INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT: Settle with Insight or Negotiation?

Want to make any relationship better? Try insight instead of negotiation.  Understanding the why of a person’s motivation, fears, and concerns resolves interpersonal conflict much faster and better than just simple negotiation.

Though the following study was done with couples, the principles can be applied in other situations.

In a study done at Texas A&M, researchers led by Douglas Synder compared two forms of therapy. All couples were in counseling, hoping to improve their marriage and avoid divorce. One therapy involved behavioral therapy where couples would hash out a quid pro quo agreement (If you do this, I’ll do that).

Contingency contracting, the official name, works to get couples to negotiate trade-outs. It goes something like this: “I’ll give up my attendance at sports events one day a month if you will quit smoking in the den.”

Insight therapy, on the other hand, works more toward creating understanding. The couple and the therapist work together to uncover any hidden emotional conflicts—such as unresolved issues from childhood or past relationships—that may be contributing to their present problems. Understanding underlying emotional needs and expectations was also a part of the insight therapy.

Which works best? After two years, studies showed no difference between the two, but after four, the results for insight therapy skyrocketed. For behavioral therapy, 10 of 26 couples had divorced whereas only one of 29 couples using insight therapy had split up. Of the remaining couples, those who had used behavioral therapy reported a significantly higher incidence of marital discord than did the insight group.

Relationships are not just an exchange of information, problem-solving, and negotiation. Without a doubt, those skills are important, but they work better when the relationship is intact and functioning well. They also work well when negotiating non-relationship issues, such as deciding on a vacation. But when trying to work through powerful psychological dynamics influencing two often complex individuals, insight wins the day.

These insights are facilitated through good counseling and good communication. Understanding each other through insight, communication, and empathy helps to defuse feelings of blame and criticism, leading to more stable and harmonious relationships.


(Using Knowledge You Already Have)

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