Five Steps to Resolve a Conflict

After spending almost 30 years as a therapist helping people solve arguments and conflicts, I have come up with a simple 5-step process to help transform conflicts into meaningful communication. These steps can be used in a relationship at any level, from friends to co-workers, to lovers, spouses or partners.

I have found that most people have never learned the skills that help them stop reacting to familiar triggers and to communicate better. The 5-step resolution process I am recommending, prevents you from reacting, facilitates your expression and guides you in receiving the other person's feelings. When you communicate using these skills, you will find yourself re-connecting with the other person at a very satisfying level.

Learning about and practicing these steps will bring you greater self-awareness and better understanding of the other person. If you want to relate to other people in a meaningful way, you need to be able to not only express your own feelings and needs clearly but also be receptive to the feelings and needs of the person with whom you are in relationship.

To make it simple, I have called these steps the CLEAR process:

The first step is to CLARIFY. In most cases, the 'trigger' is some behavior, attitude or statement that causes an emotional reaction in you. When you have strong feelings, you may find it hard to articulate them. You may find that the best you can do is to get angry or withdraw.

If you are like most of us, you may also blame the other person for your feelings. You may get mad at them or feel hurt by them instead of figuring out what is going on with you. Being able to CLARIFY what happened, the event that triggered you and the other person, without blame, is the first of the five steps.

During this step it is important to be aware that we often see the other person through our own lens. It is a huge step in our personal growth when we realize that how we experience another person's behavior or words is often not how they were intended and that the other person's understanding of the same event may be quite different from our understanding. Staying open to this possibility and simply stating what happened, helps you CLARIFY your experience and separate it from how the other person is viewing it.

The second essential step is to LOCATE your feelings and needs. Having an emotional reaction, getting angry, sad, or fearful, is not the same as telling someone how you feel. Feelings are complicated emotional events having long and very personal histories. Learn to LOCATE your feelings and needs. Stop and ask yourself the question, what am I feeling? After you have answered, then ask, what need was unmet that gave rise to that feeling? Asking and answering these questions is a skill you will learn with practice and focus.

The third step is to EXPRESS your feelings. After you have located your feelings and needs, it is important to put them into words. You may find that when you express how you feel the emotional charge diminishes and it becomes easier to communicate. It is a true act of responsibility to own and communicate your feelings.

Once you have translated the emotional energy into thought, and then put those thoughts into words, you can EXPRESS yourself. It is often possible for the other person to identify with what you are saying and receive and accept why you are feeling angry or hurt.

By EXPRESSING yourself, you are transforming your emotional energy into meaningful bits of information so that the other person can take it in, i.e., share your meaning.

The fourth step is to ATTUNE. All of us have a deep emotional need to be understood and to be responded to in a way that conveys understanding. This is the act of ATTUNEMENT.

Both you and the person with whom you are in conflict need ATTUNEMENT. You need to both receive it and give it. If you have a feeling or a need that another person is not getting, you may experience an increased need for them to get it, and to give you the evidence that they actually understand. When the other person gets it right and they reflect back to you that they really have taken in what you are feeling or needing, you feel their ATTUNEMENT.

It is important to be able to ATTUNE to the other person as well. You can do this by empathizing, taking in and being curious about how they are experiencing things, and then reflecting back to them what they want us to understand. Mutual ATTUNEMENT reconnects you with the other person and gives you the foundation for the next step.

The fifth step is RECIPROCATION. In all relationships there is give and take. Your willingness to negotiate is key. Ask for what you need. Stay open to the other's response, as well as their requests of you. Asking for something does not always mean receiving exactly what you have requested. The act of RECIPROCATION ends the present conflict.

I wish you the best with all of your relationships. You are invited to use this 5-step process online to resolve your conflict for free on our site.

Copyright 2011