Summary of this Episode

In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we discuss:

  • A personal story of Sharon and Rafael who had hard time managing conflicts, and how learning basic nonviolent communication (NVC) skills transformed their relationship.
  • The tool of  NVC – Nonviolent Communication model and its process of expressing observations, feelings, needs and requests in I statements.
  • Research by Dr. John Gottman which shows that 69% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable, due to personality differences, and that couples must learn to manage conflict rather than try to resolve conflict. 

Bonus Tips on Managing Conflicts

We prepared a guide for you, with tips on how to manage conflict using NVC.

To download the guide, click the button below:

The Full Transcript of the Show:

Welcome to the Generous Marriage Podcast. Fight less, feel appreciated and have a deeper connection with your spouse. And now your host, Shachar Erez and Ziv Raviv.

Hello and welcome to episode five of the generous marriage podcast. In this podcast, we explore ways to become more generous with our spouse in our relationships, in our marriage. And what will that give you? Well, it will make your life better. It will get you to have more sex. It will help you to have just a better time with your spouse when you’re sitting together over lunch or dinner, and it will make your family feel more relaxed around you. Because they will feel there’s a good connection. Together with me, is my partner in crime Shachar Erez. And Shachar is the man, the guy that actually teaches me all of those concepts and ideas. My mentor in becoming participants with my marriage and becoming more just having a person and more generous marriage and that is you Shachar. Hey, how are you? Hi, I’m good. How are you? Hi everyone. I’m happy to be here. Happy to talk to you again. And this is not really about me or about you, Shachar. In our journey is two dudes that talk about the concept of Generous marriage.

It’s about YOU that listens to these right now! Maybe you’re driving in the car and you’ll remember that fight that you had maybe even last night with your spouse and how shitty it feels to be in this situation. And boy, Oh boy, today we have some really exciting stuff waiting for you because we’re going to start with a story and in that story is a couple that actually is going through a process that is probably going to sound familiar for you. It’s your dealer. reminds me some things that I’m going through with my wife or them. And then we’re going to talk about a tool of which is an actual tool that these coupled to use and that’s tool will help you too if you implement it and we’ll also back it up at the end of this podcast with a research done. That actually gives some new information and new ways to understand what is this tool all about. So with that said, Shachar take it away. What is the story? Who are we going to meet today?

How to Manage Disagreement to Avoid Conflicts

So today we’re gonna met Sharon and Rafael. Sharon is French and Rafael is American. And they came to me and because they were having hard time managing conflicts. They were actually exceptional friends you know. That was a huge resource they had. They really knew well how to play. Most couples these days, most parents these days we don’t play enough anymore. But this couple, that was one of the biggest strengths, they know how to play. So they were really good friends but they had hard time managing conflicts meaning and every small conflict they had it will blow up really quick, you know, huge fight from really tiny disagreements. So they had to learn a few things. One thing they had to learn was how to avoid high intensity conflict.

So basically, Sharon and Rafael we’re good partners. They will working together, they loved playing and that is something we might even do another episode about how, how to spend time together in a good way. But what happened with Sharon and Rafael is that when they did fight and did have a conflict, it was always high intensity. Now I imagine when we’re talking about high intensity sounds sounds very academic, but in real life it means there’s shouting involved. It means some, some words are said that later you need to apologize for saying those specific words and that. When these types of things happen, it can ruin your day. It can ruin your feelings for what, like a week. A lot of times it makes a man really feel crushed when there’s a high intensity conflict like that with his partner. It just makes you feel like you’re hopeless and your weak and those type feelings are not something that gives you motivation in becoming more generous. So it just does the opposite takes out. No, they were actually a lot of the times after it took them a long time to repair. A lot because they felt hopeless and helpless and kinda frozen. They know how to come back to each other and even though they were such good friends, the fights were so big and loud that really threw them off. They were really struggling. Let me ask you this. Do they have kids? Yeah. Three kids actually. So I can just imagine the horrible, horrible scar that can be put onto a kid if he goes through the process of looking at his parents’ fights that way. Yeah. And also, you know, as parents, we’re so, uh, sensitive to give.

