Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset – Are you truly angry because the ketchup was left on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.
Discuss one issue at a time – “You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family.” Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.
Use “I” statements – When sharing a concern, begin your sentence with an “I” statement. This technique will help you share your true feelings about the situation instead of spewing blame which will often cause defensiveness.
“I feel ____________ when you ____________ because ____________.”
Use reflective listening – Oftentimes we focus on getting our own point across rather than listening. When reflecting, you will repeat back what someone has said to you, but in your own words. This shows that you didn’t just hear the other person, but you are trying to understand them. For example, you can say, “I think this is what you’re telling me, but correct me if I’m wrong.”
“I hear you saying that…”
“You’re telling me that…”
Focus on the problem, not the person – When a disagreement turns to personal insults, raised voices, or mocking tones, the conversation is no longer productive. Be careful to focus on the problem without placing blame on the other person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to make your partner feel bad.
Know when to take a time-out – When the conversation is becoming argumentative, insulting, aggressive, or is a repetitive pattern, it’s a clue for a time-out. The person who called for the time-out is the person who will call for a time-in when he or she feels calm and relaxed enough to continue the conversation. Spend some time doing something alone that you find relaxing. Focus on how you can make this a more productive conversation.
Work toward a resolution – Disagreement is a normal part of a relationship. If it becomes clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead. Attempt to find a compromise that benefits both individuals. Ask yourself if this disagreement really matters to your relationship and let yourself move on, if not.
Dawn Schroeder is a professional counselor who enjoys helping people of all ages overcome life’s struggles. She also has a special place in her heart for working with children and teenagers. To learn more about Dawn, or to set up an appointment click here.