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Resolving Conflicts 101 by Dr Gary Chapman

August 21, 2010

What’s so bad about arguing?
First, let me clarify what I mean by the word argue. It is a legal term. In a court of law attorneys make arguments designed to show the guilt or innocence of their client. They present the ‘facts’ with the attitude, “Any reasonable person would agree with my argument.”

What works fairly well in the court room, works poorly in a marriage, because there is no judge available to determine when your spouse is ‘out of order’. Arguments become charged with emotion and you end up yelling, screaming, or crying. Each feels the other is unreasonable. What’s so bad about arguing? It turns spouses into enemies who have feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment.

Why is it so important to resolve conflicts?
Because unresolved conflicts stand as barriers to marital unity. Conflicts are those issues over which we have differences and we both feel that our side is right. If we don’t find a ‘meeting place’ we become enemies instead of teammates. And, life becomes a battlefield. No one likes to fight. So, sooner or later someone gives up and walks away.

How sad that thousands of marriages end because couples never learn to resolve conflicts. The first step in resolving conflicts is to get out of the “arguing mode” and get into the “understanding mode”. Stop trying to win an argument and start trying to understand each other.

Why do people argue?
In one word, rigidity. In essence we are saying, “My way is the right way, and if you don’t do it my way, I’ll make your life miserable.” The arguer insists on getting his own way.

Conflict resolvers have a different attitude.  They say, “I’m sure we can work this out in a way that will be positive for both of us.  Let’s think about it together.” They look for a win-win resolution. They begin by respecting each other’s ideas and looking for a solution instead of trying to win an argument.

The Scriptures say, “Love does not demand its own way.” Actually, love is looking out for the other person’s interest. “What would be best for you?” is the question of love.

You will never resolve conflicts if you don’t learn to listen.
Many people think they are listening when in fact they are simply reloading their verbal guns. Listening means seeking to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. It is putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and trying to look at the world through their eyes.

Here’s a good sentence with which to begin. “I want to understand what you are saying because I know it is important.” One man told me that he made a sign which read: “I am a Listener.” When his wife started talking he would hang it around his neck to remind himself of what he was doing. His wife would smile and say, “I hope it’s true.”  He learned to be a good listener.

We are all busy.
Often, too busy to listen. And yet, listening is the only way you will ever come to understand your spouse’s thoughts and feelings. Listening takes time and requires focus. Many people pride themselves in being able to listen while reading e-mails or watching television. One husband said, “My wife insists that I sit down and listen to her. I feel like I’m in a straitjacket, like I’m wasting time.”

When you drop everything, look at your spouse and listen, you communicate, “You are the most important person in my life.” On the other hand, when you listen while doing other things, you communicate: “You are one of my many interests.” Listening is a powerful expression of love.

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Adapted from Everybody Wins: The Chapman Guide to Solving Conflicts Without Arguing
by Gary Chapman.

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