Most of us feel like we’re not parenting good enough, so I don’t want to focus so much on the scar of the kid. I want to focus here on this podcast on how bad they felt because a lot of their fights, their kids were around and they saw their parents lose their minds and start yelling and calling each other names. And then after the fight they felt even more shame if their kids. So that’s. And this shame was part of the reason they had hard time reconnecting. So shame made it harder for them to go back into proper communication and then the kids saw everything. So now they have like motion because of that. But I also see some opportunity in the hardship, of the kids watching, because that by itself might be the reason why they came to you for counseling. Why that might be even the reason why some people are listening right now to us to talk about about problems that they know so much. Because if your kids are important to you that much, you need to understand when is your behavior being distractive towards them. When, when are you not doing the right thing because you’re actually creating a lack of confidence in them. When they see you on the verge of high intensity conflict, you’re right. Many times, couples in my clinic are so distressed. They tell me if we didn’t have kids who would have broken up and I say, thank God you have kids because it kind of makes you work on your issues and solving your issues brings a lot of personal healing and interpersonal healing and our society doesn’t encourage. It’s very individualistic, doesn’t encourage working on your relationship so much. So having kids, it’s great for that. It’s good. This is a good shame that you feel bad for what your kids are exposed to and you want to be better.

Yeah. It’s actually an opportunity in the end, like a, like one of the keys, even for a good relationship is that you have a reason in external motivation is key as well as internal. Right? But this big thing that is so important for you, it might be God. It might be your kid. It might be your culture, but your kid is very visual and it’s very there. And that’s a discussion about a high intensity conflict. Reminds me of this argument that I had with my wife for them. And that argument was becoming something very big entity. It even became like almost romantic I would say because we had to actually go through a lot to heal from it. And it was like the topic itself was ridiculous in hindsight. It was related to like my dog and who will feed it while I’m away on a business trip. And I was like sick and we were both like intense. Um, because of that in the discussion. And it came to the point where, you know, my wife basically say, I’m going to sell your dog. I’m not going to feed it. You solved the problem of who’s going to fill it. I’m not going to solve it for you if I’m solving it, I’m going to just sell the dog. And I was so offended because it came to that level of intensity. What is that all about? What? You’re not going to sell my dog. I’m just sick and can’t take over myself. And like I just had fever and wasn’t able to find who will feed my dog. Now eventually we found someone to feed the dog, but the scar was there for a good few months of recovering from that single argument. And I know that there are better ways to conduct such an argument in better ways to handle such issues. Like see, in hindsight you usually. It doesn’t make any sense to be so mad about something. I don’t blame anyone right now, it’s not about who is at fault. It’s know a lot about with the fort. It’s all about how can we that listen now to this podcast. How can we, talk about it. How can we be better? How can we maintain the more reasonable level of intensity in our conflicts? You actually found the tool. What did you tell Sharon and through our file, what would you suggest to them that they should do?

Well, no, it was multifaceted and one of the things we had to address was what to do when the conflict escalates and it comes what I call high intensity conflict and what to do then is just to stop. It’s really about stopping into your physiology. Is too flooded your aroused. You’re too much in fight or flight mode, and then it’s the defense mechanisms, so are pretending to be dialoguing. But defense mechanism don’t dialogue. They defend, they attack. They either run or attack, run away or attack. So when you are in this state and you’re too flooded, it’s really about stopping the fight. I think we talked about it in a recent episode. Today, I want to focus more on how to maintain the conflict. Low intensity meaning not to let it escalate so much. Sometimes we tell our partner something that we know, is going to be hard for him or her to hear. So how do we say those things in a way that a, yeah, it creates a conflict but not too big. Something that can be manageable.

