From Disagreement to Mutually Fulfilling Solutions


Are you tired of having discussions with your partner that go ‘round and round’?

Are you over trading ‘this for that’?

Would you be interested in an approach to problem solving where you win, your partner wins and your relationship wins?

If you answered yes to any of these questions today’s post is for you!

In order for a romantic relationship to be truly mutually empowering it must work equally well for both partners.

While disagreements about how to handle the challenges that life brings are inevitable, these discussions don’t have to lead to strife, disappointment, and breakups.

Many couples resort to “compromise” as a strategy to solve problems and keep the peace.

Unfortunately, “compromise” almost always results in some ‘hard’ feelings because one or both partners have to give up something to get something.

A better way forward:

When people attempt to solve problems without first giving adequate attention to each other’s feelings and needs, a mutually empowering solutions almost always eludes them.

This is because this approach to ‘problem solving’ really puts the proverbial cart in front of the horse.

When people are in disagreement, they have feelings that need to be heard and acknowledged.

You see, all feelings are valid and need to be heard and acknowledged and unconditionally accepted.

Further, behind every feeling is an unmet need.

Finally, when people are in “disagreement” they feel isolated and not understood.

What is needed is a strong foundation on which to develop a mutually fulfilling solution- some common ground on which to start.

Finding ‘common ground’ requires real listening.

Before I dive into some basic principles and steps I would like to share something.

As some of you know I have been studying and learning to practice and beginning to live the principles of nonviolent communication (commonly referred to as “NVC”).

What follows is a brief introduction of the steps “NVCers” recommend for resolving conflict.

What follows is your introduction to the basic steps to more productive and far less injurious problem solving discussions.



Before we can resolve a problem or conflict with our partner, we must first have a clear understanding of what’s actually going on.

The beginning of any serious discussion is delicate.

If your goal is peace and a positive path forward then you must strive to set a positive tone from the outset.

Strive to frame your description of ‘the problem’ without any shaming, blaming, or attempts to manipulate your partner.

Focus on ‘the facts’.  Try and be objective.

Always remember that any situation can be seen from multiple perspectives, each of which have inherent validity and ‘truth’.

Once you have shared your perspective on the issue at hand, ask your partner to repeat back what they heard you say.

Confirm that what you think you said was actually heard and understood.

Be sure to ask for your partner’s permission before you attempt to clarify your position.  And always thank them for attention, patience and understanding.

Take your time; Go slowly.

You and your partner can find a positive path forward.

Once you have shared your position, and confirmed that they heard and understood your position, repeat this process with you in the role of supportive, open listener.

Have faith that you can both end up with what you actually need.

Trust the process, yourself and your partner.

Love begins with listening.



A little historical background:

Humans are just beginning to learn about and understand their innate and developing emotional capacities.

In fact the word empathy first entered the English language around 1850.  The word empathy did not come into more common use until around 1925.

In the 1950s the eminent Humanistic Psychologist and gifted therapist, Carl Rogers, introduced the world to his “Client Centered Therapy”.

It was at this time that the idea of compassionate or empathetic listening began to enter modern western thinking and culture.

Why am I sharing this?

Emotions are complicated and can be very powerful – even overwhelming.

Feelings are the ‘glue’ that holds our minds together. 

Feelings give personal meaning and relevance to our internal experiences (e.g. thoughts) as well as to our experiences in the world we live in.

If this all feels very new and foreign you are not alone – welcome to the path of self-actualization!

The second step in conflict resolution is for you and your partner to express, acknowledge, and validate each other’s feelings about the issue being discussed.

Expressing feelings:

It is absolutely critical that you understand that your feelings are yours. 

No one can ‘make you’ feel a certain way.

If you are upset by something your partner says or does or didn’t do understand that your emotional response is about you and not them.

Give yourself full permission to experience, get fully in touch with, and express your feelings.

Give your partner full permission to express their feelings.

Then acknowledge their feelings; then validate their feelings.

Two important points:

I am not recommending an ‘emotional free for all’.

When sharing your feelings start by saying, “I am feeling …”

Fully own your feelings, and strive to share your feelings without blaming your partner for them.

Validating your partner’s feelings really means just accepting their feelings fully without judgment.

The goal is to provide  your partner with positive, unconditional acceptance.

If this is totally new for you and your partner and you have ‘difficult issues’ to discuss, I recommend getting the face-to- face support of a Therapist or other professional trained in NVC.

I will provide some additional resources at the end of this post.



“Violence is the tragic result of unmet needs.”

Marshall Rosenberg, Founder of NVC

Every feeling is connected to, or associated with, a need.

We all share the same needs.

We all need to feel safe, have potable water, healthy food, to be accepted for the people we are and so on.

Since we all basically have the same needs, we can always find common ground around our shared needs.

Finding and openly acknowledging common ground is the basis for successful conflict resolution.

Strive to fully experience and openly share your needs and fully support your partner to do the same.

People argue about strategies to get their needs met.

Once your and your partner openly discuss your feelings, your needs will just tend to naturally surface.

Like all capacities, identifying the needs that underlie our feelings takes practice.

Naturally, you will make mistakes, revert to old less adaptive ways of communicating.

If you keep trying and get the support you need you can become quite adept at expressing and listening to “feelings” and identifying their concomitant needs.


Making requests / collaboratively developing strategies

Once your and your partner’s feelings and needs have been expressed, acknowledged, and validated you will feel much ‘lighter’.

This is because you are both no longer feeling the pressure to be heard and understood.

Now you are ready to begin making requests of each other to get your needs met.

An important distinction:

A request is different from a demand.

A request leaves the other person in freedom to take action or not.

Whereas a demand, if not met always results in ‘hard feelings’.

NVCers recommend forming your requests in the following manner:

“Would you be willing to __________________.

The answer can be:

  1. A resounding “Yes”.
  2. No
  3. A counter offer

Now you have a path forward and a way to collaboratively build a more mutually empowering, mutually fulfilling life together.

Sustainable romantic partnerships can be built.

The time is Now.

Start where you are and remember to embrace the empowering perspectives of gratitude and curiosity.

Other Resources:

I believe that knowledge, correctly understood and practically applied, is the royal path to self-development and eventual self-actualization.

Two books that I have found very, very helpful:

Nonviolent Communication,

A Language of Life, 2nd edition

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

Puddle Dancer Press, 2003

You’re Never Upset for the Reason You Think

The Cure For The Common Upset

Layne & Paul Cutright

Heart to Heart International, 2004

I sincerely hope that you found this post inspiring and useful

I am an email away if you need me.

Your friend and staunch ally,

To Love and Courage!


Live, Connect, Love and Prosper’

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