How to Work Through Disagreements to Reach a Mutual Solution
We wrote last week about why core values are so important and that when you and your partner want different things, having shared core values usually makes a resolution possible.
Sometimes, of course, it’s not a problem at all. Bill wants to play golf and Mary wants to garden. That’s not a problem as long as each of them can recognize and accept the other person’s choices.
But you may find yourself at odds with your partner, friend or relative when discussing your wants and needs in a particular situation. It is important to peaceful relating to have a process for preventing this kind of disagreement from turning into a full-blown conflict.
When the decision affects both of you, it can seem at first that there is no solution, but as long as you are both flexible, that’s rarely the case. There are ways to not only transform a potential argument but instead to actually find solutions and make decisions that create an even stronger sense of agreement and mutuality.
There is a method which we refer to as Our Process, in which the two parties jointly commit to finding a solution that satisfies the wants, the desires of both. This is a way to get to the heart of what you truly want in any given situation, the value and meaning, the what and why that you are looking for. It is something you co-create.
In practicing this process you will need to use your communication skills and be a good listener, as part of this process is to learn to understand what you want and what your partner is truly saying about what they want. Both of you must affirm that you are on the same side in this exchange and that you are looking for understanding and eventually finding a mutual decision that works for both of you.
It helps to make a kind of ritual. It’s harder to resolve issues while doing something else like cooking or driving, as you need full attention for exploring what your motives are, so choose a place and time when there are no distractions.
After finding an uninterrupted time for this experience, and affirming that you are together on this journey of discovery, it is of utmost importance to speak personally by saying “I….” This is an act of intimacy; it tells your partner where you’re at, and quite possibly makes things clearer to you, too. Lastly, by not saying “you,” there is no accusation or blame. You are actively engaged in finding what is at the base of the desires you have been expressing in the particular issue at hand.
At first, share what you desire and listen to your partner doing the same. What you want is in service of a deeper need, and there are always other possibilities that match that need. Be creative and let the wants and needs associated with this desire emerge.
Herein lies the trick to working through your disparities without becoming adversaries. You will realize that when you want something there is usually an underlying want and that even more importantly, there is more than one way to satisfy that desire. Most of us are not really conscious of that deeper want until we look closely, peeling back the onion to see deeper and deeper levels behind the originally expressed desire.
Keep going deeper, sharing back and forth what underlies the want, and the image of fulfillment of that want that you have. Going back and forth, keep looking at what is under that as you get closer and closer to the foundational value or need you are actually looking to satisfy, the key one in this particular situation that you are seeking.
As you are listening and expressing to each other what and why you want an outcome, you will find out more and more about what you actually want and what your partner really wants. As you each hear each other and yourselves, you can begin proposing other solutions that come closer and closer to finding something that works for both of you. By exploring this map of possibilities, you can both arrive at that place. Having shared values is a great help for reaching there.
During this process, neither of you has compromised, as the suggestions you keep offering each other are merely incorporating the more basic wants you are uncovering together as you share. This process has a magical quality to it. As you proceed, you become closer and closer. You are having the experience of co-creating a decision, a solution that fits the two of you. Neither of you could have come up with this on your own. It is something found by the two of you, tailored to both of you.
Instead of arguing and fighting, reap the rewards of creating a mutual path together! #quote Click To TweetA good example of this process in action happened early in the pandemic 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 cameras 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.
This process can work for problems both big and small. We highly recommend trying it out and instead of arguing and fighting you will reap the rewards of creating your path together!
Art credit: Phil Mayes
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In our Successful Relationships Reading Corner some other writings on this topic.