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Rinatta Paries
Conflict by nature is difficult. And yet conflict is a normal, natural aspect of any relationship. In fact, conflict handled well is healthy and can improve, even add to a relationship, leaving both of you feeling heard and understood. It is only when people handle conflict poorly that the relationship gets in trouble. How you handle conflict and what you do with the information learned during the conflict is directly related to the overall quality of your relationships.

If you approach conflict by becoming defensive, not listening, or intentionally inflicting hurt upon your partner, the conflict will go unresolved. Nor will you be supporting your relationship. Rather, you will be creating more conflict and resentment.

A much more productive and healing way to handle conflict is to communicate, listen to and hear one another. One powerful way to do this is through what I call "recreating." By this I mean actively listening and verbally reenacting each other's emotional experience. This way you communicate to each other that there is a deep understanding of how both of you are being affected. In the process, you create more closeness and trust in the relationship.

Here is a step-by-step guide of how to "recreate" your partner's thoughts and feelings:

1) Listen to what your partner is saying.

Do not think about other things as he/she is speaking. Focus on how your partner must be feeling or has felt throughout this conflict between you.

2) Do not interrupt or defend yourself.

Whether the event is your fault or not isn't the point at the moment. What matters is that your partner is in pain and needs your full attention.

3) When your partner is done speaking, "recreate" his/her thoughts and feelings.

Verbally reenact your partner's experience as you understand it. Verbalize what you are sensing behind the words. Verbalize what it must feel like to be in the position your partner finds him/herself in. This is not an admission that you have done something wrong. It is simply a way to recognize and validate your partner's feelings.

4) Continue to "recreate" until the anger or pain subsides and tears or a smile appear.

When someone is listened to in this way, anger and pain diminish without returning later as resentment. Tears or a smile are a signal that you have been successful at recreating.

5) Go though the above steps as many times as needed until your partner feels complete.

Sometimes additional anger or pain will come up in the process. Let your partner, not you, decide when the process is over.

6) Now it's your turn.

Ask your partner if it would be ok if you shared how you feel and if you could also be "recreated".

7) Now that you are no longer in conflict, talk about what happened.

Discuss the facts of the event. Create a way that the situation can be handled differently next time.

Do the above steps seem difficult, if not impossible? This process indeed takes a tremendous amount of patience, self-control and compassion. But the rewards are well worth the effort. By addressing conflict in a mature, empathetic way as these steps have outlined, you will unquestionably create a secure environment for your relationship to grow and blossom.

Rinatta Paries

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