Resilience Tip - Patterns in Disagreements


Resilience is the ability to cope well with difficulties and to bounce back from setbacks.

While some people are naturally more resilient than others, resiliency can also be intentionally developed.


Communication – Changing Patterns in Disagreements

Disagreements can be exasperating, particularly disagreements that seem to come up again and again. Repetitive problems often require new patterns for solutions. Einstein said: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Disagreements occur when one person says one thing, and a second person says something that seems in conflict with the first person’s words. According to Merriam-Webster, we are at variance, similarly according to Oxford, we are of different opinions. Typically, there is a sense of a created and continuing problem. How to change the pattern? Physically changing the environment facilitates a change in our orientation. Disagreements can be like judgments or contentious negotiations, two opposing sides, each trying to convince the other who is right, or each trying to get more from the other than they concede. Disagreements can also be like mediation, where the two participants are literally and physically drawn away from the opposing sides of the table, and seated together on one side of the table opposite a blackboard on which is written the problem, with room to work on the solution. This sets up the possibility of a partnership to face and solve the problem, rather than facing off against each other. Here's a typical example of a continuing disagreement: "You are always so distracted when you return from work, you don't help with the kids and house when I ask you to, and so the house becomes a complete mess in the evenings. Why can't you listen to me?!" Changing the pattern might look like: "I really need to talk to you. I feel like our household evening routines just do not work. Can we sit together and figure out what to do?"

Similarly, consider the use of “I” and “We” in a disagreement. Sitting together opposite the problem is creating a “We”, an attempt for us to find a solution. I and others have also recommended using “I” statements to improve communication during disagreements. Confusing? Consider the above example. “I” is used when describing the situation, when you are putting your perception of the situation on the proverbial table. As another example, “I get extremely frustrated when I feel you are always looking to me to take the lead, I feel like all the responsibility is put on me.” In the description of the situation, the use of carefully crafted “I” statements is less likely to give a sense of blame. In this example, the wording suggests that these are the perceptions and responses of the speaker, and so are less likely to lead to defensiveness in the other person. Then, shift to “We” when beginning to focus on what to do, on the solution. "Can we sit together and figure out what to do?" This gives the sense of wanting to partner with the other person toward a solution, not to be left alone to deal with a frustrating situation, nor to throw the problem onto the other side. “I” for describing one’s own perception of the situation, “We” for thoughts regarding how to address the situation.

There is a related definition from Einstein; “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We may ask ourselves why our partner just does not get it, when we explain what is bothering us so clearly again and again. Well, if our seemingly crystal clear explanation was not understood the first time, nor the second, nor the “nth” time, seriously now – what leads us to expect it will one day be understood?! (For those with more engineering and mathematical brains, think: (action) A consistently leads to (result) B. When I want (result) D, what is the likelihood of achieving D when I do A?) Think this does not happen to you or me? I respectfully suggest taking another, closer look. Some human tendencies are difficult to eliminate, the question continues to be, how fast can I recognize it and turn it around?

So when feeling stuck in disagreements, use a resilient approach of flexibility, and work on changing your pattern of interacting.


Carolyn S. Tal, PhD
Psychologist and Consultant - working with individuals and partners
052-825-8585, ]]