Steps on Maintaining Low Intensity of Conflict

So we’re basically splitting these into two steps. The first step is like the emergency aid where you just need to put the plaster and the plaster on this wound is just to stop. You need to stop the high intensity, but then the real fix, the real way to improve your health and the health of your relationship is through maintaining low intensity levels on the conflict. So how do we do that? Before I tell you how to do it, I want to say that’s important actually, even for Sharon and Rafael, it’s important for them and for their kids to be able to tolerate the frustration of a conflict and say that conflict can end in intimacy and closeness. In solution we even discussed about is just the episode four. When we’ve found out that the, that some fights are actually good for you and that you need to just make the right fights. You know the ones that you can heal from the one that you work on recovering from. Alright and going back to that research of Guttman, he could watch a couple in an argument and after three minutes, just by how they start the conflict, he could tell which couples will divorce and which will not. And out of that research, he suggests starting conflict because it’s soft startup. Meaning not to start the conflict with harsh blaming words.

Step 1: Start Softly Instead of Blaming

Start softly, instead of blaming. Talk about yourself, use I statements. Talk about your feelings about your needs. What you ask for instead of blaming your partner for what they did wrong. Also, try as much as possible to use description of what was happening. Not so much evaluation or judgement. You know people don’t react nicely to judgements, so be more descriptive. And he also says, Guttman, that it’s important to be polite and respectful even though you’re in a conflict. Try to remember, this is your partner you’re talking to and be polite and respectful and appreciative. So Guttman basically suggest a few ways for maintaining low intensity communication in the conflict. So basically starting with the soft and startup, starting with just not being well intense with your tone of voice, you know. Something that helps me to breathe just to take a few deep breaths before you start. Maybe even if some sort of a text message or some sort of a touch base with your spouse to show them that you are feeling distressed. That you need some help. That you have a topic you want to raise, right? Just giving them the heads up of like, I need your help. I’m feeling bad about something. Can we talk? And then they’re on your side from the get go.

So that’s like a soft startup. Either you can, you can do it with the touch, you can do it with, with just controlling your tone of voice. You can do it by breathing a bit, just a few deep breaths can really do a lot on the way that you go there and confront someone. And even like with a text message to say a or a post it note to say, Hey, I feel so so bad about something. It makes me feel frustrated. I want to share it with you. I know you will help. You will understand me. Can we talk? And just by doing that you show your spouse. You’re on the same side. All right. I love the way you described it and it’s really a lot, a lot, a lot about the tone of voice. Even if you’re frustrated, if you feel something that’s hard, if you can take a few breaths and help yourself, sooth yourself. It’ll help yourself come back to regulation and use a soft tone of voice. It will change their whole conflict. The whole argument. If you start harshly the argument, the conflict will be harsh and most probably will not end well. If you start softly. It really makes a difference. A huge difference.

Yeah. Another thing that might soften up the situation is taking ownership. That you have to own the situation. Right. I just yesterday I finished a Webinar that I was giving. My sound was very high on the speakers and then I went away from the computer for my station, but then facebook started to make some notification noises. And it was very loud and my wife got alarmed and was all over the place with me saying, Hey, well, why? Well, why don’t you ever make it stopped at this push notification? Music is making a crazy like she was starting a at a certain level. I wanted to complain that she shouldn’t come so strongly. She should come slowly and shouldn’t complain in that intensity. I wanted to complain about that, but it’s my fault. Right? I was the trigger. I was the problem. You know, I didn’t remember to stop it, so I instead of just complaining about, Hey, talk to me nicely please. I started by apologizing. By acknowledging. Hey, I screwed up here. That was my fault that I didn’t put that sound off, but can you please next time? Do you mind just trying and talking nicely to me? Because I really want to not do those things. I will try better, but please try to be a little bit more patience with me. Not Stopping the speakers and she actually, she actually, you know, it may, it made everything low intensity. It made her not pick it up. It’s like, okay, now I need to fight with him. There was no need. I only be acknowledged that, you know, the whole thing was just a something that we both needed to steam out debate and everything was okay. And even on the next Webinar had she brought me water and I was so thrilled by this gesture. The really, it’s really important stuff. It sounds simple, but you just need to do. It’s just need to soften the start of the conversation to get better results. And not to blame anyone, try not to look for people to blame. Even if you feel like you were blamed, you shouldn’t blame back. Right? So what else? What are the other tools? That was a great example. Thank you for sharing that.

