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Nov 21

4/10 Collaborative Problem Solving for Conflict Solutions

So far in our Conflict Solutions blog, we have been looking at the importance of learning how to listen and not use Road blocks to stop good communication from happening.  We have been using our example couple, Jacko and Chelsea.   They are meant to be a practical way of showing the good and not so good ways to share relationship together.

 We continue now with another practical way toward good communication.

The following suggestions have been learned by trial and error, through 30 some years of marriage and as a Counsellor.  We present this post in hopes you can avoid similar mistakes in your own relationships.

1.  Always deal with emotions first. 

Identify and use reflective listening to allow your partner to express their emotions about the issue – frustration, anger, grief, and so on!  Be brave – someone else’s emotions cannot hurt you if you do not ‘take them in’.  Allow them to have their own opinion and allow them to also be wrong about you.  “So you are feeling …… “

When we were teaching out in the country at Healesville High School, there was a time when I needed to make specialist doctor appoints ‘down in the big smoke’.  It was some distance, often 1 to 1/2 hours travelling time.  We would arrive, tired and weary after a day’s teaching – only to find the doctor 15 minutes late …. or 30 minutes late.

“You see, he is a court specialists too”, his receptionist explained.  “He often gets called into cases without much notice.”

One day, he was an hour late and his whole reception area was filled with those waiting to see him.  Total dismay hit us all when the receptionist cancelled everyone’s appointment.  On the way home, I was ‘spitting chips’, as the Aussie’s say.  I was furious.

“So he couldn’t have ducked out to call his receptionist earlier?  How inconvenient and I’m …..”  My anger grew with each statement.  To this, my quiet husband simply replied, “He might not have known.”  Or “Maybe he couldn’t get in touch with her….”

Finally I had reached my boiling point.  “Are you on his side … or mine?

At that point we learned one of the most important lessons of our marriage:  Logic and emotions don’t mix.  By Daniel being logical and giving me reasons why things turned out this way only added ‘fuel to my fire’.  We learned how important it is to reach out to the emotional one FIRST with emotions words rather than logical words.

“Yes, I am upset by the lost time and money too.”  Or “I sure wish he had been more thoughtful too.”  These comments helped me put my emotions into words.  Only then could I be calm enough to be logically too.

2.  Discuss the issue/problem to the point you both see what the conflict is about.  What is the real issues of the conflict?

Jointly define the conflict with both parties stating what they see are the issues.  Continue the discussion until agreement of the problem is reached.  The conflict is not defined until both sides are agreed on the definition of the mutual problem.  Your heart attitude must be to resolve the conflict rather than to win the argument.

      “The main problem/items of conflict are ….. “

Jacko and Chelsea had a big blow-up over the frustrations of their wasted day.  Neither had what they wanted.  Both were discouraged in trying to talk about the conflict.  What was the real issue?  TV, Josie’s friendship …. or had to have a open and honest discussion on what they both really wanted?

3.  Brainstorm for as many solutions as possible.  Allow a time to exchange reasons for each side’s position on the issue/problem.

Be inventive for as many options for mutual gain as possible – even illogical, funny ones.       “So our options to handle this conflict are ….. “

“Hey”, Jacko suggested, “we could take turns on what to do.”  “Or we could list all the things we want to do and put them in a box.  Draw out one each week?” was Chelsea’s list minded solution.  “Or we can go by the weather… or we can …..”  Their list went on and on.  It was important to discuss how to resolve the conflict before they could really resolve in true issues of the depth of growing intimacy between them.

4.  Select the solution/s that will best suit the problem.

Reach a win-no lose agreement.  Try to investigate at least three good alternatives.  Be aware of your own reluctance to find options, such as:

a.  ….prematurely judging the new idea/option,

b.  ….being self-concerned with your own ideas/needs or goals,

c.  ….defensively sticking to ‘the way’ you have always done things,

d.  ….searching for the one perfect idea/plan or impossible goal.

5.  Discuss and plan out each person’s part – who, where and by when.  Implement the plan you have worked out.

Select the timing, sort who does what and what the positive results will be.

6.  Evaluate how the plan is working.

Depending on the issues and how important the relationship is, define how you will know when the goal/issue/problem is resolved.

Trying these steps to resolve their blocks to open communication helps Jack and Chelsea see some of the deeper issues that were between them  Try to use this method the next time you find a ‘rock block to resolving a decision’ with someone.  It really does work.

Join us for our next post on ‘Life Changing Principles’ as we see that Conflicts are never total deleted from our life.  We need to learn how to manage such conflicts with solutions rather than pretend they don’t exist.  ……which leads us to our posts on avoiding conflicts.

Susanne Fengler. Blog Author


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