Does this sound like your family?
You are a Type A personality. You’re driven, intense and focused primarily on your career. You tend to look at yourself as having to be perfect, are impatient with co-workers and subordinates who are slower than you or who don’t share your passion about their work and careers.
Of course, these personality traits carry over to your home life, as well. You get impatient and easily irritated at your teens who don’t have that kind of passion about school, sports, or anything in their lives, except, their friends.
Most likely, your spouse does not share your personality traits, either. It’s what attracted you to them. They may be a people pleaser, “yessing” you and accepting you because he/she loves you. You predicted that you would be happily married, partly because it would be unlikely that your spouse would compete with you and therefore, you would always be in control in the relationship.
Or, perhaps, your spouse or one of your children, is just as competitive as you and therefore there is a constant power struggle going on within the family.
Unresolved or insensitively managed conflict negatively impacts families on multiple levels. In these situations, you hate coming home perhaps as much as you hate going to work. On the other hand, if you can learn how to skillfully resolve conflicts, it can be a platform for enhancing the love and warmth within your family.
The following is a three-step series of behavioral prescriptions for assessing and implementing a conflict resolution program at home. Once put into practice, in as little as 21 days you can see positive change in your relationship with your spouse, children and stop the “I hate going home” feeling:
Rx #1. Use A Thought Stopping Technique
Whenever you get angry at a family member, it is never what that family member says or does that gets you angry; rather, it is your interpretation (based on your own internal dialogue) of what that family member says or does that always determines your
The key to analyzing your vulnerability to being provoked into confrontations, is to understand when your automatic thoughts, including your assumptions and conclusions, are distorted and therefore cause the emotional reactions you make.
Examples of automatic thought distortions are:
- “My teenager should respect my rules, even if she doesn’t like them.”(using should, must, and have to in judging your actions);
- “My husband is selfish and doesn’t care about my needs, ” (reading your spouse’s mind about what he must be thinking and feeling);
- “I will never be happy as long as these kids are living in this house.”(catastrophizing or fortune telling about what negative things will happen to you in the future);
- “I’m a failure as a parent” (negatively labeling yourself instead of describing your behavior as unfortunate or unproductive).
Once you learn about the distortions that are part of your automatic thinking, you can then learn how to stop them in their tracks. This works through a process of challenging your distorted thinking and developing a more rational, alternative set of beliefs. . The end result is dissolving negative emotions and engaging in a healthy, more reasonable outlook, despite the situation.
Rx # 2. – Identify Your Typical Conflict Management Habits
People resort to behavioral habits when they experience conflict with others. These reactions include:
- Non-productive behaviors, such as: confronting, dominating, defending, using sarcasm,hostile humor, repressing emotions, insisting on being right, stonewalling, and blaming;
- Neutral behaviors, such as: avoiding, cooling off, apologizing, and giving in or backing off to avoid confrontation;
- Positive behaviors, such as: active listening, empathizing, disarming, inquiring, and using “I feel” statements.
The goal is to eliminate negative and neutral behaviors and practice positive confrontation reduction skills until they become new habits. On the average, with practice, these skills actually can be learned in only 21 days!
Rx # 3. – Use These Powerful Confrontation Reduction Skills
The key to all interpersonal communications is genuine listening. This is different from defensive listening, which is where you internally plan your retort
while the other person is talking to you.
In order to really listen, paraphrase what the other person says in your own words. Do this without judging, agreeing or disagreeing. Then, listen and reflect the content, needs and feelings of the other person.
Next, ask for feedback to determine whether you interpreted correctly. If you have not, ask for clarification. Continue this process until you are sure that you have heard what the other person is saying and how he or she really feels emotionally.
Once you are certain that you understand the message and feelings expressed by the other person, respond. The other person then listens and paraphrases for you. This process continues until you have both clarified your positions and are certain that the other person really heard you and understands.
This involves putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to see the world through his or her eyes. As you do this, consider the age and experience of the person with whom you are in conflict so you can accurately assess the experience of the other person.
The fastest way to defuse an argument is to find some truth in what the other person is saying, even if you do not agree with the basic criticism or complaint. For example, saying “I can understand why you feel angry with me since you believe that I
violated your trust by sharing our conversation with dad” acknowledges and validates the angry person’s feelings without actually agreeing with what was said. This opens the door to clarification, feedback and reconciliation.