Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren't echo chambers -- and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.
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Much has been studied and documented of the skills that are required for stable & growing personal relationships, like long-term successfull couple relationships or friendships. This article is about couple relationships and gives us good aims for strengthening relationships in any group.
As a therapist once told us, you need to have conflict if you and your partner are going to grow as a couple.
The question is — how do you get good at it?
A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, sheds a lot of light on what’s important. After a series of experiments, psychologists Amie M. Gordon and Serena Chen found that feeling understood by a partner makes people feel like conflict helps, rather than harms, their relationship.
“Conflict is only negatively associated with relationship satisfaction postconflict when people do not feel their thoughts, feelings, and point of view are understood by their romantic partners,” the authors write.
For one survey study, participants — all of whom were in their 20s or 30s and in relationships of at least six months — were recruited online . They reported on how the frequency of conflict influenced how they felt about the health of their relationship. The more conflict, the worse they thought they were faring — unless they felt understood.
In another study, couples were brought into the lab where they were interviewed in person about a conflict they had in their relationship. Before and after the interviewing, they rated their relationship satisfaction. As with the other study, individuals who felt understood by their partner had a higher rating of satisfaction after the conflict.
Gordon and Chen found that couples who use “affection, humor, or effective problem-solving” are the best at conflict.
The lesson: conflict is not something to be avoided;
it’s something to learn how to do well.
John Gottman, one of the world’s leading relationship psychologists, told us that there are four components to getting good at these uncomfortable conversations:
1 • Putting your emotions into words. Your partner’s best attempts at listening aren’t going to be fruitful unless you can articulate what’s happening in your head. It’s about “being able to put your emotions into words that really are what you actually feel,” Gottman says. “Knowing where you feel tense, what relaxed feels like, what truth feels like.” A meditation-like technique called Focusing helps with developing these skills.
2 • Asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow you to explore your partner’s feelings. “They open up the heart and have acceptance at the base of them,”Gottman says. For example, you might ask: So what do you feel about this living room — how would you change it if you had all the money in the world? What do you want your life to be like in three years? How do you like your job?
3 • Making open-ended statements. “These are exploratory statements,” he says, where you encourage your partner to tell you a story. For instance: I want to hear all of your thoughts about quitting your job. I want to hear all of your thoughts about your job.
4 • Empathizing with your partner. Rather than saying you understand, show that you understand. “Empathy is really communicating that you understand your partner’s feelings and they make sense to you,” Gottman says. “It’s really caring about your partner’s welfare, not just your own.”
When you do that, the conflict doesn’t harm the people involved. It helps both of them grow.
Originally published at: Understanding helps relationships last – Tech Insider
Because fear of conflict leads to avoidance of conflict & this naturally leads to us not developing the skills necessary for handling conflict creatively, which means we are un-able to come to agreements across fields, points of view, areas of experience ... which is of course crucial in creating real collective intelligence.
So on a personal & group level, once we are aware of this, we can consciously re-design with this pattern. We can become more attentive about where we are avoiding conflict and willingly embrace it when it arises, in order to learn how to navigate it creatively, to create fertile connections, learn more & more quickly & so improve life for all concerned.
So it may well be that the most crucial technology we have yet to develop, is what we call an 'invisible structure': our ability to turn conflict into collective intelligence, instead of what more often happens, collective stupidity or avoidance.