Tag Archives: conflict management

Marriage Negotiating Tips from FBI Top Negotiator

dog fight morguefileI came across this Forbes article that gleaned negotiation and communication tips from Gary Noesner, former Chief Negotiator for the FBI, a man who talked many a deranged individual out of their destructive plans, including David Koresh.

I was intrigued by the concept of the Paradox of Power he discusses. This means the harder you push, the more likely you are to be met with resistance. I think we know this deep down, and we display defensiveness and push-back when others come at us in an attacking manner. Yet, we sometimes forget that the key to a successful negotiation or outcome is often in the way we approach our spouse or coworker or child or boss or whomever we have an issue with. Instead of a calm, conciliatory manner, we may approach in an angry or hostile manner. Displaying power may work well in the animal kingdom to throw off predators, but it doesn’t work too well in family life.

What works? Staying calm. Listening. Acknowledging. Then moving forward toward a solution. Noesner says it very well here:

“If the communication skills we developed in the crisis negotiation arena are successful in convincing the most desperate people in the world to cooperate with a 90% success rate, then surely some of these you know active listening skills, these de-escalating cooperation building skills certainly have applicability in the world of business and in people’s personal and family lives. If you’ve got somebody you’re dealing with that’s angry, remain calm and in self-control, listen carefully, and acknowledge their point of view. Then, once you have a calmer atmosphere, you can work towards resolving the problem satisfactorily. I think that is a tremendous diffusing tool that people can use.”

I’m certainly going to try to take his advice to heart. What communication strategies seem to work best in your marriage? Do you find they help you at work also?

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Minimizing the Combat Zone in Your Marriage

man woman on beach morguefileWe all have our negative patterns in marriage that may be based on our personality tendencies and our common reactions to one another. I found a recent New York Times article that provided some helpful hints for avoiding the “combat zone” or at least minimizing it.

Counselors teach conflict resolution skills and better communication skills, because they know sometimes the way we react or even phrase something can make a big difference in the outcome of what can become a heated conversation. Conflict isn’t always to be avoided; in fact, it can help bring us closer when used appropriately. So, here are the tips from Bruce Feiler who wrote “Lessons in Domestic Diplomacy” for the NYT:

  1. Beware of the transitions in your day. The times when people are either coming or going are the source of the biggest fights within families, say researchers. For example, getting yourselves and/or your children ready to head out the door, or coming in after a long day of work, wondering what will be for dinner and who will be making it. These are the vulnerable times. The “most highly charged” time of day was between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. So, give one another a bit of space and time and don’t bring up difficult topics until things are calm.
  2. Sit at the same level, with the same posture. This is important, particularly if one partner tends to adopt a “power position” i.e. in a higher chair, standing over the other, or with laced fingertips behind the head and feet up. Higher positions create elevated testosterone, reduced cortisol and increased feelings of superiority.  On the flip side, sometimes a spouse adopts a frequent “lower position” i.e. slumped, slouched, or arms crossed. Instead, sit alongside your spouse in your discussions.
  3. Select your seating surface well. Researchers found when people sit on a soft, cushioned chair, they are more accommodating and generous, while those who sat on a hard wooden chair were more rigid and inflexible.
  4. Go to the balcony. When things begin to escalate, imagine in your mind that you are on a balcony overlooking your interaction, suggests Bill Ury, founder of a Harvard program on peace negotiations. From the “balcony” you can see the macro view, calm yourself down, and see alternatives that you might not see if you didn’t disengage. Often there are other alternatives you haven’t considered. “The goal is to expand the pie before dividing it,” says Ury.
  5. Keep it short. The most important points in an argument are found in the opening minutes. After that, it’s just repetition and escalation. So say what you need to say, then take a short break or walk to prevent the escalation.
  6. Avoid saying “you always” and “you never.” In fact, switch from “you” to “we” so that you don’t sound so accusatory.
  7. Say you’re sorry, and most importantly, take responsibility for your choices/actions, even if you aren’t feeling very sorry during the argument.

What tips do you have to keep your disagreements from creating divisions in your family?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Why Arguments Spiral Out of Control in Relationships

When you are in the heat of an argument, your brain seems to be fixed on “hot,” doesn’t it? It’s not just you.

Your brain clusters memory by emotions, explained a recent article by SmartRelationships.org. What this means is that when we are sad, all we can recall at that moment are sad memories. When we are angry, we can only recall moments when we were angry. When we are happy, we recall only happy memories. “This explains why arguments can so easily descend into a long list of past offenses.”

You’ve been there, right? During the disagreement, you can’t remember all the good reasons you married your spouse. You can’t access your positive feelings. This is why saddle bagging (bringing up old hurts and conflicts) is so common. You suddenly have access to all these negative memories that were hidden to you before the argument.

