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  • Parenting Matters: Conflict Resolution Strategies

  • Conflict ResolutionRichard Cain, PhD, president of Health Promotion Solutions of Southern New England, LLC, offered a presentation on conflict resolution and better communication at a past Parenting Matters conference, sponsored by Bradley Hospital..

    Cain suggests that before you begin to resolve a conflict, you must first ask yourself if you are the problem or contributing a large degree to the problem? Once you have answered that question honestly, you can begin to find a solution by following these steps:

    Clarify the issue to the mutual satisfaction of each party

    • Pinpoint what is causing the conflict from each perspective.
    • Check the perceptions of each other's position.

    Express emotions, but don't act out negative behaviors.

    • Understand that it is okay to feel angry, but not okay to be physically aggressive.
    • Express your feelings and allow your child or other party to express his or hers.
    • Listen to the words behind the emotions.

    Prioritize the issues about which you are conflicting.

    • Deal with one issue at a time.
    • Deal with specific issues.
    • Deal with issues that can be changed.
    • Deal with the most important issue first..
    • Deal with present behavior issues, not past or future behavior issues.

    Avoid provoking further conflict.

    • Be careful of your word choice.
    • Do not resort to name calling.
    • Stay away from hot-button issues that are not related to the conflict.
    • Do not use disconfirming responses.
    • Do not make the other party feel cornered.
    • Do not dehumanize.

    Deal with what happened, not why it happened.

    • Avoid interpreting the motives and attitudes of the other.

    Agree to disagree.

    • You will not agree on everything; allow yourself to disagree.
    • Let the person you are having a conflict with continue to speak even when they may be being critical. Invite them to do so with the following phrases:
      • "Go on"
      • "I'm confused, please say that again"
      • "Give me a specific example"
      • "Say more about that"
      • "Spell that out further"
      • "Tell me what you have in mind"
    • To keep the conversation going, it is important to say what you agree with before say what you disagree with.

    Carefully monitor your own and the other party's non-verbal communication.

    • Non-verbal communication is a very powerful indication of a person's desires, needs and feelings.
    • Facial expressions such as smiling or frowning clearly communicate pleasure or displeasure.
    • Posture, such as having the arms crossed, can communicate an unwillingness to participate. On the other hand, open arms signals a willingness to go ahead.
    • Have both parties sit down. Standing tends to feed anger.

    Practice active listening.

    • Do not argue your point of view until you understand the point of view of the other party.
    • Practice reflective listening until the other person is ready to listen to you. They must believe that you are really listening and understanding their point of view.

    When communicating:

    • Avoid giving advice.
    • Use "I" messages rather than "you" messages: For example, "I feel _________ when you ________ because it ___________."

    Deal appropriately with resistance.

    • Bring the resistance to the surface.
    • Honor the resistance.
    • Listen to the resistance.
    • Acknowledge the resistance.
    • Acknowledge the right to feel resistance.
    • Explore the resistance.
    • Address the nature of the resistance.
    • Probe the resistance.
    • Re-check each person 's position.

    Develop an action plan.

    • Avoid early resolution.
    • Explore solutions
    • Mention and analyze alternative solutions to the problem or consequence.
    • Choose a solution.

    For more information on Health Promotion Solutions of Southern New England and Richard Cain, PhD, call 401-368-4944.

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