Are you experiencing more conflict lately?

Many of you have been reaching out to me- leaving comments here, on my YouTube channel, and on Instagram and what you’ve been asking me is how to best resolve conflict quickly and effectively. 

In light of the safety measures we have been taking during the pandemic, a lot of us have been in much closer quarters than usual. With emotions running high, it’s no surprise that it might feel like conflict is brewing right under the surface more than usual right now. 

While it’s always important to know how to effectively communicate and problem-solve, there’s no time like the present to uplevel your conflict resolution skills. 

Conflict isn’t a dirty word…in fact, it can be an opportunity to deepen your understanding of yourself and your relationships. 

That’s why this week, I’m giving you my best strategies, tips, AND scripts for effective conflict resolution. Trust me: you’ll be able to use these skills for the rest of your life (and long after we are no longer sheltering in place).

When it comes to conflict, the first place to look is communication styles. Understanding the difference between ineffective and effective communication styles is the first step to expressing yourself in a healthy way. 

Ineffective vs Effective Communication

What is ineffective communication? It’s indirect. So many times we might think we’re expressing ourselves clearly, but because our communication is indirect, we can end up frustrated and bitter when the people in our lives don’t seem to get the message. 

Especially if we are conflict-averse, we might be hinting or implying how we’re feeling or what we want but remember: no one can read your mind and you shouldn’t expect them to. 

Here’s what ineffective communication could look like:

  • Indirect: Not getting to the point or never clearly stating an intention and just hoping the other person will understand you..
  • It could be passive (overly reserved or timid) or antagonistic (angry, aggressive, or hostile in tone). 
  • It might be cryptic, where your underlying message obscured, requiring interpretation and your true agenda is never directly revealed. 
  • Non-verbal is very common and often overlooked as a culprit to ineffective communication. This is any time that you use body language or behaviors to express your feelings rather than words – a heavy sigh, eye-rolling, a slammed door or the silent treatment…all of these are examples of non-verbal passive-aggressive behaviors that aren’t doing anyone any favors.
  • It might be straight-up dishonest, that is, false statements are substituted for true feelings, thoughts, and needs. How many times has someone asked, “Are you ok?” and you reply, “Oh, I’m fine, I’m just tired”…when you’re NOT fine?
  • One-Way: more talking than listening
  • Unresponsive: little interest in the perspective or needs of the other person
  • Off-Base: responses and needs of the other person are misunderstood and misinterpreted

We don’t have the choice to ignore our feelings forever. We can stuff them down and try to ignore them…but eventually, they will come home to roost. So whether that means you eventually explode like a volcano and say things you don’t mean or you end up silently seething in resentment on a one-way train to bitter town…I don’t want that for you.  

The good news is: effective communication IS a skillset you can learn. So let’s talk about what healthy communication looks like. It’s direct. It’s assertive and to the point. What you say is what you mean: there is no underlying message or agenda. Most importantly: it’s verbal. 

The most effective communication uses words. And don’t worry: in this week’s downloadable guide, I’m sharing healthy and effective language you can use to be heard, seen, and known, so be sure to grab that right here

Here’s what effective communication looks like:

  • It hits the sweet spot between being too aggressive and too passive. You can assertively state what you want and how you feel. 
  • It’s super clear: you say what you mean and you mean what you say…the opposite of cryptic or hidden agendas. 
  • You use language directly to express your emotions, preferences, and needs. 
  • It’s a dialogue: this street goes both ways…when it’s your turn to talk you do and when it’s their turn, you listen actively. 
  • It’s responsive: you care about the other person’s thoughts and feelings and you are paying attention to their responses…you’re not just waiting to talk or make your point. 
  • It’s honest: you’re not avoiding, lying or hiding anything. 

What’s our motivation for effective communication?

We all want to understand and be understood. It’s one of the greatest gifts this life has to offer us. Creating space and gaining the skills to effectively communicate with our loved ones is what deepens intimacy. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

> If you go into a conflict resolution with the desire to win…check in with yourself. Is it more important for you to be right in a debate or for you to be open in a dialogue?

> You don’t have to convince the other person of anything. You don’t have to justify why you feel the way you feel. There’s no case to build. Sometimes, we can feel angry or sad, and yet we don’t believe we have a right to feel that way. I give a personal example in this week’s episode, so be sure to watch it here or listen to it here

> Even if you don’t understand your own emotions, you can still let your person in on what’s going on for you and make a simple request. I have scripts and language to help you do just that inside this week’s guide that you can download right here

Keeping it Clean 

Over more than 2 decades as a psychotherapist and love and relationship expert, I’ve gathered some definite do’s and don’t when it comes to fighting fair: 

  • No “kitchen-sinking”

If you’re talking through one issue, stick to that issue. It’s not fair or effective to throw 10 other things (and the kitchen sink) at the other person.

