Resolving conflict is never easy, but the six steps below will make it easier if we are disciplined enough use them. These are taken from Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book, Boundaries in Marriage:
1. Observation: both parties must actually notice there is an issue. This is acknowledgement that an issue exists.
2. Confrontation: many of us resist confrontation, but without it nothing is going to be addressed. Speak the truth, but do this calmly, without emotion, i.e. in love. Hint: stay objective and deal with what observable thing they did and how you felt as a direct result. Make it a statement and then leave it there i.e. don’t ‘beat them up’ over it by harping on it.
3. Ownership, apology and grief: this is an important step that needs time. We have to get to the point of owning our share of the problem. Most conflicts arise with fault on both sides—we must own our share. As we say sorry, we then own our grief and we allow it to sink in. For the other, we allow them the peace of managing their own grief.
4. Repentance: this is the point at which actions come into play. If we truly meant our apology and we grieved appropriately we’ll not easily fall into the same trap again straight away. As partners, we keep each other gently accountable. Mature people are happy to be kept accountable.
5. Involvement: problems themselves often do not go away immediately. Many require work, and some involve counselling. We’re only blessed to actually deal effectively (and finally) with these matters if we actually do the work and remain committed.
6. Re-examination: we’ll always get better results if we monitor our progress and keep a ‘watching brief’ on matters at hand. This is perhaps as simple as enquiring of our partners how they’re feeling about progress as well as being honest with them about how we feel it is going.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Reference: Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries in Marriage (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), pp. 113-114.