You know when you’ve goofed up and all you want to do is get out of the doghouse. What next?
I sure did not grow up watching great conflict resolution. Quite the opposite. In fact my Dad used to tell my Mom that he would never use the words “I’m sorry”, and I’m betting he never did.
So, how do we repair our relationship after we have done something damaging? I’m sure there are a million creative ways - here’s a link to the best “apology songs”: https://www.billboard.com/photos/7949832/sorry-songs-apology
There are some critical elements though that matter, elements that make the difference in the long-term.
1. Acknowledge that something is wrong between the two of you.
At this point you may not even know what happened to upset the other person. It is enough to know something doesn’t feel right in order to start this conversation.
2. As much as possible, stay un-defensive while you ask for details about what happened.
I know, easier said than done right?! How do we do this? Well, focus on really wanting to love your partner well. The more you are able to listen and learn what they need and where you may need to grow, the better a relationship you will both enjoy. One of the best techniques to reduce defensiveness is to decide before you even start to listen that you will not be responding until later. This means you ask details, you ask for more, like how your actions impacted your partner but you leave your response out. Listen thoroughly without justifying, explaining, or blaming. Tell your partner before starting to listen that you want to listen well and will not be responding until later so that you can really hear them.
3. Take time to reflect on what you heard before responding.
Letting your reaction to what you heard shift from wanting to justify and protect yourself to being willing to consider your partner’s point of view can take time. Ask yourself some questions like: “Have I had this kind of feedback before? From other people?” or “How is my partner different from me that would make what I did/said painful for them?”
4. Prepare what you want to say.
I’m not saying read a statement, that isn’t very personal. However, taking time to write out thoughts about how you want to love your partner better, about areas you want to grow in and about what specifically you are sorry for. A blanket “I’m sorry” really doesn’t do much. Apologies need to be specific and need to be offered after really understanding the impact of your actions. Writing out your thoughts lets you process them more and therefore you will be better prepared to say what you really want to say to your partner.
5. Find a good time to talk.
One of the best techniques for better resolution is to find a time that is good for both of you. This allows emotions to calm and removes both distractions and other factors that could make your talk more difficult. I used to believe that things had to be dealt with and resolved right away. Not true and that is often not the preferred conflict resolutions style for both people.
This process takes more work than just saying “sorry” but the benefits for both of you are huge! The best relationships are not those with out conflict, they are those that have the power tools to deal effectively with it and grow as a result.
Until next time,
Marilyn Orr, The Luv Life Coach
Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is a relationship coach with Luv Life Coaching, passionate about equipping couples with the tools for real and lasting intimacy.
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