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Avoiding conflict means learning how to listen

How to end the fights about money between you and your spouse.

Question: My husband and I see eye-to-eye on many things, but we often find ourselves fighting about money. How do other people handle this?

Answer: The way that people think of money has been influenced by their upbringing, past experiences, concepts about the “right” way to use money, values about the highest and best uses of money and many other reasons. Because we speak the same language, we think that everyone has similar meanings for words, but we usually find out the hard way that it just isn’t true.

I can’t tell you how to avoid conflict, but I will share a technique that can get you and your husband through conflict so that both of your opinions are valued and understood.

Authors Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg present a process they call the “Speaker-Listener Technique” in their book, “Fighting for Your Marriage.” The purpose of the technique is to reduce conflict. We all know that escalating conflict leads to ill will and limited energy for finding healthy solutions.

The technique is simple. Pick a time agreeable to both people. One person starts and speaks without interruption until they have explained their thoughts. The purpose is not to blame or criticize the other person but to have their thoughts understood. It takes some introspection for each person to explain what they understand about their own fears and concerns that contribute to conflict.

When the first person has explained their thoughts, feelings and concerns, the listener summarizes what he or she heard. The listener must be paying attention to do this. If the listener doesn’t quite get it right, the first person calmly clarifies any points that weren’t quite accurate. Remember, the goal is to be understood.

Now the listener has a chance to describe his or her own feelings, thoughts and concerns without interruption. The first person listens and summarizes to make sure they heard accurately.

Often, just understanding the real feelings behind the conflict can create an environment for joint decision making. If feelings are too raw, the discussion can continue later by setting a time to discuss the issue further. If this happens, both people are encouraged to think about how they can strengthen their relationship by finding solutions that are respectful of both people.

I find this simple technique is exceptionally successful in getting two people to understand their differences and move ahead to healthy decisions.

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