Patching Things Up after Rows

Conflicts are an inevitable part of any relationship. Without making any excuses for poor conduct, we have to accept that conversation can be a chaotic business and doesn’t unfold in straight lines. As such, it would be ridiculous to imagine that we’re going to get all of our conversations right.

After an argument, people have different ways of patching things up. Some people report high levels of fulfilment in their personal relationship while rarely tackling disagreements head-on. They move on without holding onto resentment or needing to go back over the details of the disagreement. After a brief interlude, they get down from their respective high horses and normal relations are resumed. For others, an apology – if accepted – is the catalyst for a restored sense of connection.

However, there are times where a conversation is probably required to patch things up. How can we do this to ensure a constructive outcome?

1. If you apologize, don’t justify.

It’s probably better not to apologize at all if you’re going to follow up by attempting to justify yourself or blaming someone else. If you’re going to say sorry, do it without self-righteousness. There’s nothing that will rile other people more.

2. Ask open questions and hear them out.

If someone’s in the Lock Down you need to ask open questions that invite them to express their feelings and point of view. Again, don’t venture into this territory unless you’re willing to listen to what they have to say, even if you think it’s untrue or unjustified. Your job is to hear them out fully, even to reflect on what they’re saying, letting them know you’re listening by mirroring this back to them – challenging though this might be: ‘So you’re saying you think it’s unfair of me to expect you to …’

3. Suspend your own story.

If you’re going to truly listen to someone else’s perspective, you have to be able to put your story on hold until you’ve heard theirs – fully. Rather than noting their points and preparing counter-arguments in your mind, the idea is to focus on understanding their view on the situation. When we do this, we usually gain a better understanding of their perspective. We don’t have to agree with it, but it helps if we recognize that it’s valid for the other person.

4. Take responsibility for your story.

When you do get an opportunity to speak, it’s worth acknowledging that you’re recounting your perspective as opposed to the truth of the matter – even though you may feel that they are the same thing.

5. Get back to values and commitments.

So often, the apparent chasm between people doesn’t look nearly as wide – or can even disappear – once they’re in open communication and have listened to each other.

This allows you to get back to higher-level commitments and values, which are often shared, even though you may have different styles of expression or views about how to deliver on them. Once you’ve listened to one other and have understood each other’s perspective, you naturally start to look for ways forward. 

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