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Don't Avoid Tough Conversations

People often avoid tough conversations as a way to avoid conflict. The problem is that avoiding tough conversations simply lead to more conflict in the long run. You may momentarily avoid the unpleasant, but it will come back to bite you hard.

It is easiest for us to talk about things that happened in the past or that happened to someone else. It can be especially difficult to bring up a problem that has just occurred with the person who, in your view, has caused or contributed to the problem. It is so much more difficult to say Sherry, “I am upset with you right now.” than it is to say, “I was upset with you a few months ago.” It is also so much easier to talk about how either of you is upset with someone else. Hence the reason that many people talk about others rather than talking to them.

Even though it may be difficult, it is important for you to own your feelings and take responsibility for being honest with your partner. If you want to have a meaningful relationships, it is necessary to find your courage and have the tough conversations.

The following are some tips to help you make the most of difficult situations:

1. Remember that avoiding the problem just creates more problems. You are not keeping anyone happy, least of all yourself. 2. Honesty is the best policy. When you are not honest with your partner about what you have done or what you are feeling you create distance between the two of you. Accept responsibility for your part in the problem and for your thoughts and feelings. Avoid blaming. 3. Remember, all feedback is good. Even if you are not happy with your partner, it is better to be gentle and honest. You cannot solve problems that you do not acknowledge. Be willing to listen to your partner's side as well as sharing your own. 4. It is okay to agree to disagree. You do not have to convince your partner that you are right. Share how you feel and allow them to have their own opinions and feelings. You are looking for solutions, not victory. 5. Watch your timing. Trying to have a tough conversation when one or both of you is under time constraints or overtired will likely not end well. Setting up a time that is convenient for both of you will get the best results. 5. 6. Whenever possible have tough conversations in person, definitely not via text.

When Your Partner Says Hurtful Things

In a perfect world partners would always be kind, considerate and thoughtful toward each other. The reality is that partners sometimes, due to stress, fatigue or down right meanness do not always treat each other with respect. What are you to do with the cheap shots from your partner or others?

There are three possible types of responses when someone verbally assaults you. 1. Withdraw 2. Counterattack 3. Stand your ground


The first two responses only make matters worse. When you withdraw, you make yourself and easy target and it is only a matter of time before resentment will start to build. On the other hand if you counter attack things can get really ugly quickly.

Standing your ground involves first checking to see if you have misinterpreted what they said. Try saying something like, “Ouch, it sounds to me like you are saying that I am stupid. Is that what you are trying to say?” Or, “When you said _____, what are you trying to say?”

When you respect yourself by standing your ground, others will respect you as well.

However the best way to neutralize verbal attacks is to fortify the target. When you feel good about who you are, you will be far less affected by other’s comments. I ask, clients who are very distraught because their partner has said hurtful things to them, to think about how they would feel if their partner called them a purple dinosaur. Most of them respond that that would not bother them at all. I ask them to think about why that would not bother them. They say things like, “Well, it’s ridiculous.” Or “That’s just silly.”

The point is that it does not hurt because it is not true. There is not one little bit of them that on any level believes that they are a purple dinosaur. But often people, on some level, some part of them, do believe that they are stupid, ugly, a bad mother, or horrible person. Those beliefs create ready targets for verbal attacks.

Feeling good about yourself removes the ammunition from your partner’s arsenal. You need to hang onto yourself and give yourself the validation that you need, rather than depending on your partner to make you feel good about yourself.

Fighting Fair

It may seem like a contradiction to say that we should fight fair, but fighting dirty is a definite relationship killer. Unfortunately far too many couples resort to dirty tactics when their tempers flare. Although it may momentarily feel satisfying to win that battle, just remember that each time you destroy your partner in a fight you put your relationship at greater risk of failing. Here are some suggestions that can help you to solve disagreements in a positive way:

Be Respectful This is true at all times. Name calling, sarcasm or nasty teasing are never a good idea. If you slip and say something disrespectful apologize right away.

Validate Each Other's Thoughts and Feelings Saying things like, "It seems that you are really frustrated and I hear that you would like me to . . . " helps the other person to feel heard and understood. This can this means that one person talks at a time, rather than trying to outshout each other.

Make The Problem The Problem Visualize that it is the two of you against the problem. Try not to make each other the problem.

