and place to revisit the conversation.
🧠 Teach kids coping skills to use when flooded such as listening to music, watching a funny video on YouTube, or calling a friend.
The “four horsemen” of conflict:
1. Criticism – Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. Criticizing is an attack on your partner at the core of their character.
2. Contempt – When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce.
3. Defensiveness – This is typically a response to criticism. When we feel unjustly accused, we respond in a way that guards us so that we can’t get to the root of the issue.
4. Stonewalling – Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down, and simply stops responding to their partner.