Saturday, August 15th, 2020

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
Conflict Covenant - Part V


- Rules Of Engagement -


This month I will finish presenting the Covenant by offering a few more suggestions for handling conflict. As you design your own Conflict Covenant choose the suggestions that relate to your situation that will help you resolve arguments.


5. Introducing a problem:
We will introduce the problem as a behavior rather than a description of our partner.

Commentary: It is easier to hear and respond to our partner when the problem is presented by saying, "I get angry when socks are left on the floor," rather than, "You're such a slob. Why can't you be considerate and pick up your smelly socks?" The same rule should be applied to ourselves when we make mistakes. After we fail a test, instead of labeling and whipping ourselves by saying, "I'm so stupid," rather say, "I didn't pass this test this time. I think the reason I did poorly was because I didn't set aside enough time to study." It is better to label our actions rather than others or ourselves! We can do something about the behaviors!

6. Taking turns:
a) We will listen to our partner quietly and sincerely, looking for meanings and feelings. We will not interrupt, but will wait until our partner says, "I'm finished," before answering.
b) We will repeat back what we have heard in terms of feelings and thoughts
until our partner is satisfied that we understand the point.
c) We will refrain from defending ourselves, rehearsing what we are going to say, and being set on what the "truth" is. We will look for more than one interpretation of what was said or done.

7. Saying what we want:
We will say what we want instead of hinting.

Commentary: We cannot get into another person's head so we need to find out from that person what he is thinking and feeling. One of the problems in relationships is the assumption that the other person listens and processes the way we do. The truth is everyone has a different "love language." Mind reading doesn't work.

8. Speaking for self:
When presenting a problem we will use the following format: "When ________(statement about the upsetting behavior), I feel ______(feeling such as happy or angry) because (give your interpretation of how the behavior affects you)___________. What I would want is_________."

9. Reflective listening:
We will respond to our partner by using a reflective listening statement such as: "This is what I am hearing you say ______" or "It seems to me that you are feeling _________." We will then ask for verification of our interpretation.

After you work through the above process and finalize your Conflict Covenant, you and your partner or family members are to sign and date the covenant. The next step is to make copies and post them around the house so if a conflict gets out of line, the argument is stopped and the covenant is implemented.

If you missed the previous Conflict Covenant suggestions, you can read them

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700