When you are in a conflict do you clam up and go silent? Do you run away and avoid it at all costs? Or maybe you explode and escalate it? 

Watch the video below to learn the top four most common communication in conflict issues that people experience plus you’ll get some tips and scripts that you can use when you find yourself in a heated situation. 

Ready to up your communication game? Click below! 

Watch it here now. 

Prefer just audio? Listen here. 

Effective communication, especially during conflict, can be one of the most challenging parts of any relationship. It’s crucial to understand what it is you do when you are activated in a conflict. You have to learn how to communicate effectively if you want to be in healthy relationships – whether they are love relationships, family relationships, professional relationships, or friendships. 

First, let’s get clear on communication. In a broad sense, there are really only 2 communication styles: effective communication and ineffective communication. 

Ineffective communication is indirect. It can look like being vague and not clearly stating your intention or your true feelings. Indirect communication can show up as passive aggression, in sarcasm (“Don’t mind me. I’m fine.”), or in non-verbal expressions like heavy sighing, an eye-roll, or slamming a door. There is so much we can express with our body language without saying anything at all. 

There are lots of different ways we can communicate ineffectively, but here’s the thing: we can’t just ignore how we feel. As much as we’d like to avoid it, if we don’t know how to communicate during conflict, our true feelings will find a way to seep into our behaviors, our attitude and our body language. 

Effective communication is direct. It is to the point. There is no doubt about the meaning behind your words. Being direct doesn’t mean being aggressive or yelling. Direct communication is about clarity of language. You can be assertive without being aggressive or mean. When you are communicating in an effective and healthy way, you are able to assert yourself and negotiate for your wants, needs, and preferences, while being respectful of the other person. 

Are you more of a direct or indirect communicator? Be honest with yourself, and let’s move into the 4 most common relationship communication issues I’ve seen as a psychotherapist, shall we? 

Top Conflict Communication Issues

1. Listening to Talk

If in conflict you feel yourself just waiting to get your point across, prove your argument or “win” at all costs, this might be something for you to look at more closely. When you are communicating effectively, that includes effective listening. It’s listening with an open heart and mind and creating space for the other person to share. Active, even athletic listening is intentional with a goal of understanding the other person. It is not listening to gather evidence to make the other person wrong, which can be really tempting when in conflict. 

What You Can Do:

If you’re in a romantic relationship, create regular dates to discuss things openly so you can normalize the problem-solving process. The more we avoid regularly communicating, the more stressful it is when we find ourselves in conflict. Try to shift into the energy of US against the problem, instead of you versus me. 

Inside this week’s guide, I’m giving you some sentence starters and scripts plus questions you can use to promote active listening in your relationship. 

You can download it here now. 

2. The Silent Treatment

Using the silent treatment to convey displeasure is a silent but potentially deadly form of passive aggression. It is ineffective communication and can be extremely damaging to your relationships. Ignoring your partner and/or the problems at hand has a tendency to amplify them. So much of the time, a quick conversation upfront could take care of something, but letting it linger and fester can set your relationship up for a major blow-up down the road.  

Stonewalling is when one person shuts down completely and is totally unresponsive during conflict. They may act like the other person isn’t even there, physically turn away, or even leave. It is extremely hurtful and over time, can erode the foundation of any relationship. 

What You Can Do:

If you find yourself using the silent treatment as a coping mechanism, you can commit to a different, much more effective strategy- even in conflict. Choose to use your words to name your feelings. Instead of stonewalling your partner, you are clueing them into how you are feeling, what is happening for you, and making a request for what you need, which might be time to process, de-escalate and decompress. 

I walk you through it and give you words you can make your own in your guide this week, right here

3. Inability to Express Your Needs

As a psychotherapist for almost 25 years, I’ve seen this communication conflict often, and it can come from either person or both. If you struggle with expressing what you need, your mind might go blank in a heated moment which can render you speechless (and then frustrated). 

Only you can take responsibility for getting your needs met and that means learning how to communicate them effectively because nobody can read your mind (just like you can’t read anyone else’s). 

What You Can Do:

Before you can communicate what you need, you must gain clarity about yourself.  Work to understand how you truly feel, why you feel that way, and what needs of yours are going unmet before you approach your partner. It’s not enough to say something vague like, “You need to be more sensitive,” because what that means to one person might be vastly different than what it means to another. 

Inside the guide, I’m sharing a strategy I use with my therapy clients plus a script to help you feel more confident communicating your needs in the moment. 

4. Defensiveness and Blame

One of my personal heroes in the world of psychology, Dr. Harriet Lerner, said, “Defensiveness is the arch-enemy of listening.” I couldn’t agree more, because you can’t be defensive and listen at the same time. It’s impossible.  

When we get defensive in conflict, we feel threatened, so we might try to justify our behaviors, blame our partner, or feel victimized. Defensive behavior can be fueled by unresolved shame and excessive feelings of being judged or criticized in the relationship. 

What You Can Do: 

This is where self-work comes in. If you notice a pattern of defensiveness when you are in conflict, you’ve got to work to understand your own reactions and not use blaming or shaming as a tool to win an argument. Being defensive is damaging to the relationship and, of course, it doesn’t resolve the conflict. 

Giving your partner insight into what is happening for you free of blame is so productive when it comes to resolving conflict effectively. 

You can learn how to speak up, assert yourself, be clear and ask for what you need even in conflict. None of us want to be stuck in a purgatory of being misunderstood, and that is exactly what happens when you cannot communicate effectively. 

Inside this week’s guide, you’ll find scripts to make your own and more tips to help you break the cycle of ineffective communication in conflict. Download it here now. 

I hope this was helpful and hey, if you want to join me and truly revolutionize your communication skills for happier, healthier, epic relationships, Real Love Revolution 2022 is open for enrollment! 

Here’s where you can get all the details and enroll in RLR 2022!

(We’re getting started January 26th!)

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


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  1. Thanks as always, Terri! You are spot-on! I have learned so much from all of your courses and videos as well as your book. I credit you with much of the healthy connection and conversation my husband and I have. We understand one another so much better and are so much more patient and committed to our relationship than we have ever been. You are a gem, and I am fortunate to be in your group!

    1. Hi Marilynn,
      I’m so glad this resonated for you! And thank you for your kind words ❤️ I’m so happy to hear the impact Boundary Boss has had on your life. Keep up the great work and I’ll be cheering you on along the way!

  2. This was so amazingly helpful for me. Some of the topics which relate more closely to romantic relationships are less helpful at my time of life as a widow. However, this topic of communication can be applied to any close relationship with adult children, close friends, etc. Thanks so much for these tips!

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