It's being willing and able to address and resolve disagreements and conflicts together.
As I'm writing this, I'm in the process of teaching a 5-week class series about my "Four Pillars of Happy & Healthy Relationships" model. For the next four Sundays, we will be gathering at the lovely Shanti Naam yoga studio in Castro Valley to talk about Commitment, Love, Compatibility and Personal Development.
These four elements must be present for a relationship to be happy, healthy and last in the long-term, and if I had to point to one decisive aspect that most clearly indicates that a relationship is healthy is the ability of both partners to address (and hopefully resolve) disagreements and conflicts candidly, effectively, and lovingly together. Effective conflict resolution naturally happens in a relationship that is supported by The Four Pillars.
Addressing and resolving disagreements mean no sweeping difficult feelings and differing opinions under the rug for the sake of "being the bigger person" or "trying to be accepting". It also means no angry outbursts or attempts to forcefully impose our will on our partner.
Here are the features of effective conflict resolution:
- Being able to be with our fear of conflict and resisting the need to discharge the fear through passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviors.
- Realizing that in every disagreement or conflict, both parties have a contribution, regardless of individual responsibility. It takes two to tango; to disagree and have a conflict as well.
- Being curious and seeking to understand before needing to be understood.
- Being open to be wrong, acknowledge it, and change our mind.
- Being grounded and able to stick to our opinion when that's what still feels right after having listened to the other opinion and having had time to think and reconsider.
- Being comfortable with making requests such as asking for our turn to explain our own opinion and feelings, or asking to take a break in the conversation.
- Making amends and apologies, even when it's just expressing regret for our contribution to the conflict.
- Being patient. Some conflicts will be resolved promptly while some will require several rounds of conversations.
- Favoring unity over having our way. Being willing to choose a second or even third preference if it's the option that will work for both partners.
- Asking how to move forward when the situation appears to be stuck and exploring the possibility of getting support.
- Which skills am I already comfortable with?
- Which skills are my blind spots?
- When I reflect back on my past relationships, how did I address/resolve conflicts with my partner?
- If I'm in a relationship now, how do I evaluate our conflict resolution skills?
- What kind of support would I need to become more skilled at conflict resolution?