Marriage Conflict Resolution | It Is Time To Use The Floor
by Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D.
Everyone is sinful by nature. Therefore, the more two people interact the more likely conflict will occasionally or frequently arise, especially in marriages. Unfortunately, most people have no training in conflict resolution skills and they blunder their way through fights usually making things worse rather than better. The video below is my wife and I explaining the steps of a wonderful conflict resolution tool called the Floor. In the video you'll see us fight about a topic the wrong way and then the right way using the Floor. While this tool is intended for marriage, it can actually be used for any type of relationship or situation.
Wyatt: Today, we’re going to teach you a skill for conflict resolution called the floor technique. This is my wife, Alia, and we’re going to go through a conflict we have fought on in the past. We’re going to do it the wrong way, and then we’re going to do it the right way using the floor technique. It’s from a book called ‘A Lasting Promise‘, it’s an excellent book, and I’ve modified it and adapted it so it’s more user friendly for what we’re going to be teaching today, and so, here we go.
Alia: Okay, so here’s the scene. I’m in the middle of doing breakfast with the kids, getting them ready for school, Wyatt comes up and he hears the noise from downstairs, so he comes up and he starts taking over and taking charge. And I, of course, feel run over by his rules and by his way of doing things.
Wyatt: Okay, so we’re going to act like this is just happened and I’m walking upstairs and she’s mad at me right when I come upstairs.
Alia: I told them to calm down, and every time you come up, it just makes everything worse.
Wyatt: Well, if it feels under control, I won’t have to come up.
Alia: No, I - I told you that I have it and when you come up, you change all the rules, everything, I feel like you’re just taking over and then I feel like you’re not supporting me and that I am in control here. It’s like - daddy needs to step in.
Wyatt: Well, it’s really frustrating when I’m trying to get stuff done and all I hear is loud – you know, screaming, shouting-
Alia: I know, but they’re also kids. They’re kids and so you can’t have it always be totally quiet. Like if they start even hopping or anything, it makes noise.
Wyatt: I know, but it seems like I’m definitely needed up here because it seems like you can’t do it on your own.
Alia: I can, but your standards are too high and then it’s so insulting that you come up here.
Wyatt: Well, it’s frustrating if I’m trying to help, and I come up and I feel like my head’s bitten off for just trying to participate and get the house under control so I can go back down and get my work done.
Wyatt: Okay. So that is what a typical fight could look like for a lot of you-
Wyatt: -okay, and as you saw, we got defensive, we started going back and forth, we started to escalate, we were not seeing it from each other’s perspective.
Alia: We weren’t even hearing each other.
Wyatt: Yeah, we weren’t hearing each other. And sometimes, they can get way worse than that for some couples, and sometimes they are more mild than that but that’s a real common, typical kind of back and forth fight that couples can have.
Okay, so now we’re going to teach you a skill called the floor technique. So with the floor, first of all, you need an object, we’re using the lovely toilet paper here, and the person who is upset first, they get the floor first. They have the object. You want the object to be soft so you’re not tempted to chuck it at your spouse during this.
So here’s the rule. So the person who has the floor, all you can do is talk about what you feel and why, so mad, sad, glad, or fear and why. You have to leave out ‘You’ statements. ‘You’ statements are accusatory, so people get defensive, so try to only say ‘I’ statements.
So if you have the floor, you only can say ‘I’ statements about what you feel. If you’re the listener, you can only do two things. You can paraphrase, which is head to head, what I hear you saying is, you always can paraphrase whether you agree or not or you can empathize.
Empathy is heart to heart, and it starts with “I can see how you would feel” and even if you don’t agree with them, you can always try to put yourself in their shoes and try to see it from their perspective. Empathy is the best. If you can empathize, it’s going to deescalate things very fast.
So we go back and forth with the item, and then when we both have been able to explain the other person’s perspective to satisfaction, we get into brainstorming or what to do differently for next time.
Okay, so Alia was upset with me so she starts with the object.
Alia: Because I feel like my authority means nothing and that it looks like I can’t do this.
Wyatt: Okay, I can see from your perspective how me coming up undermines your authority and it makes you feel like you’re ineffective and—and that you need my help because you can’t do it.
I feel frustrated because I am really trying to get my work done down here and it’s frustrating when all I hear is chaos and screaming upstairs, and it makes me feel like I’ve to do my job and my spouse’s job because she is not getting it taken care of and then I feel frustrated that I even have to stop and come up and try to intervene.
Alia: So you feel frustrated that you’re trying to get your work done and it feels like I don’t have it under control and that you have to stop your work and come up to take care of what I should be able to take care of.
Wyatt: Okay, so now we’re ready for brainstorming. Brainstorming is when you talk about what you crave from the other person moving forward. That’s one of the best questions is what do you crave from me?
And this is how God can use conflicts to make you stronger and closer as a unified front. Okay, so in this issue that we’re fighting about, what do you crave from me?
Alia: I would like for when you do come upstairs, to ask me, what do you need or do you need my help at all, instead of just coming up and barking out orders.
Wyatt: Okay. So you want me to come up and ask if you need my support and if so what that support would look like instead of assuming I know best and taking over.
Wyatt: What I crave is I just crave more intentionality that you’re doing your best to keep the kids quiet out of respect for me trying to work and when I do come up you appreciate my heart and my motive that I’m trying to help by being supportive, even if it’s not in the exact way you want it, that you give me the benefit of the doubt of why I am even coming up and trying to help.
Okay, so, in brief, that is the floor technique, so the next time you have a conflict, try to practice it this way, because conflicts can bring you closer or they can divide you quickly. Take care.
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