Lessons from Caregiver Academy: How to Manage Conflict

Susan Meador Give_Receive_Care 2 Comments

The Center’s Caregiver Academy participants finished their course last week and are already seeing results.

Being a Caregiver involves many challenges that require mastering new skills. The biggest challenge is learning to take care of yourself and not trying to do it all. These are two of the reasons The Center offers Caregiver Academy that is based on “Powerful Tools for Caregivers.”

One problem Caregivers frequently experience is learning to communicate effectively with others. George Bernard Shaw said it best, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

All relationships have conflict. Research shows that it’s not the conflict that makes a situation difficult, it’s how the conflict is resolved that predicts the success or communication failure in a relationship.

One of the participants shared that she overcomes conflict by using antidotes known as the The Four Horseman developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The first step is identifying the conflict and using antidotes to effectively manage conflict.

  1. Criticism: A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame. Talk about feelings using “I” statements and then express a positive need. For example:
  • Criticism: “You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish.”
  • Antidote: “I’m feeling left out by our talk tonight. Can we please take a moment and discuss my day?”
  1. Defensiveness: Defensiveness is defined as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in attempt to ward off a perceived attack. The antidote is to accept responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict.
  • Defensiveness: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late, it’s your fault.”
  • Antidote: “Well, part of this is my problem, I need to think more about time.”
  1. Contempt: Statements that come from a relative position of superiority that display contempt include when a person uses sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery and hostile humor. Contempt is the greatest predictor of failure in a relationship.
  • Contempt: “You’re an idiot.”
  • Antidote: “I’m proud of the way you handled that conference.”
  1. Stonewalling: Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. The antidote is to practice physiological self-soothing to stop the conflict discussion. Let your partner know you’re feeling flooded and need a break. It’s crucial that a break last at least during twenty minutes and during that time you avoid negative thoughts. Spend your time doing something that’s soothing and distracting such as listening to music or taking a walk.

Caregiving is not easy and increasing your set of communication tools takes practice. Being able to communicate your limits and ask for help in positive ways will increase feelings of acceptance and love.

The next Caregiver Academy is planned for the Fall. If you are interested, please email Mary or call 919-460-0567.

Comments 2

  1. I consider myself lucky that a friend of mine told me about the Caregiver’s Academy. He had completed the course in Fall of 2016. I guess he could tell from our conversation I needed some help, mentally and emotionally. The attendees come from various backgrounds and styles of caregiving. This helped me see my situation differently and know that I wasn’t alone with in my issues with caring for Mom. I learned to regard the time I could find for myself as precious through Action Planning. I began to understand that flexibility is key when caring for another, whether that is my care or the one I am caring for. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed, feel alone, resentful, angry and guilty. None of this is helpful as I struggle to support my Mom. The Tools that you learn in this class can be learned, revisited and refreshed whenever I need that extra push. Thank so much for sharing this precious resource!

    1. Thank you very much for your thoughts about Caregiver Academy Linda! We are so happy to hear that the class had this much of an impact on your life as a caregiver. The purpose of this course is to teach caregivers the importance of caring for themselves so they can provide the best help to their loved ones. It sounds like you learned a lot and will use the tools in your daily life. We are looking forward to hosting Caregiver Academy again this fall, be on the lookout for more details to come!

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