Home » Marriage Counseling » Communication

We can always learn how to resolve our differences.
We hurt because we love; we forgive because we love.
So, there’s nothing to be afraid of; there’s nothing to fear.

Avoiding Conflict and Solving the Problem

Very few people seek out conflict yet we naturally disagree regularly for many reasons. In meaningful relationships or partnerships, we want to be able to communicate our complaints, differences, onstructive criticism or suggestions. When disagreements cause
problems, we need to be able to resolve the differences respectfully.

SKILL DEVELOPMENT: The ability to solve or resolve differences or issues is a skill. Children can learn the foundational concepts and abilities with getting along with others. But the elements of character growth for resolving issues may be learned and refined at higher and higher levels on through the decades of adulthood. Consider learning to meet the needs of an angry customer, to mentor an assertive teenager, to choose new wallpaper for your bedroom, to negotiate a raise or a contract with equanimity, to work with a territorial neighbor, to manage a child’s math homework or music practice, to settle an elder into assisted living, to move your family to a new city, etc.

MENU OF SKILLS FOR ARTFUL COMMUNICATION: The quality of our interaction with people often reflects our skill level with comunication. Here are some of the abilite and approaches available to us:

* Active Listening – showing interest and undersatnding
* Use of Humor – playful and not ascerbic, insulting or avoidant
* Building Rapport – shared time and conversation
* Calm Emotions – take time out, use a pattern interrupt (eg: go for a walk)
* Cushion Statements – explain your intentions, your goals and give assurance (see below)
* Validation – I see your point of view, mirroring the other person’s intention and  concerns
* Sidestepping Blocks – leave the non-negotiable and move to a new focus or viewpoint
* Accepting and Inviting Feedback – show willingngess and sincere inerest in learning


Cushion Statements

Cushion Statements Using Cushion Statements

It helps to use a “cushion” statement before communicating about a hot topic, a delicate subject, an objection or a complaint. A cushion statement is a friendly, validating, assuring, clarifying, explaining or agreeable statement. Reason: This immediately lets the other person know you don’t intend to dominate, criticize, manipulate, insult, wound or argue.

Instead of making a harsh statement such as,

“You’re selfish and mean and you don’t care about what I want.”

Replace it with a layer of cushion statements before and after your complaint such as,

a. BEFORE CUSHION (Notice staying with the first person, “I”)
When you talk to me this way I feel hurt and disrespected and I feel like defending myself. I really want to solve this problem but I don’t know how to do that when I feel like I’m being attacked. I don’t want to argue and go nowhere. I want to be able for us to work this out.

So, can we take a time out and calm down and discuss what we both want?

I’m not meaning to put you off nor ignore this problem. I promise that I’ll work through this with you. And I know we can do it when we are less emotional and more intelligent. I trust that you care as much about this as I do.

SOFTENING WORDS: In addition to sentences and phrases, softening words are designed to cushion and take the bite out of disagreeing, hurtful or harsh statements.

BLANKET STATEMENTS: Softening words are often more accurate because they are more general. When we make blanket satements using, “always, never, everyone, nobody,” we are making assumptions that something is always one way and, with human beings or nature, there are usually anomalies.  We’re more likely to be understood when we speak with accuracy. This softens our points from being black-and-white or off-on, never-always, to what really happens.

AVOID BLACK AND WHITE: We can soften the interaction when we say, I think, I suppose, it seems, I believe, might, possibly, maybe, at times, etc. Softening words work because they leave some open room for interpretation rather than being a solid “right or wrong” or “black and white” statement which may be seen as judgmental, critical, prejudiced, dominating or disrespecful.

Here are some more examples of cushion statements:

I want to tell you something I think is useful… or can help… or is new…
It seems like you have already made up your mind.
I believe that, no matter what, we can find a way through this.
There might be some other options.
Maybe we could discuss this with others.
At times it feels like we are on opposite sides.
I don’t ever want to tell you what to do…
I’d like to share something; and you are free to agree or disagree. It won’t bother me one way or the other.
I want you to have the best.
I really want to help and I think this important but, I can’t…. I could …..
You probably already know this but, ….
This may sound crazy, and I don’t want to bother you, but…
I understand that…
I can understand why you feel that way.
I’m really interested in your viewpoint.
I understand how you feel. In this situation, I (or others) would probably feel the same way you do.
If I were you, I’d probably think this way too.
Is this a good time to talk? If not, I’m happy to wait until it’s convenient.

For Families:


Keeping the goal of the intelligent, respectful, humorous and beautiful environment in mind can be difficult when we experience people interacting with immaturity and over-dramatization …with emotional illiteracy.

You can use The Essence of Our Home is Goodness, as a touchstone to keep the goal for five values (Intelligence Understanding Kindness Humor Beauty) clearly defined for you and your family members. (See the web page on Communication.)

