Valentine's Day has come and gone, and no matter how much romance was in the air, it doesn't always last, and eventually, couples will be at odds. Even for those who aren't in relationships with significant others, patterns of discord can come up between parents and children, and among friends or co-workers.

Communications Specialist with Envision Counselling and Support Centre, Raven Daer, said they present and facilitate workshops and groups presentations throughout all of the communities in southeast Saskatchewan upon request. They also utilize a six-step strategy for respectful conflict resolution within their counselling sessions. 

“Conflict is natural, whether it's in a romantic relationship or any of the other relationships that we navigate through within our lives, and learning that we can solve conflict in a healthy matter is absolutely crucial and essential to being able to maintain these healthy relationships.”

Daer shared with us those tips on fighting fair:

“The first thing that we want to do is just identify the problem. So what is the real issue here?”

She said this means being honest, listening carefully to yourself and the other person as well. 

“Make sure that you're stating clearly what you perceive the problem to be, but also look for common ground and points that you guys can agree on mutually.”

Daer noted the hardest part about this step is simply recognizing the fact that there is a conflict that either one or both parties are experiencing and that a conversation needs to be had. 

The second step is to focus on the problem, not being sidetracked by trying to figure out who may be at fault, or by dragging up past issues. 

“We don't need to make winning a priority or a goal, because in the end we want both parties to feel like the conflict was resolved fairly,” she advised.

The third step is to attack the problem, not the person. This important step means not blame-throwing, but rather addressing the problem using 'I' statements. 

“So that's stating how you feel or what you are noticing or what you need in that situation, rather than focusing on the other person,” she clarified. “Think of ways to resolve the conflict. Come up with options, quite a few options. The more ideas the better, and then just select solutions that work best for both of you. We really, really want to take the 'you' out of the equation and this is something that we even struggle with as adults. It's hard to not put that blame on other people.”

For example, Daer noted, reframing it as, 'when I am spoken to in a manner like this, or when certain things like this are said to me', so we're addressing the problem, not the person directly. It's part of that mutual respect, right?”

Listening with an open mind is the fourth step. “We need to make sure that we're listening, so that the other person's point of view is being heard without judgment or being accusatory or demeaning in any manner.  That just means listening without interrupting, being willing to put yourself in the other person's shoes. “

Part of this (most difficult) step, she noted, is being willing to admit when you're wrong.

“I know that is something that we all struggle with. It's not easy to point out our own flaws and our own faults.”

She said this kind of ownership is not only a key part of being in a respectful and healthy relationship, but it is a really crucial part of personal growth as well. 

“Focusing on admitting when we're wrong and rectifying those situations when we can,” she said, is the most effective way to reach a solution. 

Treating a person's feelings with respect is step five. 

“We need to recognize that both people in relationships have very strong feelings and remembering that respect builds trust and trust, we all know is absolutely a number one importance factor in relationships, because if we don't have trust, then we can't really navigate. healthily through those relationships, right? So build that trust and then you will likely find that it is easier for you to solve those problems with that foundation built.”

“Validation, being present and listening and open to hearing what the other party has to say back to that admitting when you're wrong and finding a common ground so that both parties in the relationship are feeling heard and respected and essentially happy with the outcome.”

“Number six is taking responsibility for your actions so carry out your agreements and commitments,” shared Daer. “Oftentimes, when we're in situations where we're disagreeing or arguing with the ones that we love and we just want to make them happy or end the fight, we just want it to stop. So we will say, 'you know what, I'll stop doing this' or, 'I'll try to do this better'. But unless we actually put that effort going forward and commit to doing those things, we are going to keep having that cycle, right? We're going to keep coming across the same conflict. We're going to never really resolve those issues and move forward with that foundation of trust and respect.'

“So if you're finding that your solutions aren't working, try again. Maybe revisit that conversation. It's not a one-solution- fixes-all sort of situation. Communication is cyclical. We need to constantly be checking in with our partners, and all of the people that we are in relationships with, just to ensure that we are being responsible for our actions and coming up with a common ground.”

“It's hard, and in our society we have been ingrained with all of these negative communication techniques and just all of the ideas that we aren't able to say no and stand up for ourselves and that someone needs to be at fault, to blame, when really we just need to find a mutual respect for each other and be honest and fair and just genuinely try to be good people.”

Daer reminded that Envision does offer couples counselling as well as family counselling. To access this community resource, call their offices and they'll put you through to their intake line. 

“You will hear from them within about 48 hours, and they will kind of just assess how that first initial conversation with you and then set you up with the counsellor. That would be the right fit for your family or your individual self, your child, whomever that might be.”