  • Choose to be loving over being “right”, cuz you can’t be both. The reality from a therapeutic point of view is that you can’t have both of those things as your top priority. 
  • Use “I” statements to communicate YOUR experience. Avoid blaming and judging. Pointing out how bad, stupid, or insensitive they were/are is counterproductive to effective conflict resolution. Take a break, take a breath, and think about your 50% of the relationship. 
  • Give each other your full attention. This means NO SCREENS. Close your laptops, put your phones and tablets DOWN, people! I can’t emphasize this enough. Trying to talk with a screen between you is the epitome of ineffective. 
  • No interrupting. This might take practice, but it is so worth it to settle in and hear the other person out. It’s respectful and loving and a key component of active listening. 
  • Mirror back what you think the other is saying. When you’ve heard the other person out, an effective technique is to say something like:  “If I heard you right, you would like me to … did I get that right? ” and then ask, “Is there more?” Repeat this process of listening and mirroring until you are on the same page. This is how you can move towards true understanding. 
  • Agree to take a “time out” if it gets too heated. Every person has the right to ask for a time out if needed. As long as you can agree on when you will circle back, this is a strategy that can save you from saying things you don’t really mean and can help create some breathing room to calm down if things get too hot. Remember: words can be weapons and you can’t unring that bell. When in doubt, take a break.

Your healing and empowerment come from being able to say what’s on your mind in a loving, healthy, and effective way. It’s my hope that if you take these steps and begin to implement the fair fighting rules in your life, you’ll be able to turn conflict into an opportunity for deepening the relationships that matter to you the most. 

So if you liked this and it added value, please share it on social and with people who you know and if you’re having challenges right now, share it with the people you’re with. 

I want you to know that I hear you. I see your every comment, every review, every interaction, and I got you. So please keep telling me how you’re doing and sharing your biggest challenges because I’m committed to creating free content to support you so that you can create a life that you really, really love. 

I hope you have an amazing week, effectively communicating and as always, take care of you.

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  1. Terri Cole,

    I stumbled upon a post of yours and ended up finding 244 Conflict Resolution. This could not have come at a more perfect time. I’m 28 and communication is a generational downfall of my family. We push it under the rug, forget it happened and just move on. I know the pain and disconnect it can cause because I struggle to this day with building a strong relationship with my parents and lasting relationships in other areas of my life.

    I’m very indirect and passive aggressive. I turn my feelings off when it counts just to have them explode at those I love down the road. I know if I continue this way I will never be able to have a solid loving relationship with those who matter in my life.

    I have a boyfriend who has gone through a lot of therapy and is so strong at communication that I envy it. The hard part is that every time we fight, which isn’t often, I end up looking like a fool because my emotions win and I can’t control my feelings long enough to make any substantial argument. He on the other hand is always so level headed and articulate which sometimes makes it worse because of my own jealousy. I cold shoulder a lot. I bottle up feelings and say “I’m fine, I’m just tired, “ all the time instead of saying what I really feel.

    Yesterday he told me I’m losing him because I can’t effectively communicate. He said I have a lot to work on myself. He stated that I take stabs at him throughout the day. I think that’s my anger from prior situations trying to take control and wanting to be released. He’s not wrong about me pushing him away and self sabotage at times. I’m so scared I will just turn into my parents and be unhappy just because I chose not to better myself and improve the way I communicate. I want to fix it, I just didn’t know where to start.

    That brings me to thanking you! The short video I just watched on Conflict Resolution hit every spot I need to work on. I’ve been the girl on the training mad and disappointed that I wasn’t important enough for my boyfriend to be on time. I couldn’t explain the anger and didn’t want to seem “crazy” for being mad that he was a minute or two late so I would just be quite and wait for the anger to dissolve.

    I now know how to better understand how to handle these situations because of what you just shared. I know it won’t happen over night but the guided scripts will help me tremendously. Me asking to take a timeout to write down my feelings and requests will be a huge saver. I hope to continue to get better with time.

    Thank you Terri Cole for guiding me to a better life. If there are any other guides, books, or podcasts around strengthening relationships through effective communication that you can recommend of yours or other therapists I would greatly appreciate it.

    You’re doing amazing work, thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this story!! I am cheering you on as you make progress and raise your own awareness.

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