Does it happen to you, that suddenly, you are embroiled in a serious family conflict?
Without having any inkling that it was coming? And there you are, embroiled in a vicious fight with your loved one...what can you do to help process the dispute and avoid more harm to the relationship?
You can train yourself to accept some degree of friction as a healthy way for both of you to learn what you want and are willing to accept, and what you won't tolerate. Conflict is necessary in a couple's development together. What matters here is not what you are fighting about, but HOW you are fighting.
So, take a deep breath, recognize this confrontation as a necessary way of solving common problems, and listen. We want to offer you the image of "Being a Good Enemy"
What is a "Good Enemy"?
This image of the "Good Enemy" is of someone who does not avoid the confrontation, does not escape from angry words, or rejects the whole interaction by walking out or slamming the door.
A good enemy listens to the barrage of accusations, ignores the way of delivery, and listens to the hidden content (a partner's need for contact, the desperation of loneliness)
And then says, honestly: “thanks for telling me this: I will try to understand your point of view as best as I can.”
What is the difference this attitude change brings?
A Good Enemy refuses to escalate, and listens.
This response does not mean to avoid the confrontation: it means to process it by different means.
It also means to listen to the message and ignore the envelope where the message was wrapped: angry words, high voice, aggressive words, emotional position, and recover the meaning:
“There is a problem, my loved one is upset about it, and I'd better take notice and listen.”
Some people are so upset by the way things are said, that they don't pay attention to what is said: in this way, the rejection of the wrapping allows them to reject content.
After listening to what the other side has to say, you still need to have your own views across. There is no way a couple will survive alive if there is no effective communication by which they listen to each other.
A Good Enemy, when expressing himself, will try to say the same thing in different and respectful ways, up until the other hears, even if it hurts, in a caring and respectful way. So they can move to problem solving together!
Learning to accept conflict in a normal interaction is the best way to deflect it and avoid escalating. Being a good enemy means accepting the kernel of info that needs to be looked at and processed to be able to go ahead, and offering negative feedback in a caring way.
In short, a good enemy knows that conflict, friction and confrontation can happen; they are another face of love communications, and need to be processed with patience and respect for others.
Here are three short good techniques to use when discussing with loved ones:
a) Learn how to listen: say: "I hear you saying.....is this right?" Then, repeat what the other side told you, use his/her words.
b) Always begin mentioning the relationship: "We have been good friends for five years..."
c) Check and double check with the other side: "Is this OK with you? or you have another suggestion?"
Want to learn more? Here is a good book about fighting with love and respect!