The I’s Have It

7 Sep

Most conflict isn’t of the relationship-ending sort. It’s more often about who cooks and who washes the dishes. However, even small-unresolved conflict causes stress and wears on relationships.

I once taught peer mediation to 4th-8th graders. Even kindergarteners were able to settle disputes with the help of a mediator. I realized anyone could learn simple mediation skills. These skills pertain to parent/child, siblings, roommates, business associates, spouses, and more.

That was huge for me. As a people pleaser, I hated conflict. My heart and prayer is that we become problem solvers even without a mediator. Here are some tips.

An “I Message” can be a handy communication tool during conflict. It allows us to acknowledge our responsibility, emotions, and needs without blaming. It contains three simple parts.

I feel ______, because (when you) ______. I want (need you to) ______.

The goal isn’t to spew out pent up frustration. Instead, let’s problem solve. Give yourself time to think. “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (Proverbs 15:28 NIV). The prodigal son rehearsed exactly what he would say to his father (Luke 15). Let’s plan and practice.

Suppose roommates (Cici and Didi) disagree over cleaning. If Cici says, “You make me furious because you won’t carry your load,” she’s inviting defensiveness. Instead, Cici might say, “It seems unfair that I work fulltime and still have to do most of the cleaning. I want to divide the chores evenly.” Notice Cici covered the three parts of an I Message, but didn’t use the exact words.

Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others (NLT).

Didi, in a perfect world and after practice, resists the urge to explain and summarizes, “You feel I’m not doing my fair share of chores and you want to divide them differently.” Notice it’s a paraphrase as she absorbs Cici’s meaning. (See last week’s post.) Since Didi got it, it’s her turn. “Sure, I only work part time, but I’ve got school and studying. If I do more chores, my grades will drop.”

After both feel understood, it’s time to brainstorm for solutions. Write down each proposed solution without judgment. Cici might say, “You can pay me $15 an hour to do your part of the cleaning.” Incorrectly done, Didi might say, “Are you crazy? Where do you think I’m going to come up with $15 an hour?” More helpful—she’d offer another solution. “We can divide chores according to my class schedule.”

Cross off all ideas except solutions both consider workable. Discuss possible implications and consequences for each. Select the best alternative and agree on a timed trial. Each person writes how she’ll keep her part of the agreement. It might look like this.

“We agree to meet Sunday afternoon and make a list of chores and times we’ll do them. Cici promises not to nag, remind, or complain about chores. Didi promises to complete her jobs on time. We will meet again in one week to determine our success.”

(Signed) Cici             Didi

In a week, chores or times may need tweaking. If that solution doesn’t work, choose another and try again.

“Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8–9 NET).

One Response to “The I’s Have It”

  1. Kat September 9, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Thank you Nancy. I first heard this mediation method in college and told the professor the class should be mandatory. She agreed. I have shared on Facebook so our cousins can benefit from your great advice.

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