Tips for Minimizing Conflict

Opportunities to fight will arise frequently during your divorce. You can engage and turn your divorce into a series of major battles, or you can employ some of the following techniques to reduce the anger, stress, length, and expense of your divorce:

1. Resolve to change the way you communicate with your spouse. The old methods have obviously not worked well.

2. Think beforehand about what you want to accomplish and what you want to say to reach your goal. Maybe even write down the key phrases you want to use in discussing the issue. Use neutral words that are solution-oriented.

3. Employ calming techniques before speaking. Use whatever works best for you: 3 deep breaths, count to 5, uncross your arms, ask yourself if this is a big enough issue to get angry over, try to see the issue from your spouse’s perspective, or question whether two years from now you will care about this.

4. Fight fair. Focus on the issue and its solutions, not the person.

5. Listen. Before you jump to conclusions, ask questions to make sure you are hearing correctly.

6. Do not interrupt. Allow your spouse to completely finish a thought before you begin to speak.

7. Empathize before responding. “I can see why that would upset you.”

8. Admit your share of the problem and tell your spouse you’d rather be part of the solution. “I am certainly guilty of making this matter worse and want to correct that.”

9. Restate your spouse’s complaint in your own words so your spouse knows you listened and heard. “So what you want is _____.”

10. Sandwich your response between two positive statements. Began by acknowledging some assistance your spouse has provided, state your request, and finish with a thank you. “First I want to say that I really appreciate that you ______.”

11. Hedge. Use softening introductory phrases like “Perhaps you could ___” or “Maybe if we tried ____”

12. Reverse. If your spouse starts speaking louder and quicker, instead of matching the volume and speed, you should speak more quietly and slowly.

13. Apologize. This works wonders. Even if you are not at fault, say you are sorry. Much can be accomplished if one spouse is big enough to apologize first.

14. Offer to compromise. Trade one favor for another. “Yes, I can do that if you can ______.”

15. Suggest multiple solutions. “An alternate possibility might be to ________.”

16. Set the issue aside. “That’s a big one. Can we take 24 hours to come up with some possible solutions and then select one?”