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Conflict Prevention Through Relationships

Conflict Prevention Through Relationships

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that the use of conflict resolution techniques in ongoing relationships -- even when no overt conflict is present -- can serve to prevent conflict.

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Video Transcription

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We've been talking about a variety of ways that you can resolve conflict. But what about preventing conflict from happening in the first place?

Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about that. I'd like to talk specifically about how you can use some of the conflict resolution tools and techniques that you learn in a resolution process to strengthen and maintain relationships so that you can prevent conflict from happening.

Because I think we'd all agree that prevention is better than resolution and that positive relationships really are the foundation to preventing conflict. So it's impossible to fully prevent conflict, I think we all know that. If we've been in relationships for any period of time with someone, there's always going to be some little things that bubble up. But learning the tools, or using these tools on a daily basis, can really help you address the conflicts when they come up really early on so that they don't escalate.

So conflict prevention, then, is about meeting unmet needs before there's any conflict or in the very early stages. So I think some of the tools that are most useful really are the communication tools. And let's look at some of these tools.

So I've written communication up here. And you'll notice the very first thing-- the only thing I have on the board at this point-- is separating people from problems. Because that is so important.

At the root of a lot of communication problems, I think, is the mixing up of people and problems so that we make statements or we're blaming someone or maybe assaulting their character, assailing their character, as opposed to talking about the real issue. So separating people from problems, and, of course, that starts with you. How you speak to someone.

So just to review, using "I" statements. "I" statements or "I" messages where use speak using the word "I", owning how you feel, owning what your needs are.

You know, I am upset when I come home and see the kitchen a mess. It makes me feel like I'm being ignored, that nobody takes my needs seriously. Now you're talking about the issue, your need, your feeling, as opposed to saying, you are so sloppy. You're just a pig. Why don't you ever clean up the kitchen?

That for sure would escalate a conflict. And you're not separating the person from the problem at this point. It becomes a character assassination. So using those "I" statements really helps you separate people from problems.

And also being assertive. Being assertive is using those "I" statements and really feeling you have a right to say what your needs are. I think quite often if we are accommodating and we just give in and don't speak up, then there's that underlying resentment that can happen which really can be the underlying resentment that bubbles into tension that starts to escalate into conflict. So being assertive about your needs is important.

Now, the other part of this, of course, is listening to the other person. Listening to the other person, and that involves active listening.

Now, as you remember, active listing is really listening to not just the content of what someone's saying, but the underlying emotions. You know, how they're feeling. So it's listening for both levels here in a message.

And also asking questions, particularly clarifying questions. When you hear someone talking, whether it be the emotion or the actual content of what they're saying, you might ask a question, are you saying? Or do you mean? Or how did you feel about? Or you're trying to get more information from them to clarify exactly what it is they're saying, what it is they're feeling.

So these are some techniques that can be very helpful on a daily basis interacting with people to strengthen relationships so that little conflicts don't escalate. For example, you could practice these communication skills with a spouse or a significant other. Maybe around financial issues, around parenting, simply around chores around the house.

So even setting aside a time to actually sit down and talk about particular issues, particularly if you're both working, you're on the go and you don't have time to visit some of these issues that start out as small and then they begin to escalate, it's good to actually set aside time to sit down, bring up an issue, and then use these communication skills to discuss the issue, to go over it.

So practicing these skills on a day-to-day basis really will help strengthen relationships which are at the foundation of preventing conflict. Now, let's say there is disagreement over an issue. You can also use the skills in terms of separating interests from positions.

Perhaps you're deciding how to spend money financially, and one person wants to put more into savings and another person really wants to spend money on that vacation. And you've got opposing views here. So opposing positions, what are the underlying interests? How can you work together to meet those mutual interests? Just understanding that you can separate positions from interests is very helpful in terms of discussing something that might seem difficult.

Or if you're on the verge of making a decision about something very important in the household, rather than just making the decision or announcing what you think is right, do some brainstorming. Brainstorm options. Maybe both you and your significant other, your partner, can come together and brainstorm things, then sit down and look at them, see how they fit into meeting our mutual needs.

So you can do this on a family level, you can also do this with friends, with anybody you have a significant relationship with. So once again, prevention I think we all agree, is better than having to resolve a conflict that has escalated. And we can really work towards preventing conflict by using many of the techniques and tools that you learn in a conflict resolution process.

So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Conflict Prevention

An attempt to meet the unmet needs of parties at the very earliest stage of conflict or before conflict begins.