Communication and Conflict Resolution

Communication and conflict go hand-in-hand.

Conflict often occurs because two people are not understanding each other's perspectives. However, disagreements in relationships are not only a totally common and expected occurrence, but can actually strengthen your relationship- if resolved in a respectful and constructive manner. It is normal to occasionally feel angry, upset, frustrated, and disappointed with people with whom you are close. Sometimes these feelings are caused by having unrealistic or unreasonable expectations of others, or unresolved issues that have occurred and haven't been talked about. If unresolved issues are left to fester in relationships, they can cause feelings of resentment and anger. Healthy communication is critical to maintaining healthy relationships and meeting your needs within these relationships

Ways to Improve Communication

Show that you are listening

Indicate that you are paying attention by making frequent eye contact (but do not stare, which can be perceived as aggressive!), nodding, and making short statements (e.g., "Uh-huh", "I see", "Go on.").

Use "I" statements

"I" statements help you express your own feelings, attitudes, and desires without putting the other person on the defensive. An easy formula for using "I" statements is "I feel/think/want (express the feeling/though/desire)… when (state the behavior causing it)… because (identify the reason)."

Use Reflections/Restatements

Reflections are basically paraphrasing what someone else said by putting it into your own words (e.g., "So what it sounds like you're saying is…"). This allows you check in with the other person to see if you understand what they are trying to say to you. This improves communication because it lets the other person know if you are misunderstanding them, and gives them a chance to clarify what they were trying to say.

Pay attention to non-verbal signals

Non-verbal cues such as body language (i.e., facial expressions, posture, eye contact) and voice expression (i.e., tone, rhythm, volume) give an additional layer of meaning to what people are trying to communicate, as they reveal the emotion behind our words. Making sure that your non-verbal signals match the content of what you are saying is crucial in clearly getting your message across. Conversely, pay attention to others' non-verbal signals, which can give you an idea of how people are feeling.

Let's get together and feel alright…

People who avoid conflict and view it as a threat to a relationship often find that unaddressed conflicts accumulate until they cannot hold onto them anymore, actually causing greater harm to the relationship. Resolving conflicts requires us to be honest with ourselves and others, as well as a willingness to consider the perspectives of other people. This can be hard to do, but you'll find that it is well-worth it in the end. The following general tips can be useful in resolving any conflict that occurs in your relationships, at work, in classes, or anywhere!

Communication in Romantic Relationships

As with all relationships, communication in the romantic relationship is about more than one person listening while the other complains - though sometimes that may be necessary. It's also about both people being able to talk about what they want and need from the relationship and what each person is emotionally and physically ready and able to provide. Sometimes it is tempting to just do whatever your partner wants to keep him/her happy with you and with the relationship. Though compromise is often important, speaking up when you are uncomfortable is more important, especially when it comes to sexual activity. It's always important for your partner to understand what might make you uncomfortable. Sometimes this means that your partner won't be able to get what he/she wants, but in the end, your relationship will be strengthened by setting clear boundaries.

Addressing Conflict in Romantic Relationships

Be sensitive to your partner

Criticism - or what is perceived as criticism - is always hard to take. It is especially difficult, however, when addressing concerns unique to a romantic relationship (i.e., sexual concerns). Take time to think about what you're going to say and be delicate, though direct, when you say it.

Talk with each other

We still can't say it enough: communication is absolutely vital in creating and maintaining healthy, fulfilling, and meaningful romantic relationships.

Use straight talk

When attempting to address how your partner needs to address your physical, emotional, or psychological needs, be specific and honest. Remember, your partner probably wants you to be happy and is doing his/her best to do so, but probably doesn't know how exactly to do it. Specifics can go a long way.

Know yourself

In order for us to feel fulfilled in our romantic relationships, we have to first know what fulfills us. Take some time to think it over and talk about it with your partner. You may reveal something you didn't know about yourself.

Be open

Listen to what your partner's emotional, physical, or psychological needs. It is inappropriate to criticize what they feel they need from your relationship. It isn't for you to say what your partner wants or needs. If it's something you aren't sure about, ask for specific examples. If it's something you aren't comfortable with, talk to your partner about it.

Show your interest

Romantic relationships thrive when each partner knows that the other is both invested and interested. Find ways to communicate this to your partner. If you're not sure how, talk to him/her about it. They'll probably have lots of ideas about ways for you to show your interest.

Set aside time to talk to each other

Just like friendly relationships, our romantic relationships require attention. Ensuring you have time to talk to your partner is vital. After all, you can't effectively communicate if you don't set aside time for each other.

Be you!

Don't try to relate to others by acting the way you think they would want or expect you to be. Doing so will leave you unfulfilled, and ultimately, it will seep into the relationship.

If you would like some help in addressing some of these issues, or you feel that your communication is not improving over time, the staff at the Counseling Center is available to help you identify and work through concerns. The Counseling Center is located on the first floor of O'Boyle Hall and appointments can be scheduled by calling 202-319-5765.