Last month, the Family Connection explored how compromise can be detrimental to a relationship rather than healthy. Compromising involves people in a conflict trying to keep as much of their own solution as possible, and lose as little as possible. In the end, someone’s needs are what actually end up being compromised, and this usually results in feelings of anger, resentment, sadness, etc.
Method III is a different way of resolving conflict that fosters healthy, close relationships. Instead of putting ourselves through the frustration of not having our needs met through compromise, or feeling like we have to battle our loved ones in a “my needs vs. your needs” battle, we can clearly state our needs and then discuss and reach a solution that meets everyone’s needs. In other words, we really can make sure everyone gets what they need all of the time.
Next time you have a conflict, instead of giving in to the other person and sacrificing your needs for theirs (Method II), implementing your own solutions and putting your needs ahead of theirs (Method I), or going through the frustration of a compromise, try these six simple steps of Method III instead:
- Define everyone’s needs
- Brainstorm solutions
- Evaluate the solutions
- Decide on final solutions
- Implement solutions
- Evaluate solutions
Let’s take a look at how this would work using one of last month’s examples.
“I don’t want to eat my broccoli; it makes me gag!”
“You need your vegetables. Now just take 5 bites!”
Before you launch into Method III, make sure you set a time that everyone involved in the conflict can sit down and go through all six steps. Depending on the conflict and who is involved, Method III could take 5 minutes, or it could take 30. Make sure you leave adequate time open, and that it is a good time for everyone!
Method III is about getting your needs met, not getting your solution “met” as it were. It can be a challenge separating solutions from needs. For example, when a child says “I need my own room,” they have presented a solution for his/her underlying needs. What s/he actually might need may be more privacy or more space–and that need is something both parties involved can determine together with Active Listening.
Defining needs (Step 1) is the most critical of the six steps, since steps 2-6 are all about finding solutions for the needs defined in the first step. The next Family Connection will discuss Step 1 and separating needs from solutions in more detail.
Both of these things–making sure you choose a good time, and begin Method III without predetermined solutions–are part of what P.E.T. calls “Setting the Stage.” For more information on “Setting the Stage,” check out the P.E.T. blog!
Step 1: Define Everyone’s Needs
Parent: So you really hate that broccoli, don’t you?
Child: Yeah. It really grosses me out! I gag! I can’t eat it.
Parent: Ok, so you need to stay away from broccoli.
Parent: Well, I need to make sure you’re getting all of your veggies.
Remember, this is a simple example; often times, there are several needs. Write everyone’s needs down if you like!
Step 2: Brainstorm Solutions
Next, put your heads together and brainstorm solutions. The purpose of this is to generate lots of alternative solutions without any discussion or evaluation; keeping evaluation out of this step encourages thinking off the top of your heads. It is important to write down every solution that is suggested, even if it seems silly or impossible. Save the evaluation for later! Evaluating during brainstorming might discourage people from voicing their ideas, and you might miss a good one!
Parent: So what can we do so that you don’t have to eat broccoli and I know you’re getting all your vitamins?
Child: Eat more vitamins!
Parent: Ok, I’ll write that idea down. And I’m also going to write down serving vegetables you like!
Child: Or what about smoothies?
Once you’re done brainstorming ideas, go ahead and move on to the next step.
Step 3: Evaluate the Solutions
Go down the list and discuss all of the ideas with each other. A good idea is to put a checkmark next to the ideas you both agree on, cross out the ones no one agrees on, and put a question mark next to the ones on which you have a difference of opinion. You can use your I-Messages and Active Listening skills to discuss the items with a question mark, until you can both agree on a checkmark or crossing it out. You should be left with a list of solutions that you both agree on.
In this case, our parent-child pair put a checkmark next to the smoothies solution, and the choosing vegetables that the child likes solution. They both agreed to cross out the vitamins after a brief discussion, since the parent says that there’s a limit on how many vitamins the child can safely take per day.
Step 4: Decide on Final Solution(s)
Decide together on the final solution to your conflict. This could include putting one or more of your ideas into action. Since the parent and child here put checkmarks next to 2 solutions, they take a closer look at these two. They decide that choosing a vegetable the child likes and drinking smoothies will both work. The child will be eating something s/he likes, and the parent will know that his/her child will be getting proper nutrition. Remember, the final solution(s) should be mutually agreed on!
Step 5: Implement Solution(s)
At this point, all parties involved should decide who is responsible for the different parts of the solution(s) and what each agrees to do to carry it out. It’s important to agree on when to begin and then put your solution into practice.
In this example, the child agrees to prepare a list of vegetables he likes and get it to the parent before her next grocery shopping trip, which will be on Friday. The parent agrees to pick up these veggies and serve them with dinner, and s/he also agrees to make smoothies for the child on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Step 6: Evaluate Solution(s)
The next step is to work out a plan to check later on to be sure the solution(s) is still working and everyone’s needs continue to be met if it is an ongoing situation. If it is a one-time event, then be sure that everyone’s needs have been met and the problem has been solved.
Parent and child decide that they will sit down to talk again in a month. They choose a date on the calendar that works for both of them.
If the solution(s) isn’t working at that point, they may need to re-evaluate, discuss a different way of implementing their solution, or even brainstorm more ideas.
Method III can help you resolve conflicts without power struggles, hurt feelings, resentment, or anger. It makes sure everyone’s needs are met, and everyone will feel satisfied.
Give it a try!
For more tips on using Method III and Setting the Stage, remember to check out the P.E.T. Blog!