How to Find Mutual Solutions and Avoid Conflict
One aspect of this stay-at-home period is how on top of each other some people are, and the risk of tension and conflict this creates. We often talk about having a conflict-free relationship. What do we mean in this instance? Conflict, as we define it, is something that causes estrangement and the feeling of distance between people. Conflict is believing there are two opposing sides; it is feeling angry, afraid, defensive, hurt, attacked, betrayed, unheard, misunderstood. Disagreement is different. It’s when you don’t agree on something, but there is no rancor.
In these times, when so much potential for stress is present, it is particularly important to understand how to find peace together. To do this, we must learn how to find mutual solutions. These are solutions in which the needs and wants of both parties are understood and can be met. They bring with them a feeling of well-being and peace that soothes away feelings of separation and brings out the mutual areas for both parties.
Experiencing that sense of mutuality is a central part of Our Process. This is a process by which you jointly commit to finding a solution that fulfills each of your desires. This process helps you find and share your core wants and needs, and leads to a solution that works for both of you, one you co-create together.
By applying good communication practices of both listening, and speaking personally without blame or accusation, you move through a process of finding for yourself and sharing with your partner what is at the core for you in the issue you are seeking to resolve. You do this with the assurance you are actually on the same side and therefore will definitely find this solution together.
In these times it is particularly important to understand how to find peace together #relationships Click To TweetStart out sharing what you desire in this situation, speaking from the ‘I’ and then listen while your partner does the same. Slowly, the wants and needs that are associated with this desire emerge. You go deeper, sharing again in turn what is underneath this image, each time reaching closer to what it is your core wants and needs are.
The trick to working through disagreements without descending into conflict is to realize that, although you want something, there is usually an underlying desire behind that want, and there are several ways to satisfy that desire. Below that desire is a deeper want, which again can be sated in a number of different ways. You’re not generally conscious of these deeper needs until you look closely.
Take turns speaking and listening to each other. Speak of what you want and why you want it. As you do this the most surprising thing occurs. You find out much more about what you actually want and you hear your partner doing the same. Knowing what the other person wants, you can propose other possibilities that might work for both of you. The original images of what would satisfy you have broadened and opened. By talking back and forth and exploring what you want and why you want it, you will find more and more crossover points that you both desire, and an image begins to emerge, a solution or activity that works for both of you.
In all of this, you have not compromised because, at every point, you only offer suggestions with which you would be happy. This entire process, although it can be challenging to find your deeper needs, is very satisfying because you are each offering to the other your true self at the moment.
We use a series of slides in our workshops to illustrate this, and here is the last slide, showing a purple circle of common agreement and the purple pentagon of the solution that fulfills it.
A good example of this process in action happened recently between Maude’s son and his 10-year-old daughter. The family, two children and the parents, have been observing stay-at-home procedures. Just before the pandemic became official, the daughter had moved into her own room. She had been sharing a bedroom with her brother up until that point. She valued her privacy intensely and would disappear whenever she was home into her newly acquired digs.
Flash forward several months of being in quarantine: no school, no direct contact with friends, both parents busy and working remotely all day long. The girl began to do all her schoolwork in the living room. She didn’t want to sleep in her room any longer and after a bout on the couch in the living room, started sleeping in her old bed in the room with her brother.
She was underfoot quite a lot, a very different experience for all. Her brother was upset that she was sleeping in what was now his room, the parents were upset that she was in the living room where her mother had set up her office and was working in video meetings all day. Everybody was disturbed.
They decided to apply our process and set about sharing their needs and wants. At first, the daughter said she was afraid downstairs and couldn’t get to sleep. This was so different from how she had been that it was hard for the father to believe her, and said there was no need to be afraid; that it was perfectly safe downstairs and that he had vidcams in the driveway and locks on all the doors. After looking a little deeper, the daughter shared that she really wanted to be closer to her family. Again this was so different that the father wanted more information. He explained that both parents needed to work and needed space to do that.
They finally came to understand that the total lack of direct contact with anyone else had changed the way the girl felt about being alone in her room. She was normally surrounded by people all day at home and at school and was only too happy to escape to privacy in her room. Now she felt lonely and cut off and wanted to be surrounded by people and family.
Once the actual need was uncovered, the family quickly came to solutions that worked for everyone. They set up an office in their bedroom for the mother, they explained to the brother that his sister really wanted to be with him (which made him feel good instead of resentful) and would be sleeping in the room, but working in the living room during the day. A perfect solution had been found that worked to satisfy everyone’s true wants and needs.
Mutual solutions are like that. Surprising, and often they seem so obvious once they are found. They tend to create harmony, peace and a sense of togetherness rather than the hostility and resentment the same issues may have caused before the solution was co-created.
We highly recommend taking this route the next time you risk conflict in your relationships. It is an adventure, one full of new and soul-satisfying resolutions.
Photo credits: Temogen Amato, Andy Samarasena (slide photo)