Home > Effective communication, NLP > Resolving Relationship Issues: Fit into the Other’s Shoes

Resolving Relationship Issues: Fit into the Other’s Shoes

If you’re like most other humans – not living in isolation – you’re definitely involved in a wide array of relationships. And you’re lucky if these were enriching to your life and provide you with the necessary support to combat life’s hardships. Unfortunately, in many, you’re very likely to encounter bumps along the road to have these maintained. And sooner or later you may find yourself in attempts to weather all sorts of storms. Conflict, tension, frustration, and serious misunderstandings can result between parent and child, couples, siblings, friends, and colleagues at work. There’s an inevitable break-up with those you find yourself continuously struggling with. Some people are not so easily dispensable though. You realize that there are grave consequences for cutting all ties; and eventually feel you’re stuck with for life. You attempt different ways to reconcile; succeeding at times and maybe failing at others. And you keep trying……till it sometimes completely drains you. Sounds familiar?

There are few things that you need to keep in mind if you wanted to sustain indispensible relationships (you know…, those that can do you more harm than good if you lose):   

  1. Keep the channels of effective communication open. Even if you were given the “deaf ear” or the “cold shoulder”, each person has a key. Find it to unlock the silence. Talk about what makes them nicely “tick” and then actively listen to what is said (and left unsaid). Approach conversations in a positive way. This reduces the other party’s defensiveness and, in turn, allows you to be listened to just the same.
  2. The luggage we carry on our life journeys makes each of us perceive or interpret things differently. No wonder we vary in degrees. These differences naturally breed conflict. In relationships, it’s best to keep the focus on your similarities, common values, and interests. Doing otherwise would widen any existing gap further. Nobody is expected to share exactly your same thoughts, beliefs, needs, or priorities. Find where you both meet and take it from there.
  3. It’s not about keeping record of win-lose battles. Believe that you and the other party are on the same side of the fence. Avoid the common assumption of being antagonists fighting over power. Even if the other party still holds that as true, make it appear they have it. You’re the one in control if you have the right attitude and approach. Where’s the common cause? Find it; and make it a competition to reach a win-win solution that is mutually agreeable. Shift your mindset from having a combative to a cooperative relationship.
  4. Ask to work on problems together handling each at a time. There’s no “one” way to work things out. With the other party, expand on the possibilities, solutions, and the consequences of each. Problem solving situations are opportunities in disguise to make your relationships stronger. With the right attitude, you can use these constructively to strengthen your ties.
  5. Avoid the focus on the other person’s failings. Always consider their assets, qualities, and good attributes. Mention these during your conflict resolution attempts. It’s no use to open the file of past misdemeanors on every occasion. It only flames relational discord. The best thing about the past is that it is gone. Stay focused on what you can do now and in the future.
  6. Choose the right time to discuss any arising issue. If you’re angry, wait for your anger to subside a little. We all know that being negatively charged with emotions can lead to irreparable rifts. If the other party is in a rush (e.g. leaving to work), postpone discussion to a more appropriate time. Careful, as well, to the choice of place (alone with the other party as opposed to being in a crowd). Timing can make all the difference. If you leave things to snowball, it would be difficult to rectify an evolved pattern of grudges piling up one on top of another. Do I need to mention the consequences of bottling up? Naaah…, we all must have a taste of that obvious explosion somehow.

 When relationships become strained and conflict ridden, they become an additional source of hardship to overcome. The best thing you can do is to equip yourself with the skill of conflict resolution; and practice navigating your way through proper communication. Who wouldn’t like to live harmoniously with cherished others? Consider the following technique which you can use to positively approach conflicts. It requires you to dissociate and take on different perspectives around the issue you want to resolve. It’s more like a “role play” game (Yeah, it really helps to laugh and play when you have serious issues to take care of 🙂 ). It gets you in a clearer mindset to head on disagreements the right way especially if you’re turmoiling inside.