What can you do to counter this tendency? Waiting a little while to allow yourself to gain perspective can help you return to a happier place where you can access positive memories again.

This concept of memory clustering is a relatively new concept for me, and one I think we would do well to remember ourselves and to educate others about when they are in conflict, especially older kids and teens. “Let them know that when it seems like the end of the world, it’s only the brain being unable to access memories from a different emotional state,” according to SmartRelationships.org.

What this has to do with is developing resilience and emotional intelligence in your marriage. Sometimes you have to “unstick” your mind by focusing on something else, or by being willing to step away until you are calm. You can help increase resilience in your marriage by offering care and support and by developing a better ability to manage strong feelings and impulses.  You can only control your own reactions and behavior.

Remember that if you both didn’t care so much you wouldn’t be as upset as you are about your differences. After calming down, take time to listen and focus on effective communication (not just getting your point across). Focus on your goal of working through the issue toward better understanding for the future, rather than focusing on “winning” the argument.

What goes through your mind during the heat of an argument? Is this issue of memory clustering harder for you or your spouse to get past?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo courtesy of Liz Noffsinger/Freedigitalphotos.net.

Marriage Education Shows 55% Increase in Marital Satisfaction

In the nation’s largest study on the immediate and long-term impact of marriage education, surprisingly strong improvements in marital satisfaction have been shown.

Healthy Relationships California studied more than 17,000 marriage participants who took a skills-based marriage education course. Before the course, only 44 percent of the married individuals considered themselves happy with their relationship, and 56 percent were moderately or highly distressed in their marriage.

Six months following the course, 32 percent were distressed, and more than 68 percent were satisfied in their relationship. This equates to a 55 percent increase in the number of people who were satisfied in their marriage.

I believe this should convey to the average couple that learning marriage skills can be dramatically helpful in their marriage. Skills like conflict management, communication, financial skills, or any area that is difficult for you can be learned and improved. Learning how to appropriately communicate your concerns, your desires, your dreams and wishes in a way that doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive—these are important skills that can be learned even if it seems like much of your communication is filled with conflict.

You don’t have to succumb to the popular belief that all marriages decline, and that it’s all but impossible to have a successful long-term marriage. Nearly every state offers marriage education courses. Many churches and other organizations also offer classes or retreats. What skill would you and your spouse benefit from improving?

You can read more of the details here at Healthy Relationships California’s web site by Jason Krafsky.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

8 Tips Behind the Perfect Apology

In a marriage, every conflict point is an opportunity to learn about yourself and your relationship, says Relationship Coach Nancy Pina. But in many relationships, our reaction to conflict often means either quickly apologizing to smooth over the tension, or holding onto the hurt and stewing about it. Neither strategy allows the kind of reconciliation that can enhance the marriage.

In an article for Hitched Magazine (see it here), Pina says other common apology pitfalls include:

  • Not apologizing because you feel you haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Not looking at the deeper meaning behind the argument.
  • Blurting out a quick apology out of obligation to gloss over blowups.

She explains the method of making an apology that leads to emotional healing and allows the offended partner to hear it and accept it includes the following:

  1. Be compassionate. Don’t base the need for apology on your own feelings. Just because YOU wouldn’t be offended doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t have the right to be offended.
  2. Don’t be defensive and try to wiggle out of the conflict.
  3. Express regret. Say, “I am sorry that my behavior/words/tone hurt you. “Communicate your understanding of what caused the conflict, and say you regret it,” says Pina.
  4. No Buts. Saying “but” after an apology negates it.
  5. Ask for forgiveness. This can be hard when you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, but if that’s the way you feel it communicates a lack of respect for your partner’s feelings.
  6. Still hot with conflict after you apologized? Try a cooling off period or writing out your apology to allow it to sink in.
  7. Learn your spouse’s emotional trigger points and learn his/her perspective as a way to improve your relationship in the future.
  8. Honestly assess your spouse’s accusations or feedback. Use it as a teachable moment about your own behavior. Being hope and honest can help you enrich your marriage and your commitment.

Once you’ve made the perfect apology, don’t forget to adjust your words/behavior so that you don’t cause the same hurt again.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by jscreationzs courtesy

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Top 15 Reasons Romantic Partners Fight

The following list from Science of Relationships shows the top sources of conflict in order of the most common themes. Only about 100 people were surveyed for the results, so it’s not a large sampling. However, I found several things interesting. For instance, being overly self-absorbed about your appearance causes more conflict than being disheveled in your appearance.  And being condescending is number one on the list, something you would think most romantic partners would be above. I was also surprised that being jealous, possessive or dependent ranked so high on the list at number two. Read the rest of the 15 hot-button conflict issues for couples here.

Keep in mind that the degree of conflict can vary greatly on the list. For example, not factoring in your partner’s feelings is a much smaller slight than being sexually aggressive or forceful. As you read the list, think about whether there are any areas in which you have been guilty or less than loving. If so, ask yourself what the underlying reasons for your behavior might be and how you can change and improve. Then, go to your spouse and ask for forgiveness along with sharing your decision to improve that behavior. Ask for their input. If your spouse needs some time to think about your actions before discussing it or forgiving you, try not to be defensive. Sometimes it takes longer to get over slights and emotional wounds than you think. Often, your loving actions will speak louder than your promises to do better.

I don’t advise you to use the list to point out all the ways in which your partner could be a better spouse. The most effective way to improve your relationship is to focus on what you can control–your own actions and responses. Be the spouse you would like to have. Act with love and respect. Even in cases where your spouse is in the wrong, you can address the situation in a loving manner and stand up for yourself. That means loving and respecting yourself, too.  

Do you feel as if you have good conflict management skills, or that conversations quickly turn into arguments, which get heated and don’t usually get resolved? Remember that conflict management and communication are easily learned skills that are taught both online and with skills trainers at retreats or with coaches/counselors. If conflict is bringing your relationship down, invest in learning these skills. One inexpensive place to learn relationship skills online while retaining your privacy and using as much or little time as you wish is PO2.com, or Power of Two Marriage. (I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning them, I merely think they offer an innovative service.) The organization provides entertaining videos and tips to help you practice and improve various skills.

Which areas of conflict are most frequent for you?  I noticed many of the commonly mentioned topics are not on the list, such as financial conflict and conflict having to do with extended family or friends. I was also surprised that chores/childcare/division of labor wasn’t on the list. Are these biggies for you?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Bypass Your Conflict to Jumpstart Love Again

“My heart skipped a beat.” “My heart was racing.” These are the comments of someone experiencing excited new love or infatuation. But these feelings don’t compare with the strong, steady heartbeat of a stable, loving marriage.

What about spouses who fall out of love? Sometimes a couple loses all but a glimmer of hope and thinks it won’t be possible to work through a stalemate that is blocking all loving feelings. Yet, bypassing the hurt can often be a much better strategy than working “through” it.

My father had open heart surgery yesterday, following the urgent discovery of two badly placed blockages that closed 95% of two arteries.  His surgeon didn’t fix the arteries by clearing the blockage; instead, he stopped the heart, grafted a new vein around the blockage and restarted the heart. Through miracle of technology, divine intervention, or the good fortune of his 63-year-old genes, he was sitting up and talking this morning. The doctors said working through the blockages was not a successful strategy, but the workaround was a success.

Michele Weiner-Davis, a progressive marriage counselor and author of the very popular book Divorce Busting, explains this “bypass” strategy in her book and in various writings. Whereas some therapists, especially in decades past, focus on a couples’ hurts and the deeply rooted causes and effects of negative behaviors, Weiner-Davis advocates a couple change strategies entirely to focus on a time when they were happier and on behaviors that they know in the past made their spouse happier.

For example, a wife might recall that in their newlywed years they took off for fun weekend excursions, so she might plan a similar getaway to reconnect. A husband might recall how much his wife appreciated it when he paid her more attention and was a more active father. Then, he might choose to adopt those behaviors and not focus on a conflict they were having or a negative trait he sees in his wife. Soon, the feelings are following their actions.

The sad fact is many conflicts we have with our spouse will NEVER be solved. (That’s true of all marriages.) But if your marriage is 95% blocked and you see no way out, find a work-around; don’t throw in the towel. If your life were on the line, you’d find a skilled surgeon. You’d take risks. You’d try experimental treatments. You might even change your lifestyle.

You can indeed restart the loving feelings if you reach down to locate the fond memories and experiences of your past, and use them to graft a bypass around your problem.

I’m celebrating my 15-year anniversary today (happy anniversary, sweetie!) to a guy who isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty close. We have, of course, had our problems and frustrations. But I have such a wellspring of positive experiences with him from which to draw upon.

I can cause myself to have more positive feelings toward him when recall the great days—strolling through Paris, exploring wine country, dancing with our children, celebrating in Vegas—than when I think about our struggles or his perceived faults. In actuality, thinking of these positive times makes my heart skip a beat.

If you’re having a rough time or a difficult conflict with your spouse, change strategies and work on a bypass. Have you ever tried this? If so, was it successful or not?

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