Don’t get seduced by allowing someone’s being emotionally upset to be the determining factor in a situation. Respond to someone who is angry or out of control by avoiding emotional intensity yourself.
Emotional manipulation through rage, temper tantrums, yelling or insults is unacceptable as well as ineffective and sometimes destructive. Anger generally needs to be expressed for yourself, by yourself. Then you can think intelligently and make wise decisions on what action you need to take to solve the problem.
Remind yourself that emotional upset usually has four stages and that calmness always returns:
1. Emotional Upset, Frustration, Anger, Rage, Whining, etc.
2. Catharsis or Expression/Release of Emotions which almost always ends in the cleansing of tears or crying.
3. Time to Think Through the Reasons for the Upset and to consider Possible Solutions.
4. Behavior Change, Solution or Apology.


“Let’s give ourselves some cooling off time, calming down time,” etc. You may choose to withdraw as in the affirmation statement examples or you can say, “I will not participate…” or “For our protection, I need you to go to your room,” or “We need some retreat time…”etc. Give the other person permission to return by saying, “If you feel ready before that time (a suggested time for discussion or a family meeting such as in an hour or a day), please let me know.”

ASSURANCES: You may also use these assurances for yourself and your dear ones:
“Because we want to solve problems and to grow:
…..”We can always learn how to resolve our differences.”
…..”We hurt because we love; we forgive because we love.”
…..”So, there’s nothing to be afraid of; there’s nothing to fear.”

You may share these with anyone who might benefit. When you edit for improvements, I would be most interested in hearing about them.

Best wishes,

P.S. My FAVORITE parenting resource for growing children with confidence and character is:

The Family Virtues Guide

The Family Virtues Guide covers 52 virtues in a quick format ready for any famly to study and teach weekly. And, the first 70 pages provide the most concentrated and caring information on the styles of parenting with descriptions of exactly how to do it yourself.

Four Roles for Parents:

1. Parent as Authority

2. Parent as Educator

3. Parent as Caregiver

4. Parent as Spiritual Companion

Heather’s House Rules

When parents needed a practical tool to convey the family standards at home to their children, I researched ways to simplify the basic categories of a healthy relationships and behavior at home. Here are the five basic tenets:

The Essence of our Home is Goodness:






Intelligence – Learning
Where there is intelligence, there is knowledge, reason, curiosity, and learning.
(There is not inflexibility, judgment, put-downs nor discouragement.)

Understanding – Discussion
Where there is understanding, there is trust, listening, problem-solving, openness, and discussion.
(There is not dishonesty, controlling others, pouting nor yelling.)

Kindness – Love
Where there is kindness, there is gentleness, generosity, encouragement, sharing and love.
(There is not selfishness, blaming, shaming nor criticism.)

Humor – Fun
Where there is humor, there is delight, laughter, forgiveness, play and fun.
(There is not complaining, jealousy, tantrums nor revenge.)

Beauty – Art
Where there is beauty, there is spirit, order, creativity, peace and art.
(There is not disorder, carelessness, noise nor yelling.)

We help each other live with this essence at home and, wherever we go, we take this goodness with us.

Affirmative Statements for
Keeping the Essence of our Home Goodness

Languaging for those challenging or tense times.

Because we want to solve problems and to grow:

We can always learn how to resolve our differences.
We hurt because we love; we forgive because we love.
So, there’s nothing to be afraid of; there’s nothing to fear.

Intelligence – Learning
(There is not inflexibility, judgment, put-downs nor discouragement.)
I am a good person; I am not a bad person. Being judged, put-down or discouraged doesn’t help me or you.  I’m withdrawing so we can learn about this another time.

Understanding – Discussion
(There is not dishonesty, controlling others, pouting nor yelling.)
I cannot help to solve a problem when we are out of control. I am withdrawing so we can have a discussion about solutions later.

Kindness – Love
(There is not selfishness, blaming, guilting nor criticism.)
I am sorry we are not together about this. Blame or guilt doesn’t help me to grow or to be responsible. I’m withdrawing until we can talk calmly about what is hurtful or fearful. I am interested in solving our problem.

Humor – Fun
(There is not complaining, jealousy, tantrums nor revenge.)
I think these feelings are out of control. I want to help and I’m withdrawing until we can treat each other with intelligence and respect.

Beauty – Art
(There is not disorder, carelessness, noise nor yelling.)
I need peacefulness, so I’m withdrawing until order returns and we can talk sincerely and quietly.

* * *
When you need help bringing peace to yourself, your family and friends, these statements can remind you and your dear ones of sincere values and discerning ways to solve grievances.

Of course, the supreme source of information for parents and teachers in our country is the Search Institute. If you aren’t already familiar with them, you will be overwhelmed with the quality and materials!

Warmest wishes,


  1. Hi, I was wondering if you hire and supervise LPC-Interns? I could not find this information on your website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *