1. Listen when your impulse is to argue. Listening, a rare and pure gift from the heart, requires us to be quiet long enough to ponder our partner’s message.
2. Edit accusations that could make your partner feel put down and judged. Instead, describe your feelings. “I feel lonely” has a different ring than, “You’re selfish and unresponsive.”
3. Acknowledge your role in a problem. Every issue has another side. When we describe how we contributed, even unintentionally, to a problem, we encourage our partner to hear us out.
4. Agree on a solution. Reach an explicit, collaborative agreement about what each of you will do differently in the future.
5. Follow up on your agreements. Many attempts at resolving conflict end in failure, but following up proves your commitment to view conflict resolution as a process rather than a one-shot deal.
As marriage and business partners for over 40 years, we can attest that while confronting issues is never easy, avoidance is worse. And we still endorse chocolate too: It’s good for your heart.
We want to hear: What communication behaviors would you like to change in your relationships this year, and what steps are you taking to do so? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.