Step 2: Do Small Gesture for Your Partner

Other tools is while you are in this conflict again, when it’s not too high, so intense. Do small gestures that helps soothe yourself and your partner. A little words of appreciation. Some touch, maybe humor. Humor is great for making things light. Do some small things that can help regulate you, your partner, the whole situation. For example, yesterday I came back from a training and was in a hurry to go to work. And I had a short time at home so I called my wife and asked her to make some lunch for me that I could eat quickly and go away, and I also wanted to share some stuff with her from the training. I was quite flooded and when came back home and she was on the phone with some insurance company. And really the short time we had together, she spent on the phone with the insurance stuff and she was frustrated because she had a frustrating conversation with them. And I was frustrated because I wanted emotional support and in the five minutes we had together we were fighting. But when we were fighting, maybe because I was working on this podast, I could remember that it’s good to be appreciative to try to soothe each other. So while we were fighting, you know, why weren’t you there for me? Why were you talking to this insurance person? I needed you and stuff like that. I also remembered that she did prepare that lunch for me that I asked for. That I actually didn’t ask on the phone for that emotional support. I was kind of imagining that she would know me good enough to see me, but she was busy on the phone. So you know, just by being able to describe what was happening and not judge. And see that actually what I asked for. She did prepare for me even though she was in her own busy day. She took a moment to prefer that to warm up a lunch for me. So I was appreciative of her so she was able to soothe yourself and we were still in a kind of a conflict, but it ended with the kiss. Wow. And I went to work and came back and we were both way after the conflict so we were able to reconnect and apologize and explain and do the real full repair. But even while we were in that conflict and we didn’t have time for the full repair, we were able to remind each other that we love each other. That we’re friends, so right now it’s not easy and we’re in conflict, but here’s a kiss and I’ll see you later. It will resolve it.

That’s wonderful. It also reminds me, you say that you should show appreciation and that that’s something that I really relate to because it works. It’s just one of those one to five ratio that we mentioned in another episode. It just, you keep putting more coins into the emotional bank and that gives you a better vests, a better protection for when you have some complaint to make. So I started to appreciate the laundry making that my wife is responsible for. Because she’s so good at it and she enjoys it and she does it so fast and just to mention now. You should know that sometimes when you’re trying to be appreciative to your spouse, she might reject it. She might say, Oh, you never used to say that before. Why are you now saying that? And that’s okay. That’s okay. It just an opportunity to be descriptive. It’s okay to say, well, I didn’t say before, but that was title is not good. That was not good. That I didn’t, but I am saying it’s now and those clauses are looking amazing. They look clean, they a big bunch so it will be good for me for a few days, so I just want to say thank you.

That’s really cool. And the more you describe, the harder it is to actually reject your authenticity. Because if you’re just saying, oh thank you for the meal dear, that doesn’t feel so you know, it doesn’t feel. It’s like you just had the podcast and they thought you will be polite. Right? But if if you go and you say, damn, that’s a good chicken baby. I love chicken and I love this one and I’m just thankful I got to eat this and then I’m going to finish up all the leftovers of my kids. That’s a good chicken. Now she might be startle a bit and that’s what you feel and you described exactly why you feel that way. It will be a little bit clearer to her that you really do mean well. Yeah, and it’s really about the heartfelt appreciation, right? It’s about filling your heart in it and not just being polite. Being polite is important and being respectful is important even in the conflict, but do this investment in the emotional bank account that you mentioned, it’s really about feeling each other’s hearts. Yeah. What else can you tell me about this low level of intensity? How can we get to that?

