After polling a number of people who have been in happily committed relationships one secret we hear over and over again is this:
You don’t have to win every argument and in fact, most are not worth having.
Many of the little things we fight about are not arguments worth having. Common gender-based problems that everyone experience, like putting down the toilet seat, need a long-term solution like separate bathrooms.
But since we’re human and get frazzled and lose it, even some dumb arguments are unavoidable but we can make some ground rules as a couple.
Some Do’s and Don’ts when arguing
Before you react, think about the type of day your partner may have had and anything else that could be going on with him/her. And when you fight (not all fights area bad), keep these dos and don’ts in mind.
- Don’t go in for the kill.
- Do remember that there’s a human being on the other side.
- Don’t use “You” phrases.
- Do use “I” phrases instead.
- Don’t bring up the past.
- Do stay on topic.
- Don’t lose your cool.
- Remember to breathe.
Prince Ea’s 30-second Hack
This 30-second technique is a great way to bring yourself back from a pointless argument and is a great hack to have in your communication repertoire. I recommend that you practice it with your partner before you need it.
When to communicate instead
Some arguments are worth having especially when they bring up fears and feelings we’ve been holding back. When behaviors are a threat to the health of your relationship, disrespects or hurts you, and has the potential to strain your relationship, hugging it away is not the thing to do.
Hopefully, these occasions are rare, but even then, there are intelligent ways to fight and in these cases, not fight but communicate. Try this approach instead.
- Table it.
- Go to another room and clear your head for at least 10 minutes and even up to 2 hours but NEVER walk out of the location.
- Get clear about what’s going on. Write down your dominant feeling (be it frustration, fear, anger, or something else.) and identify your partner’s behavior that is triggering it: You think s/he is lying, not listening, doing whatabouts.
- Use an “I” statement to clearly and succinctly put into words how you feel, then
- Sit down with your partner and let him/her know what’s at stake.
- Use a note if it’s easier (maybe safer) for you to express yourself that way. Express your feelings without exaggeration via text a handwritten note:
- SAMPLE NOTE: “Whenever we discuss your long work hours, I don’t feel heard and I don’t get the acknowledgment and commitment to do something about it that I’m hoping for. The way you respond makes me fear you don’t get it, and we’re going to grow apart eventually if we don’t do something now.”
These type of emotions are not things to sweep under rugs or hug out until you agree to work on them. They need to be discussed and not argued about, however. The emotionally intelligent no-drama approach is to communicate our feelings in ways that are more likely to be heard and cases like these, leave the next move with your partner.
To be continued.