Marriage would be so much easier without conflict, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the reality is that whenever we live in close proximity to another person, the opportunity for conflict will eventually come our way. Today I’d like to introduce you to a tool that can help you resolve conflict in a more helpful and healthy way.

When we’re engaged in conflict it can feel really vulnerable to lower our defenses and make a solid attempt at understanding the other person’s needs. “Setting the Table” can provide a way for both sides of a conflict to be heard and understood.

When you are sitting down at the table to eat a meal, you look at the food your about to eat and you make an assessment of what you will need at the table in order to consume this food. If you’re having soup you’ll need a bowl and spoon; spaghetti? A plate, fork, and spoon. If you’re having sushi, perhaps you need chopsticks. Whatever you need, you know the meal will be more functional if you have what you need in order to consume it.

In the same way, having a conversation about the conversation you would like to have is like setting the table. What are you going to need in order for this conversation to function, and what is your counterpart going to need?

So this is what Setting the Table might look like:

“Hey, Joe, I wanted to talk to you about something, but I’m afraid we’ll just end up arguing and nothing will be accomplished. Would you really try to hear me out without interrupting? It would help me feel heard if you would just try not to be defensive. What do you need from me in order to have this conversation?” Now Joe might say something like, “Umm, I don’t really know what’s coming, but it will help me not be defensive if I’m not feeling accused. Could you just give me the benefit of the doubt that I want to resolve any issue between us?”

Setting the Table can help you slow down as you attempt to process potentially tense issues. Give it a try and see how it works for you.

If there are other ways that we might be helpful to you and your family give us a call at Cedar Tree Counseling.

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Matthew Hanlon

Matthew Hanlon

Men & Couples Therapist | MA, LMFT

I help men and their families, who are hurting, angry, and struggling to find their way through life’s challenges, to create real and lasting change.

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