There are three steps to conflict resolution that, when successfully carried out, will lead to better relationships, better communication, deeper intimacy, less resentment, and a more fulfilling relationship. Here’s where the difficulty lies in all relationships…getting to those three steps. Most of the time, when you have conflict or tension with your partner, you tend to live in a reactive state. Living in damage control mode or reacting in anger, disappointment, frustration, or withdrawal becomes the norm. A proactive state is where you need to live in order to achieve harmony and reach emotional maturity.
Ninety percent of arguments arise when one or both partners have unmet needs. This leads to unhappiness, which leads to anger, which eventually leads to a demand that ultimately leads to a stand off or a resentful compromise. The topic you find yourselves quarrelling over typically is never the real issue. It is usually the acted out issue. There is an underlying unmet need that is the original source.
The best skill you can learn, if you don’t possess it already, is a deep understanding of yourself, your emotional needs, your physical needs, your sexual needs, and your functional or practical needs. You see, by not being familiar with your own needs, you may react each time those needs are not fulfilled. By having a deep understanding of your needs ahead of time, you can be proactive and exercise the fine art of negotiation with your beloved. Here are the three steps of negotiation:
Step 1 Awareness- You cannot confront your partner about an issue unless you understand the issue yourself. If you find yourself complaining, criticizing, screaming, demanding, or putting your partner down, there may be a good chance you are not aware of what you are in need of. Take a deep breath, relax, and ask yourself "What is my need?"
Practice feeling emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, and shame. These are the internal alarms that alert you that there is an unfulfilled need. Pay attention to these negative emotions. You have been equipped with them for a reason. Be aware that for every need you have, if left unmet, you will most likely experience a fear or insecurity behind that need.
Step 2 Make a Request – The request is probably the most powerful communication tool you have. For men, you may be better off putting that request in writing since men tend to be visual. Don’t depend on your partner to automatically meet your request. Seventy-five percent of the time your partner will not give you what you are asking for. He or she has not lived your life and do not realize the premium you put on this need. It is up to you to communicate this by being calm, clear, concise, and brief.
Now ask yourself if this request is tangible or unreasonable. Remember who your partner is—their strengths, weaknesses, limitations and personality. Can he or she realistically meet this need? Try to keep in mind this need was most likely inside you long before you ever met your partner.
Ten percent of this need originates in the present and ninety percent is linked to your past. Be honest and transparent about the origins of this need with yourself and your partner. Remember your partner is not a mind reader.
Step 3 Negotiate – Every need is valid and should not be dismissed. You want to resolve issues in the present or resentment will collect and store in an anger reserve bank. Eventually, the smallest issue ignites it like an emotional time bomb. If your partner is not the talking type, remember to write it down and do not be afraid to put a day and time under the written request for a consultation. Do not take it personally if you do not get your need met immediately. Think about making and keeping a promise between the two of you that you both agree to never say no. Always counter propose, but never say no. Respect the negotiation process.
Being proactive means defining the rules of engagement ahead of time, such as no shouting, using "I need" statements as opposed to "you don’t or you never" statements, no emotional charges, always counter proposing and understanding the origins of the past where the need was birthed. Put these in writing and both of you sign in agreement. This is emotional maturity. One partner will possess a higher maturity and will require taking the lead.
If you both find yourselves at an impasse, the creative solution will most likely be the third option. Remember if any solution does not work for one party, then it is not a solution. Try using this line: "Let me help you understand my issue." Only resolve one issue at a time. The one who has the issue takes the lead and takes personal responsibility for the problem. Do not assume your partner should be proactive about an issue if it is not his or her unmet need. Now try to leave go of a fixed outcome. Be open and curious about agreed upon solutions. Remember this is your beloved and you need this person to help you fulfill this need. Be proactive and draw up a Conflict Resolution Agreement tonight before an issue arises.