Tackle One Problem At A Time Don't get side tracked into bringing up all the past issues you can think of. Deal with the problem at hand.

Couple Arguing

Use "Time Outs" Wisely If you find that either partner's temper is getting hot, take a time out. If your partner requests a time out, honor that request. Use the time out to calm yourself down. Make sure that after the time out is over you finish dealing with the problem.

Listen to Understand This is probably one of the most important things that you can do to reduce conflict. Everyone wants to feel hear and understood. Giving that gift to your partner may make it easier for him/her to listen to you.

Deal With Needs Rather Than Positions Rather than taking a stand and sticking to it, try to identify the needs underneath your position. Try to find a way for both of you to get what you need, perhaps not exactly what you think you each want, but a way that works for both.

Communicate Clearly Don't play games, or beat around the bush. You cannot solve a problem if you cannot understand what the problem is.

Forgive and Accept Each Other Forgiveness and acceptance are incredibly healing. Be kind to each other.

Handling Conflict


Conflict is an inevitable part of even the best relationships.

Whether you call it fighting, disagreeing, or discussing, most relationship could benefit from less suppressed of feeling and more honest effort to resolve conflict. If you claim you have never had a conflict in your relationship, chances are one of you is not expressing their opinions or needs and will most likely end up resenting that position.

Conflict is not the problem; it is how you handle disagreements that can become the problem. When conflict escalates to a continued struggle or battle it becomes a problem. Disagreements are natural and healthy, and when handled properly they can strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. Your challenge is to face up to and resolve disagreements, rather than stuffing feelings and building walls. We like to encourage clients to build bridges rather than walls.

The following are principles that will allow you to resolve conflict in a fair and positive way:

Bite Your Tongue

Rather than allowing yourself to call your partner names, cut them with sarcasm, belittle them or in any way be disrespectful to them—bite your tongue. If harsh words pass your lips, apologize immediately. The words that you say in anger will be burned forever in your loved one’s mind; don’t say things that you will regret and can never erase.

Validate Your Partner’s Point of View

Validation does not mean agreement, but it is one of the fastest ways to take the heat out of a disagreement. When your partner feels heard and understood they don’t have to keep saying the same things over and over again. Say something like, “What I hear you saying is . . .. Have I understood you? Really try to understand what they are saying and keep the sarcasm out of your voice. Make the Problem the Problem

Work together to solve the problem, rather than attacking each other. Use "I" or "we" statements instead of "you" statements. Don’t take things too personally and stick to one problem at a time. Refuse to drag up the past to fling at your partner.

Don’t Compare

No one wants to hear how he/she should be more like their brother or sister. They also don’t want to hear how they are exactly like their mother or father. We don’t even want to be compared to our younger selves, such as your used to have hair or a great body.

Stick to the Topic

In order to resolve a conflict or issue it helps to deal with one issue at a time. Dumping all your unresolved conflicts on your partner at once, is like adding gas to a fire you are likely to create an explosion. If there are multiple issues pick one and deal with it.

Stay Calm and Use Time Outs if needed

Nobody's deaf, when you start to yell, you sham the door on any possibility of a compromise. If tempers are flaring and you find yourself losing control put the argument on "hold" or call a "time-out." It is important when deciding to take a time out to agree to meet back at a specific time when things have calmed down a little. During your time out try doing some physical activity like walking around the block or taking a shower to calm tempers.

Look for the Truth

Often in emotional fights, truth usually takes a back seat. Try not to have a “don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude, where you maintain your position no matter what. Try communicating the facts clearly. Don’t assume that you know what your partner is thinking or feeling. Always ask. Try to see things from their point of view, as if you were walking in their shoes and had their feelings and background. This doesn’t mean you agree, just that you want to understand.

Be Solution Oriented

Work together to solve the “problem.” Don’t drag in family or friends to gang up on the other person. Try out this phrase, "What can we do together to solve this problem? I am willing to do the following…" Then state what you are willing to do and then do it.

Forgive and accept each other

It is always a good idea to keep in mind that this is someone that you love and care about. Your relationship is more important that your differences. Acceptance and forgiveness are what strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. When you can accept and love each other despite your differences your bond grows stronger. When the argument is over, do something healing, such as hug or say, “ I love you."