By DAN HALL
My Spotify account has one playlist simply entitled “Rock.” The list includes most of my favorites between about 1968 to 1985. It encompasses an overlap from my older brothers’ years into my college years. It’s quite a montage that has grown to nearly 500 songs encompassing 34 hours of amazing sound! The selection spans from Led Zeppelin and John Denver to REO Speedwagon and Billy Joel.
The Eagles are one of my top favorite bands (along with Boston). All of my kids will tell you that my favorite song from them is “Best of My Love.” There’s a particular line that reflects Don Henley’s amazing songwriting skills, as well as insight into the human condition:
You see it your way, I see it mine
But we both see it slipping away.
Early in my ministry, I noted how many couples came in to see me saying, “We just don’t communicate.” However, over time I discovered that the problem wasn’t communication. Rather, the problem was they didn’t know how to solve the problems created by communication. I realized their problem was conflict resolution. They would communicate, but they didn’t know what to do with what they discovered through communicating!
So I set out to learn conflict resolution. I eventually became proficient enough to begin training couples, and ultimately organizations, on skills to resolve conflict.
There is no way a single 600-word article could encapsulate all conflict resolution principles — but let me offer three that might help either in a highly toxic situation or as skills in daily life.
◼ Perspective creates as much conflict as reality.
The older I get, the stronger this principle becomes to me. How I see a particular situation determines how I judge both the situation and the person involved. We must learn the pursuit of understanding.
Ask questions like, “Help me understand why you think I feel that way,” or, “Help me understand what you hear me saying.” Listening intently to what they say rather than formulating my answer is a very important life skill!
◼ Less than 15 percent of our communication is comprised of words.
Every communication expert will tell you some form or relative percentage of this formula. There are so many things that go into how we communicate, including tone, volume, body language and eye contact. These and other factors are impacted by how I feel about this person or situation.
The more toxic and volatile the situation, the more important considering these factors becomes. Little things like nodding our heads, communicating with our eyes, and not folding our arms or crossing our legs, can all mitigate misunderstandings.
◼ We fell in love for a reason.
When the list of grievances and frustrations begins to grow, discipline yourself to go back and remember why you fell in love. Something drew you to this person. Very often, that same attractive quality has become an irritation.
“I loved how much fun I had with him” becomes, “He’s just so flippant about things!”
“He was so romantic” becomes, “He can be so needy!”
Make a list of at least three to five things you fell in love with about your spouse. Go back and celebrate those, and then pull them into today and ask the question, “Is what’s irritating me actually a reflection of one of his/her strengths?”
Communication is an absolute imperative in a relationship. But that same imperative can contribute to deterioration without good conflict resolution skills.
Read a book, see a counselor, go to a conference. Do something to cultivate the skills that help your relationship be stronger and last longer!
Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at Dan@OnCourseSolutions.com.