If you’ve ever read a magazine or a self-help book, or had a conversation with a close friend, I’m pretty sure the term “red flag” has come up a time or two. Whether it’s ridiculous spelling errors in a resume, or a malicious tidbit of gossip you overheard, we sometimes snap to judgment when we perceive there’s a red flag. And yes, we all do it.

I recently saw a list on Facebook (so, therefore, it must be true) of relationship green flags. It resonated so deeply with me that I’m going to repurpose it here.  Although if more couples sought out the green flags instead of the red ones, I suspect that my divorce mediation practice would come to a grinding halt!  

Putting my self-serving career goals aside, I’d like to give some pats on the back to those of us who embrace some or all of these green flags:

  1. We are able to look for solutions instead of for blame.
  2. We are capable of compromise.
  3. We honor the feelings of others.
  4. We can sincerely and genuinely apologize.
  5. We are able to actively listen.
  6. We take responsibility for our own actions.
  7. We participate in difficult conversations.

As a Mediator, my utmost goal is to help my clients wave each and every one of the green flags listed above.  People in conflict have varying circumstances and diverse personalities, so this list can’t be a one-size-fits-all situation.  Sometimes, an apology is enough to help a divorcing couple move past the hurt feelings.  And other times, proposing two possible solutions can become a roadmap towards settlement.  

Resolving conflict in any context begins with a difficult conversation and requires active listening.  To be clear, active listening is a way of listening and responding to improve mutual understanding.  Mediators do it all the time, and we help our clients to actively listen to each other.  “Megan, please repeat what you just heard Jason say.”  

Green flag wavers take ownership of their actions.  This does not mean “I slammed the door because you made me mad.”  Instead, it means, “I should not have slammed the door, and next time I will do better.”

Obviously, all relationships deal with conflict from time to time.  Even those of us who are conflict averse probably wave one or more of the green flags without even realizing it.  If your supervisor gets a snarky tone when she’s admonishing you for your lackluster sales, you might guide the conversation toward potential solutions instead of blame.  If your teenager is having a problem with his geometry teacher, you can acknowledge his frustration and ask him to tell you more.  And if your sister complains that she’s always the one hosting family gatherings, perhaps you could jump in and take charge of the next holiday and take some responsibility for your own role in the family. 

 Are you stuck in the realm of red flags?  If you wave a green flag upon occasion, I’d like to hear about it.