Relationship Fitness

S11 Conflict E5: Four Strong Conflict Strategies

In “Relationship Workout for Men,” Season 11 Episode 5 titled “Four Strong Conflict Strategies,” Vince offers an antidote to the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” with tactics to sustain and strengthen relationships. He highlights strategies such as staying calm, speaking non-defensively, validating your partner, and over-learning from each disagreement. Vince explains that these strategies help to maintain composure and engage in productive communication, even when anger threatens to take over. By advocating for empathy as the underpinning of these strategies, Vince encourages listeners to approach conflicts with a mindset geared towards resolution and understanding, paving the way for a healthier partnership.

 Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 11, Episode 5: Four Strong Conflict Strategies

To help combat the four slippery slope weak conflict strategies — criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling — are four strong strategies that Gottman says are vital to improve one’s relationship. These are calm down, non-defensiveness, validation and over-learn. In short, these four strategies help you to keep your wits about you and keep playing it relationship strong.

Let’s explore each one.

Strong Conflict Strategy #1: Calm Down

Although this may seem obvious and easy to do in concept, this strategy is basically about calming down in the heat of the moment. If you feel your adrenaline flowing, anxiety rising and/or anger rushing over you like a massive hurricane, then slow down! As mentioned earlier, breathe! If need be, refrain from even talking until you have relaxed enough to have some control over what might come vomiting from your angered, rabid mouth.

Strong Conflict Strategy #2: Speak Non-defensively

No matter what’s in-coming from her, don’t get defensive. There’s nothing she can say that can hurt you unless you allow her words to cut you. As such, there is no need to speak defensively. Rather, simply speak your story and clarify hers.

If you feel a need to clarify a point of confusion (even if this point has come at you from a place of an attack), then speak calmly and factually. You might say something like: “It seems like there might be some confusion here. Let me try to clarify things by sharing a bit more detail around the facts of the situation as I see them.”

More on this in Season 13: Communication.

Strong Conflict Strategy #3: Validate

Even if you’re feeling extremely upset, think you’re being wrongly accused, or your head is full of things you want to say while she tells her story, be sure to continue to make a Strong Communication Play by validating what your partner has to say. 

Basically, let your partner know in no uncertain terms that you understand what she’s saying and that you have compassion for how she’s feeling. When you do this, you may find that she’s not actually looking for a solution from you to whatever issue is troubling her. Rather, she may simply feel a need to unload the garbage she has floating in her head. And even if her garbage may threaten to stink up your disposition, you may do very well just to let her know you hear her and understand what she’s going through. There’s no need to dump more garbage on the pile. And who knows, you might discover some nuggets of insight worth investigating.

Remember, validating her feelings doesn’t mean you agree to what she’s saying. To validate is simply to say you hear her and you have compassion for her story. At least give her the dignity to listen to her whole story and react with no negative judgment. Remember, in her world (in the present moment), her story is completely valid.

Strong Conflict Strategy #4: Over-learn.

Over-learning is about trying to learn what works and what doesn’t from each argument. Basically, you’re learning the unique and healthy ways in which you two can communicate, especially when one or both of you might be simmering or erupting in anger.

For example, if you find in an argument that a particular thing you did or said seemed to have positive results, then by all means learn from this, and try it again in subsequent discussions! On the other hand, if you find certain things you do or say just make things worse, then stop (unless, of course, you’re into hitting your head against the same wall)!

So, those are four relationship strong conflict strategies: Calm down, speak non-defensively, validate and over-learn. 

And as it turns out there’s a common behavior that provides a foundation for all these four strong conflict strategies and that’s empathy, the topic of our next episode.

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