Eight Secrets
of Conflict Resolution

Neil Clark Warren

  1. Recognize marriage as a "we" business. I place this secret in the number one position because I've never seen it fail. Any couple who gains a "we" perspective eventually experiences great success in marriage. But a marriage starts to shrivel when it becomes a matter of two "I's."

  2. Process the data as quickly as possible. Even though conflicts can lead to expansion and growth, there's nothing wonderful about prolonged conflict. The secret is to get it out in the open and deal with it. That's why some people who fight like cats and dogs have an advantage. All the important facts and feelings are expressed quickly and unequivocally.

  3. Stick to the subject. Nothing is quite so frustrating in the middle of a conflict as an emotion-laden comment that is totally unrelated to the subject at hand. Such comments are thoroughly distracting, and they stall any effort to move toward resolution.

  4. Don't intimidate. When the heat is turned up and things get a little mean, some people become focused on self-preservation. They fear losing part of themselves in the process of hashing out a disagreement. Panic builds, and they start throwing verbal punches. They become obsessed with winning or at least not losing.

  5. No name calling. I venture to guess that not a single marital conflict in the history of mankind was ever resolved by one person calling the other a derogatory name. It doesn't matter how creative the disparaging label is--if it is meant to depreciate and demean the other party it isn't going to help overcome the problem.
    Every couple should establish this rule: In the middle of conflict, no matter how heated or intense, there will be no name calling.

  6. Turn up your listening sensitivity. In the midst of conflict, there is absolutely nothing that produces gains as dramatically as listening. But believe me, I understand that when you're fuming about some intense issue, the last thing you want to do is listen.
    When I open myself to what my partner is saying, resolution has begun. It works like magic. When you are listened to, you aren't nearly so eager to win at the other person's expense. To be listened to makes you want to listen.

  7. Practice give and take. Many of us have grown up yearning after, and fighting for, individual attainment. So we enter marriage with a propensity to take. What we must understand is that marriage is a partnership and, therefore, requires both give and take to be successful.
    Some people have learned to give generously and freely, and they seem to have no expectation of getting in return. Show me a marriage in which one person has mastered the art of giving, and I'll show you a marriage in which conflict gets resolved quickly and completely.

  8. Celebrate every victory. Why is it that we often fail to recognize our victories? After dust has settled and peace is restored, take your spouse in your arms and say, "We did it, honey. We were totally at odds and, yes, it was tense there for a while. But we overcame the hurdle." Congratulations!

    from "Triumphant Marriage,"
    Focus on the Family, 1995

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