Counselor’s Corner: Resolving family conflicts

No couple, no matter how much they love each other, can completely avoid disagreements. The same goes for children and their parents, coworkers and friends. The people who have the best, most conflict free relationships have a special skill: they can settle disagreements without turning them into arguments. They have what therapists call conflict resolution skills. Here are some proven tips on how to resolve disagreements without turning them into fights.

• If you have a touchy subject to resolve, discuss it when you are unlikely to be cranky. In my case, for example, I’d avoid a touchy discussion any time I’m hot, tired and hungry.
• Keep a conversational tone of voice: no yelling or snarky sarcasm. Yelling may well get someone’s attention, but it seldom gets their agreement or cooperation.
• No cursing, name calling or insults. These things never put other people in a cooperative mood. • Stick to the present. Don’t mix up old disagreements with new ones.
• Stick to ONE subject. Avoid bringing multiple problems or issues into the discussion.
• Focus on fixing the problem or settling the dispute. Stay away from attacks on the other person’s character or personality. • Ask yourself what you are really disagreeing about. Is the apparent subject REALLY the issue? Or is it who’s going to be in control?
• What do you really want out of the disagreement? Is it to WIN? Or is it to settle things in a friendly way?
• When explaining the problem/disagreement to the other person, put it in terms of the problem YOU are having, rather than making it about what’s wrong with the OTHER person.
• Politely tell the other person what it is that you want from her. Be specific and realistic. Give her a realistic chance to help you solve your problem.

Here are some examples of better and worse ways to resolve disagreements. WORSE: “You can’t drive worth a #%!” BETTER: “When you drive this fast, it really makes me nervous, please slow down.” WORSE: “You idiot! How many times have I told you not to do that? You’re just like your mother!” BETTER: “That really bothers me. Please don’t do it.” WORSE: “Get off your fat butt and help just once in your life!” BETTER: “I’m having trouble with this. Would you mind helping me?” WORSE: “You inconsiderate, thoughtless #@#@! I hate it when you say things like that!” BETTER: “When you say that, it really hurts my feelings. Please don’t talk like that to me.” When all else fails, you can’t go wrong following the advice of that famous Jewish carpenter: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jack Williams, Ph.D., is a counselor with Capital City Youth Services, working in Monticello with children, teens and their families. To make an appointment for your child, contact him at 728-4611. Capital City’s services are free of charge.

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