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Making positive change out of conflict

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amy monk“People can change only if they feel they are basically liked and accepted as they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves,” says marriage researcher, John Gottman in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Your Marriage Work. When we try to force our partner to change, we often get the opposite. If we want our partner to change, we must first value and cherish them. Surprisingly, one of the best times to communicate these feelings is during a conflict. You can’t change your partner; you can only change yourself. Yet, even when your partner annoys you, you can try using repair statements. Learning to make and receive repair statements can promote positive changes in your relationship. Try this when you notice that the discussion is headed in a negative direction. Good repair statements:
Focus on your own feelings.
a. That felt like an insult?
b. That hurt my feelings
Ask for or express understanding.
a. Can you rephrase that?
b Just try to listen to me and try to understand
c. This is important to me, please listen
d. I need to finish what I was saying.
e. What you are saying is….
Give opportunity for calming down.
a. I need to calm down
b. Can we take a break?
Express desire to make amends.
a. Did I do something wrong?
b. Sorry, my reaction was too extreme.
c. Let me try again
d. How can I make things better?
e. Let’s start over again.
f. I might be wrong here.
Look for points of agreement or compromise
a. I agree with part of what you are saying
b. Let’s compromise here.
c. Let’s agree to include both of our views in a solution.
d. I never thought of it that way.
e That’s a good point.
f. We’re both saying…
g. Thank you for…
Here’s an exercise that can help the negotiation process. Draw a circle inside another circle – write non-negotiable things in the inner circle and negotiable things in the outer circle, start discussing the negotiables using these questions:
a. What do we agree about
b. What are our common feelings
c. What common goals do we have
d. How do we think these goals should be accomplished.
Remember, be tolerant of each other’s faults – you cannot change your partner. If you think so, then compromise cannot happen!
For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families. For an excellent book focused on marriage, read Why The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.
El Servicio de Extensión Cooperativa de Arkansas es una institución de acción afirmativa/ igualdad de oportunidades/igualdad de acceso.
Amy Monk is a County Extension Agent with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, located in Montgomery County. You may reach her at 870-867-2311 or 117 Ray Drive, or by email at amonk@uaex.edu.  You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/montgomerycountyextension

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