 Let’s do this exercise together. Think of an issue you want to resolve. Alone in a spacious area, choose 3 different locations that are more or less close to each other. Note that you’ll be physically standing on each of these and will be assuming different roles or positions.

 –       First position: That’s fully you! Think of the situation. What are you feeling now and what’s your attitude about the other person? Fully associate with that role (i.e. mentally travel in time scanning different episodes of your interactions and recalling things you’ve seen, heard, and felt). This is your baseline for resolution. When you’re done, blank the pictures in your mind and physically shake that role off. Move, next, to position 2 (usually facing the first position as if you’ll be conversing with the first role).

 –       Second position: That’s them! This is when you’ll assume the role of the other party. In your mind, imagine you’re fully them. In other words, be in their shoes, wearing their clothes, speaking as they do, and thinking exactly the way they would. Now is the time to practice “empathy”. Carry whatever degree of emotional baggage and experiences they may have had on their shoulders. Look at the person sitting in “position 1” (the original you). What’s their attitude towards you and what do they want? How are they talking to you? Get into their mind set. Why are they behaving, thinking, and feeling the way they do? Don’t forget to consider their good qualities here. Take as much time as you need. When you’re done, shake it all off like you did the first time; and go stand in position three facing the first two.

 –       Third position: That’s the role of a wise observer! Now in this spot assume you are a complete stranger to both as if you were a spectator of a movie. Your role here is that of a detached advisor who will objectively give an opinion about what’s going on between the two. Dissociated enough from the situation now, be as objective as you can. What’s going on out there? Generate solutions that are mutually satisfactory. Knowing that you cannot tell the other party (the one in position 2) what they are to do, advise the one in the first position (the real you) of how to better handle the situation. What resources does that person need to handle it right? What was missing in all interactions? It could be more confidence, empathy, better communication skills, etc…. Take your time to discover these.

 When you identify the needed resources, and still in that position, remember a time when you actually did have what was missing. Fully re-live those memories mentally one by one. See? You have these already and you can bring them back if you choose to. Imagine that you can transfer these somehow to the person sitting in the first position (again, the original you). You can gesture the transmission with your hands, or mentally. Then, go sit in “position 1” and imagine you’re receiving these through both body and mind. These are your new armor for future interactions. Remind yourself of the 6 points above. Now look at the person sitting in “position 2”. It feels different, doesn’t it? You have a better understanding of how to lead your confrontation and reach reconciliation. You and the other party will both win this time. GO!


  1. wassim65
    October 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Very powerful article. Much more effective and useful than the lame conflict avoidance methods normally dispensed like M&Ms by traditional mental health practitioners. Conflicts are a healthy part of any relationship and are not necessarily bad. In fact a relationship with no apparent conflict may be unhealthier than one with frequent conflicts. Conflicts are critical events that can strengthen a relationship and create deeper understanding, closeness and respect. How the conflicts get resolved, not how many occur, is the critical factor in determining whether a relationship will be healthy or unhealthy.
    So Thank you Coach Dania for sharing with us how to master conflict resolution with loved ones instead of telling us to change the subject of conflict or avoid it all together by sweeping it under the carpet.
    However, a word of caution is merited here! This technique of “walk in the other person’s shoes to solve conflicts” could be disastrous if not applied properly. Such as getting stuck in the other person’s role. So my personal advice is “don’t try this at home by yourself”. Seek professional assistance to implement the technique since it works better if you had an expert guide you through it


    • dddania
      October 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      Always loving your analyses 🙂 🙂 and really appreciating that last tip on seeking the expert’s assistance to get it done 🙂 it really makes a lot of difference to get it right at least the first time 🙂 🙂


  2. Mireillee Hammal
    October 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Very good one..
    Nice topic.. Interesting Analysis !!


    • dddania
      October 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Many thanks habeebeee 🙂 🙂 and the most interesting thing about it is that you can apply it to a variety of situations involving a variety of people we want in our lives for keeps 🙂 🙂
      kisses 🙂


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