Using Non-violent Communication to Maintain Low Intensity of Conflict

So actually one hang for just the tool. Yes, which is called NVC non-violent communication. The person who really made it popular and known worldwide is Marshall Rosenberg who passed away a couple of years ago and it really simplifies. It creates a kind of protocol of which words to use that the other can hear well. And doesn’t get triggered so much. There’s a bigger chance that the other will not get triggered and we’ll be able to hear and reply. The way it works, it’s a four stage process. Starting with an observation again and nonjudgmental observation of what’s happening. Then expressing your own feelings in an ‘I’ statement. I feel, and then expressing your needs. What you need in the situation, and then requesting something.

So let me understand. Basically this NVC protocol that was created by Marshall Marshall Rosenberg. Wonderful. Actually helps you improve the way that you communicate and maintain the low intensity of the conflict and it’s actually something that is good for life. Not just with your spouse to be able to know how to use NVC to your advantage. But try to explain each one in particular, right? They actually use it now in corporations and in the military and, uh, international conflict resolution they used everywhere. Let’s use an example. Can I use the example with, uh, with your dog? Yeah. So a good way of using the NVC process. And that example was you could have said something like, wrote them when you threatened to sell my dog. That’s just the observation of what was happening. Right. When you say you’re going to sell my dog and not take care of it, that’s observation. Then we move into feelings. I feel. What were you feeling? Scared or abandoned or. Yeah, disappointed.

So, so again, when you said you’re going to send my dog, I felt disappointed and then comes a need. What did you need? I felt disappointed because they need or I value. Right, or they need your support. Yeah, because I need your support. Especially when I’m sick. Right now was the time that you were sick. So time when you said you’re going to sell my dog. I felt disappointed because I needed your support. Especially when I’m sick and then comes a request. What would you have requested? Would you be willing to be more sensitive to me? To my needs when I’m sick or understand better how the dog is important to me. It’s almost like a kid to me and I can’t imagine thinking about selling a. Well, I, I love it. Now it’s much clearer.

So basically you need to go through the whole four steps when you’re feeling something irritates you. Instead of, you know, blaming instead of making a judgment like, hey, you will wrong and you did that. You’re a bad person and all of that just that comes in your tone of voice instead of it. You start with just the facts. Just the observation when this happened and then you go into the feelings. I felt that and then you explain, so you give the needs. So you explained that because you needed. Yeah, because and, and that’s, that is very important. Like you don’t. Your feelings has to have some need that needs to be explained. It’s not about because I felt disappointed you should do it. No. You need to also be generous enough. Yeah. Just be generous enough to give the need. I felt disappointed because I need my dog and around me. Or, because I need you to support me or because I value communicating in a different way. A more generous way or whatnot. And then you go to your request, which I love the way that it says like willing. Will you be willing to because they don’t have to?

They don’t as a couple. We don’t have to fulfill each other’s needs. It’s good to here than it. It’s good to, to make our partner feels seen with their innate, but we don’t have to fulfill each other’s needs. So it’s good to request. And usually when you request something, the other feels generous and might generously just want to fulfill that need, but they don’t have to. Oh, they might have some conditions because they have needs. Yeah, right. Oh, this is. This is a very powerful tool. Right? And then I love what you just said. A lot of the times what you need to do is to negotiate needs in intimacy. Meaning you are connected to each other. You remember your friendship and each one of you have a need that seems like they’re in conflict. But if you’re really hear each other and express yourself and dare to be vulnerable. Usually there’s a way to find a collaborative, creative, win-win solution that fulfills both of your needs. That both of you feel like your needs are being met. Then sometimes it’s not possible. So even if they’re not met, at least they’re being seen and heard and appreciate it. And many times that’s even enough. Not all of our needs actually need to be fulfilled by our partner, but they do need to have room in the discussion, in our connection.

So, uh, so now we are the thing, what is the actual tool, the NVC communication means you make an observation of what you see or what you had, you tell, how it made you feel, but you also explain what were your needs. Why it made you felt this way before you move on to a request. Now this is really good stuff. It was that tool also researched, uh, in its effectiveness. So I couldn’t find the precise research on NVC itself, but the Gottman’s research really validates a lot of the things we said here. The host soft startup thing is NVC and the Gottman found that it’s good to observe and not judged. And it’s good to talk in I statements what I feel, what I need and make requests. And so it’s really, it really supports this tool. It just at Marshall made it. I love the protocol of it. It’s easy to remember. Observation, feelings, needs, requests.

