The Reluctant Missionary

Authentic stories from the travels of Michael Smalley.

Move from adversaries to teammates

conflict management marriage the joy of difficult conversations Aug 12, 2020

The first three minutes

  • In a six-year longitudinal study performed by John Gottman and Sybil Carrère, they discovered that they could predict the likelihood of a couple’s divorce by observing just the first three minutes of a conflict discussion.

Three major errors in difficult conversations

  1. We assume we know all we need to know to understand and explain a situation.
  2. We hide our feelings — or let them loose in ways we later regret.
  3. We ignore who we are, acting as if our identity is separate from the issues.

“The key is to shift your thinking from I need to explain myself or deliver a message to I need to listen and learn more about what is going on,” Stone says.” Doug Stone

Before you start a difficult conversation. Ask three questions:

  1. Sort out what happened. How do you see the situation? Where does your story come from (information, past experiences, rules)? What do you think you know about the other person’s viewpoint? What impact has this situation had on you? What might their intentions have been? What have you each contributed to the problem?
  2. Understand your feelings. Explore your feelings and ask yourself, “What bundle of emotions am I experiencing?”
  3. Ground your identity. How does this situation threaten you or have the potential to shake up your sense of identity? How do you see yourself (I’m the boss, I like competition, I’m loyal, I’m good at developing my people)? What do you need to accept in order to be better grounded?

Should you simply drop it? What is the reason behind bringing it up?

  • Changing the other person
  • Proving a point

Or is it a perpetual problem, which means you most likely will NOT find a solution.  Your focus needs to become seeking an understanding of each other's needs and feelings.


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