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Building Relationships: Conflict Resolution

Therapist Charlie Simpson helps us with our feelings.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - It's not always easy for people to talk about their feelings, but experts recommend stepping outside your comfort zone to make your family ties and friendships stronger.

In today's Building Relationships, we're continuing our series on conflict resolution.

Therapist Charlie Simpson, with the Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center shares advice on how we can be authentic and take ownership of our feelings.

What do you mean by owning your feelings?
Conflict resolution is all about letting someone know how you feel and finding ways to work together to address those feelings. If you aren't honest and owning your feelings you simply have conflict…there is no resolution. To own your feelings you need to express what you're feeling and not project motives to your partner.
 
For example, you might say…"You hate my family," when you really mean…"I would love for you to be closer to my family."
 
The latter doesn't automatically assume that your husband dislikes your family which can put him in a defensive mode. By saying you would love for him to be closer to your family you open up a discussion on how to strengthen that relationship. He may have come from a family that was more reserved and he's not used to your family's outgoing nature. Now that you know the true problem, you can work together on coping with that.
 
We hear a lot about using "I" statements but you say it's not about the word "I but rather about expressing your feelings. Explain.
Exactly. You can use the word "I" but still have an accusatory tone. For example if you say, "I feel you are lazy." Sure you used the word "I" but that does not really own your feelings. You probably feel "overwhelmed by the amount of housework to be done."  So tell your spouse that rather than accusing them of being lazy. You might find that they weren't really aware of your needs.
 
You also say avoid extreme language.
Words like NEVER and ALWAYS can be corrosive to a relationship. The response to a statement using these words is not going to be a discussion of what's bothering you but rather a denial of the claim. You waste time that could be spent solving the problem arguing about the scope and authenticity of the problem.
 
Replace the phrase…"You NEVER listen" with…"I feel like I'm not being heard." Replace…"You ALWAYS go out with your friends" with "I feel lonely when we don't spend time together." Replace…"You NEVER follow through" with "I feel like my requests aren't taken seriously." Replace…"You ALWAYS take the kids side" with "I feel like I'm being made the bad guy when it comes to disciplining our children."
 
So what is the bottom line when it comes to conflict resolution and owning your feelings?
The goal is to find a solution and resolve a problem. If your dialogue starts out negative and accusatory, you're not going to be able to find those solutions together.
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