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How to have a Conversation with Minimal Conflict

 The information below is not to be taken as professional advice or direction. Application of this information is solely at your discretion. Consultation with a counsellor is highly recommended. Phone 07 34581735/0409272115

Essential Communication

Conversations are the fabric of a relationship. It’s how we communicate. It’s how we are getting across ideas. It’s how we work with others. Yet communication is one of the biggest fails encountered in a relationship. No-one ever taught you how to do it. We pattern our conversation skills on those around us who we regard to be authority or per figures. If their communication skills are poor the chances are that ours will be as well.

A major problem in conversations occurs due to human beings in general acting on the assumption that the way that we think, understand things, feel about things is the right way and anyone who doesn’t do it the way we do it is basically got it wrong. We hear what another person says, but interpret that information from our perspective  That’s fine if the other person is exactly like us but the possibility of that is pretty small.

We are born into this world with parents who pass onto us genetic coding that sets part of our personality. We have a certain ethnic background, a certain socio-economic background and our parents by their words and actions confirm whether we are an OK person or not. All of this influences our beliefs and how we see interpret the world in general. We then go through life, and things that happen to us which are interpreted through our beliefs and those experiences further entrench our beliefs.

The person that you are, today is a combination of things which are entirely individual. When we look at the world


today, we look at the world through glasses which are coloured by our experience of life. There is nobody like you in the world. So the concept that we should be able to hear someone speak and take what they say and interpret according to our set of rules is not valid.

One of the steps in the Development Model of Relationships is developing as an individual. One of the most important steps in developing the relationship is to understand that your partner is an individual and then to understand how they work as an individual.

We can’t understand that from our own personal framework. This is where the power of asking questions comes into play. Questions are the only way that you will understand your partner’s perspective.

Unfortunately as human beings when we question at another person’s actions, we tend to do it from a perspective of being attacking in the way we put things, because we feel that the person’s actions do not fit a model of thinking and therefore we find it somewhat disturbing.

Questions need to be delivered in an non attacking way. It’s easy to tell when you are asking in an attacking way because the person that you are questioning will go into defence mode. They are then likely to attack back resulting in an argument. The one thing we do know about arguments is that they produce no beneficial results. The main function of an argument is for one person to win. There is nothing rational about an argument, and in fact, the argument is coming from the emotional part of your brain in conjunction with you fight-flight system. The emotional part of your brain is not rational. If it believes it’s being attacked, your fight/flight system will respond either by moving away or by attacking.

So how do I have a conversation with a highly reduced possibility of conflict?

These are the steps

Partner 1

Ask questions using the following guidelines

  • It is important that you are focusing on one thing at a time. Asking questions which have multiple subjects becomes extremely confusing to the person who you are expecting an answer from

  • Make sure that you were doing it at an appropriate time. It is not appropriate to do this while the person you’re asking questions of is completely or partially distracted by something else

  • Make sure your question is predicated by “I would like to understand” and then go on to ask your question

  • The question is to avoid blaming the other person. The question has arisen because you have a reaction to something that has happened. The other person has not caused you to react the way that you are reacting. Your reaction is a result of how you see the world. You are trying to understand how they see the world.

  • You can say I feel, I see etc. Take ownership of how you see the world. Now ask a question of the other person

Partner 2

Answer Questions using the following guidelines

  • Do not defend yourself – you are not under attack

  • State the basis on which you see things. You do not need to justify your position.

  • Be clear in your replies. If you need to think for a minute or two, let your partner know.

Partner 1

Once you have an answer

  • repeat back what you think you have heard so that you can be sure that you have understood everything that your partner said.

  • Now ask another question based on the answer.

For example

Your partner often says no to going out even though it means a lot to you.


So that I understand “what is your reasoning behind not going out?”


“I just do not like crowds.”


“I understand that you do not like crowds. What is that you particularly dislike about crowds?”


“I find it difficult to hear what people are saying when there is a lot of background noise, and I feel that the only places that you want to go involve crowds.”


“I didn’t realise that the hearing matter was a real issue for you. Sorry. There are some things that I would like to do that do not involve being around a lot of people. Can we look at doing those?”

Compare that to

Question failure


“I am so sick of your attitude. We never go anywhere. You always say No to going out and I am so sick of being home all the time. You don’t care how I feel, and I don’t know why we are even together.”

Which gets the better result?


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