I feel like there’s a place here for a practice sheet with a few sentences that are not well constructed. Like if you tell your wife, hey, take care of the damn dog, bitch, that’s not very constructive. But if you, uh, if you, if you reconstruct some sentences and according to the protocol that could actually help you memorize it and have that as a tool for you. We’ll give you like one example that is actually with the answer inside of how you use it. But then you will be able to practice this and you know it is worth it. If you just sit down, printed on your printer, have a pen ready and work on it. It will make your brain, you know, all the neurons inside will connect. Reconnect on a more, in a more generous way. It’s really worth it. It really works great for Rafael and Sharon. What did you get? What happened to the marriage? They learned how to fight in a positive way. They learned that if they’re too flooded, they stop and take care of themselves before they continue. They learned how to keep conflicts, in a low intensity. They really learned how to use this NVC method and how to use conflicts to feel closer to each other. And it was good for them, it was good for their kids. It was really nice to see them in a really change.

It’s not an, it’s not easy to remember this at first. You do need to practice it a bit. The idea of the practice it is a good idea because it takes some practice to remember. But then it really becomes second nature and it’s good for your romantic relationship, but it’s actually good for all your relationships and for your career. And we’re surrounded by people all the time when we want to be able to communicate in a way, that other people can understand and listen to what we’re saying. So I really like this tool.


So if people go to generous and go directly to episode number five. Other episodes, you will be able to see this big button that allows you to download additional tips and practice sheet. And then you could use that and practice and you will see a change just like Sharon and Rafael. So a change in their relationship by maintaining low intensity in the communication, in the conflicts. And, uh, any final discoveries form from the actual research, Shachar? Just, I dunno, for me, it’s amazing that 69 percent of our conflicts will never be resolved, because every couple has personality differences. Sometimes with Rafael and Sharon, they had cultural differences. She was French, he was American. Some differences we can’t really bridge. So it’s not about resolving conflict. It’s really about managing conflict. That’s the big point Dr John Gottman made. It’s about managing conflict in a way that doesn’t create too big ruptures that helps you understand yourself and your partner better. And find solutions that are creative, collaborative and satisfying.

So basically Gottman did do a research that found that most of the conflicts are resolved and we’ll put a link to that research. Uh, so that you can read more details about it. But what it means is that you really do need to understand that even happy couples that are married for, for 30 years, 40 years and they are happy, they’re really do happy together. Those are like the masters, those that maintain one to 20 ratio. Even, they have conflicts that will never be resolved. Even years later, they’re still fighting about the same things which depressing. Or it can be if you look at it from the positive side, you can say, well, we’re different people. We have differences and we can celebrate our differences. It’s okay that we’re different and if we can find a way to be in a relationship while keeping our individuality and freedom and connection. Yeah, I really think it’s humorous in a way that we will made it this way, but at the same time and opportunity to work on the communication to maintain. It’s almost like we needed the reminders to be generous because every time you see a conflict with your spouse, that is like the world’s way to remind you, it is an opportunity to be generous. Amen to that. Brother Shachar. Thank you so much for these discussions and ideas and the research. Uh, we put a lot of work into creating this podcast for you and to make it valuable. Hey, if you want the data to download the practice sheet, just go to generous, and you’ll find it there and do us a big favor. It will mean the world for us. Tell a friend, maybe at work. Maybe from your family about the generous marriage podcast. Sending Molina con facebook. Maybe it will mean the world to us. Thank you guys. See you next week on the generous marriage podcast. Bye Shachar. Bye Ziv. Bye everyone. See you next time. Bye bye.  


Weekly episodes with stories, tools and research that will help you make your marriage generous


Shachar Erez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 12 years married, father of two

Ziv Raviv, 16 years married, father of three