Conflict Skills

Basic Skills for Regulating Relationship Conflict

Based on the research of John M. Gottman, Ph.D.


Understand the four destructive behaviors that predict divorce and replace them with their antidotes


Destructive Behavior       Antidote

Criticism                           Complaint—describe

behavior, describe

desired change, speak

from an “I” position


Defensiveness                   Accept responsibility


Contempt                         Establish a climate of



Stonewalling                      Self-soothing, taking a

break, staying connected


Soften Your Startup

Discussions generally end up on the same note with which they began. If you want a good outcome, begin with a gentle introduction of the topic.


Make and Receive Repair Attempts

Repair attempts are behaviors that help slow down a conflict and keep it from escalating. They say, “I need to calm down,” “I’m sorry,” “I agree,” “Let’s stop for a bit,” “I appreciate what you have done.”


Soothe Yourself and Each Other

If repair attempts don’t work, it is likely that the other person has become flooded with strong emotions. Stop the discussion and wait at least 20 minutes before resuming. Use this time to soothe yourself by going for a walk, meditating, or whatever will help you calm down.


Learn to Compromise

Be willing to accept influence from your partner. Look for common ground, feelings or goals that you share.


Be Tolerant of Each Other’s Faults

Don’t try to change your partner. You can’t. Remember—these are often characteristics that led you to love your partner in the first place.


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