Communicating what you want and resolving conflicts is the only way to have a happy, healthy relationship that can support and enrich your life. You probably already know that, but perhaps for you, it’s easier said than done. Maybe you didn’t have a healthy conflict role modeled for you when you were growing up: Two people who loved each other and dealt with their emotions in a healthy way. Maybe you grew up in a house with lots of yelling or where tension always simmered under the surface. Your caregivers may have inadvertently taught you ineffective ways to deal with your feelings. But it’s never too late to learn a new way to be. If every fight sends your relationship into break-up territory, this post is for you.
How to Promote Compassionate Assertiveness
The key to fighting without the worry that it will lead to a break-up is two-fold: assertive communication and compassion. Let’s call this type of communication compassionate assertiveness. When you communicate assertively, you let the other person know that you believe your thoughts and needs are reasonable, and you are confident that your partner will want to hear what you have to say. Then you listen to your partner with empathy. Beyond their words, you hear the thoughts and needs they are trying to convey. You begin to experience the world from your partner’s viewpoint. It’s like saying to your partner, “I understand that your thoughts and needs are reasonable, and I respect and care about your well-being.” Remember, feelings are never invalid. You may disagree about what got you into the fight or who did what wrong, but how you feel, and your partner feels, isn’t up for debate.
It is challenging to concentrate on solving a problem when you are enraged or emotionally upset. You can’t focus on anything except the inflamed feeling in your body. The first thing to do when you’re upset is to cool off before you get into it with your partner. Then, follow these seven steps for conflict resolution:
- Examine your anger and gain control of your emotions. Don’t move on to Step 2 until you feel you can talk to your partner with a level head. Use mindfulness to check in with yourself. Does your body feel tense or hot? Is your heart racing? These are signs you’re not cooled down yet. If Step 1 takes a while, that’s fine. Give it time. When you’re ready, go to the next step.