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The Five Secure Principles for Resolving Conflict

Secure couples instinctively follow five principles for handling disagreements:

  1. Focus on resolving the issue at hand rather than attacking the other's character
  2. Refrain from generalizing the conflict ("You always..." "You never...")
  3. Remain engaged and listen to the other's perspective
  4. Communicate feelings and needs clearly and directly
  5. Prioritize the other's well-being even when angry or hurt

Section: 3, Chapter: 9

Book: Attached

Author: Amir Levine, Rachel Heller

Task Conflict Vs Relationship Conflict

Psychologist Karen "Etty" Jehn distinguishes between two types of conflict: relationship conflict (personal, emotional clashes) and task conflict (disagreements about ideas and opinions). Her research shows that while relationship conflict is usually destructive, moderate task conflict can actually improve team performance by enhancing creativity and preventing groupthink.

The key is to keep task conflicts focused on the substance of the debate, not the egos of the people involved. Some tips:

  • Frame a disagreement as a debate, not an argument. An argument feels like a battle, but a debate feels like a cooperative search for truth.
  • Separate the idea from the person. Critique the work, not the author. "I disagree with that suggestion" is better than "I disagree with you."
  • Agree that you might be wrong. Admitting the possibility of error keeps defensiveness in check and minds open on both sides.
  • Focus on "how" questions, not just "why." Explaining how your view might work in practice invites more constructive discussion than just asserting why you're right.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Think Again

Author: Adam Grant

Blame And Conflict In Fixed Mindset Relationships

Fixed mindset couples often descend into blame and conflict when problems emerge.

  • They assume that disagreements mean their relationship is not "meant to be" because they expect perfect compatibility.
  • They assign negative traits like selfishness or insensitivity to their partner's actions rather than looking at the situational factors.
  • They believe their partner cannot change, so conflicts and disappointments lead to resentment rather than efforts to improve the relationship.
  • They prioritize protecting their ego and sense of rightness over the health of the relationship.

These tendencies lead to a destructive cycle of judgment and escalating conflict that poisons many fixed mindset relationships.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Mindset

Author: Carol Dweck

The Telltale Signs of Insecure Conflict Strategies

Look out for these common insecure behavior patterns:

  1. Focusing on being right rather than being happy. Let go of the need to "win" or assign blame.
  2. Kitchen sinking. Stick to one issue at a time rather than throwing every past resentment into the mix.
  3. Hitting below the belt. Personal attacks and character assassination are always off-limits, even if your partner "started it."
  4. Clamming up or shutting down. Commit to staying engaged even when you feel overwhelmed. Take a short break if needed but come back to the table.
  5. Invalidating your partner's perspective. You can disagree while still making room for another point of view. Aim for "yes, and" instead of "no, but."

Section: 4, Chapter: 12

Book: Attached

Author: Amir Levine, Rachel Heller

Labeling Emotions Diffuses Them

Labeling is a way of validating someone's emotion by acknowledging it verbally. Give their emotion a name and you show you identify with how they feel.

The key is to label in a neutral tone, staying calm yourself. Simple phrases like "It seems like..." or "It sounds like..." work well. The magic of labeling emotions is it diffuses them. When people feel understood, their defensive walls come down and they are more open to influence.

Labeling negative emotions helps to de-escalate conflicts, while positively affirming your counterpart's worldview.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Books about Conflict Resolution

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