4 Steps to Changing Conflict from Confrontation to Collaboration

A Recipe for Healthy Conflict

In my last two posts, I talked about uncontrolled conflict and avoiding conflict: two situations that are almost certain to lead to dissolution of any relationship. In this post, I want to talk about the recipe that I offer to clients who are involved in uncontrolled conflict or conflict avoidance. These four steps are designed to change your conflict dynamic from confrontational to collaborative.

Is Your Relationship Characterized by Uncontrolled Conflict?

Uncontrolled conflict will kill a marriage. It will either result in partners feeling angry and resentful at one another, or hurt and afraid of each other. Of course, every marriage has conflict. If you don’t fight with your spouse now and then, chances are at least one of you isn’t being honest about your needs, opinions, and thoughts. No couple is going to agree on 100% of the issues in their marriage 100% of the time.

Here are the characteristics of uncontrolled conflict:

This Moment

Close your eyes. Stop and think. What are you thinking about right now?

When I do this exercise, I nearly always find myself considering something that’s yet to occur, or reviewing things that have happend in the last 24 hours.

Problem is, I can’t do anything with my past or my future. Both are out of my control. The only part of my life I can do anything about is my present — right now.

I can choose what I think about, what I do, how I act, how I respond, where I go, and who I talk to. Those choices are always within my control, so long as I’m grounded in the present moment.

The only time I lose control of those things is when I start living in the future or the past, and allow future-thinking and past-thinking to dictate my choices and direction and life.

Your brain hates the present moment. It’s default is to take you into the future, or remind you of the past. Your job is to train your brain to stay with the moment. To deny it the gratification of regret for the past, or worry for the future. The more your brain stays here, in this moment, right now, the less capacity it has to torture you with regret or worry. But you’ve got to train it. Left to its own devices, it will always run backward into the unchangeable past, or forward into the unknowable future.

Put a leash on your brain. Connect it to “now.” Enjoy freedom from running or chasing. Embrace the present moment and the infinite possibilities it contains.

4 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal with Their Feelings

Has your kid ever thrown a fit? Has she fallen apart and melted into a puddle of tears for no apparent reason? Has he ever gotten upset and said or done something you thought was unacceptable? Am I asking a bunch of unnecessary questions where the answer is obviously going to be, “Yes?” Kids’ emotions are volatile. They escalate quickly and often subside just as quickly. One minute they’re as happy as can be. The next minute their entire world is crashing down around them. The way we as parents handle our kids’ emotional ups and downs is crucial to whether they become better at regulating their emotional responses and becoming more stable over time. It also has a huge impact on their behavior. “When kids feel right, they’ll behave right.” [1] So here are four things you can do help your kids feel right, and the mistakes we often make instead.


Your Parents Weren’t Experts and Neither are You

Many people base their parenting style on doing things exactly the same way their parents did them. Others base it on doing everything entirely opposite from the way their parents worked. Any time we do something either to conform with parental expectations or to defy those expectations, we’re losing out on an opportunity to be true to our own self. The reality is that parenting has, for most of human history, been a function of “doing the best you can with what you’ve got.” But over the last 25 years, researchers have made amazing progress in understanding human development from infancy to adulthood, and in understanding the neuroscience that undergirds that development.


4 Reasons Pretending can be Easier than Authenticity

Closing the Gap Between the True Self and the Public Self

Many issues that trouble us most, whether individually or relationally, stem from a discrepancy between our internal emotional experience and our external expression of that experience. And this can lead to a lack of authenticity in the way we engage with others. We begin to feel like pretenders. The resulting double-life feeling becomes intolerable once the gap between the internal and external expression widens sufficiently.