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Gottman Couples' Retreats and Workshops

Couples' Retreat

Day Two: Constructive Conflict Management and Creating Shared Meaning

An introduction to effective problem solving and management of conflict

First we prove that relationship conflict and regrettable incidents are inevitable in all relationships. We demonstrate this by processing a fight that we have recently had ourselves, using the Aftermath of a Fight or Regrettable Incident Questionnaire, a tool that you will be taking home.

We explain the research findings on how the masters of relationship use a gentle approach to conflict, and specifically, what skills they practice.

Identifying an issue to work on
We help you to decide on a problem to discuss. You will use this issue later in the day to practice the skills we will give you for gentle and constructive conflict management.


The Skills for Constructive Conflict Management:

Skill #1: “Softened Startup”

How to bring up a problem gently without criticism or disrespect. We will practice this skill in a group exercise that involves converting harsh statements into gentle ones, based on imaginary situations.

Skill #2: Repair and De-escalate

When a conflict discussion gets off-track, it’s difficult to think of what to say to make it better. We introduce you to the Repair Checklist, a series of statements that you can use to get your communication on the right track again.

Applying Skills #1 and #2 to Your Own Identified Problem

We will help you to privately begin a discussion of the problem you chose to work on earlier. Your initial goal will be UNDERSTANDING, NOT PERSUASION. You won’t work towards agreement at this point, but instead, you’ll focus on hearing one another clearly in a safe atmosphere created by using Softened Startup and the Repair Checklist.

Skill #3: Practice Physiological Self-Soothing

Diffuse physiological arousal can disrupt conflict discussions and destroy trust. We explain the physiology of diffuse physiological arousal and flooding, and why it is so important to take breaks when they occur. We also describe what to do during a break and give a guided relaxation exercise to teach how to self-soothe.

Skill #4: Compassionately Understand Your Partner’s Point of View

We describe the nature of gridlocked conflict. Basically, people feel rejected by their partners during gridlock. They vilify one another. The problem is that neither partner is really listening to the DREAMS WITHIN EACH PARTNER’S POSITION on the issue. We will demonstrate the “dreams within conflict” method of transforming gridlocked conflict into healthy and meaningful dialogue. There is a dream within each person’s position, a wish, or a hope. This dream has a history or a story to it that helps it to make sense. We will guide you to discuss your issue with your partner using this method to more deeply understand each other’s points of view. Eighty-five percent of our workshop participants make major breakthroughs on their gridlocked conflicts by using this method.

Skill #5: Accept Influence & Compromise

We talk about the importance of accepting influence and honoring a woman’s dreams. And we discuss how men’s dreams also need to be honored. Then we return to the issue you have been working on, and we give you a method to create a compromise in which you can each honor each other’s position on the issue without sacrificing the core of your own.

Build Shared Meaning

The retreat concludes by discussing and working on the “shared meaning system” with your partner. You will be guided to share your sense of meaning and purpose, shared goals, and life mission and purpose with one another.