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Can Conflict Be Constructive?

This takes work, however. A thriving intimate relationship based on equality and mutual respect -- the kind so many of us strive toward --requires ongoing negotiation. In a relationship of equals, nothing can be defined "once and for all."

With practice, you can develop skills to negotiate every aspect of the relationship. So the next time you find yourself in conflict, try to ignore your instincts to fight or flee. Instead, consider it good practice for honing your skills. For example:

Check your intention. Are you interested in understanding the other's
experience? Or, do you want to assign blame or make a point that you are right? For what are you longing?

Listen with real curiosity. When the other has finished speaking, ask questions. If you think you already know the answer, you're probably not being curious.

Listen for connection. Instead of listening to see if you agree with the speaker or mentally preparing your response, ask yourself, "What do these words or statements mean to him or her?" Listen to identify the other person's feelings and needs.

Share what you heard and check to see if your understanding is complete and accurate. Share your needs and feelings without blaming the other person.

When there is an understanding between you, offer specific options or make a specific request that you think would address both of your needs. Be willing to accept a "no" from the other person. That means a need of his/hers hasn't been met by your suggestion. Ask what the other person would specifically request.

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