When two people are in the middle of a conflict, the limbic system of the brain becomes highly activated – which escalates irritability, anger, sadness, hurt and other emotions. For this reason, it is best to wait until both people have had some time to breathe, cool off and then come back to the “table” ready to resolve the conflict.  Sometimes a full 24 hours is needed for the individual who has been “triggered” to process and cool down.

The goal must be to really listen to each other, understand what is needed or wanted as an outcome and to be able to empathize (but not necessarily agree).  This simply is not possible for either person to do if they are emotionally triggered (limbic system highly activated) thus, giving time and space for cooling off is essential.

Once cool-off has been achieved by both parties, one person can start (for example) by saying “I feel overwhelmed when you don’t take time to help with the household chores.”  Notice the “I feel” statement.  It is important to state your emotion in an “I feel” statement rather than start with “You didn’t help with chores . . . “.  Next, pause and let the listener “active listen” that statement.

Active listening is saying back what you have heard someone say.  In this case, the listener would say, “I’m hearing you say you feel overwhelmed when I don’t help out with the chores.”

Once both parties are on the same page, they may proceed to the next phase:  making a statement of empathy.  The listener would say, “I can understand how you might feel overwhelmed when I don’t help with the chores.”  The simple act of empathizing (without necessarily agreeing) will help the speaker to feel heard and emotionally validated, which will continue to promote conflict resolution.

Now both parties are more ready to discuss possible changes (in behavior, approaches, attitudes, etc.).  In this case the speaker could ask the listener to take over two chores per week, as a way to start helping even out the workload around the house.  Remember, resolving conflict means taking on the attitude of “how can I help” and not “how can I prove that I’m right”.  Happy resolving!

Sherry Collier, LMFT, Life and Business Strategist
CEO of Creative Path to Growth Coaching and Counseling
Founder and CEO of WomenWhoThrive.com

Creative Path to Growth Counseling and Coaching
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