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.
But since most of us don’t go into relationships with the healthiest communication skills, we could use some help to remind us to keep sight of what matters and tools to pull us back from the edge if we go that far. The last thing you want to do is risk the healthy relationship you’re trying to build for the sake of winning. It’s Emotional Intelligence 101 — we’re all doing a lot of emotional juggling and even when we don’t mean to, the best of us can get frazzled by a tone or misunderstand our intent. 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 if you forget and somehow get carried into an argument you soon see isn’t worth having, use this 30-second method to bring yourself back from it.
This is a great hack to have in your communication repertoire and you’ll want to practice it with your partner before you need it.
Some Do’s and Don’ts to remember when arguing
- 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.
When the argument is worth having and the 30-second method is not an option (hopefully a rare occasion), try this instead.
- Table it.
- Walk away and grab a drink or take a mental break from the argument for at least 5 minutes.
- Write down your feelings (frustration, fear, anger, etc.) and identify your partner’s behavior that is triggering the feeling (s/he is lying, not listening, doing whatabouts, etc.)
- If something important is at stake, such as trust, integrity or another important value, use an “I” statement to clearly and succinctly put in writing how you feel and to let your partner know what’s at stake. Let 10 minutes to 2 hours go by and when you’re sure the note accurately reflect your feelings without exaggeration, text or leave the handwritten note for your partner:
- SAMPLE NOTE: “Whenever we discuss your long work hours, I don’t feel heard and instead of the closeness and acknowledgment I’m trying for, I feel fear and mistrust.”
Obviously, the type of emotions you’re expressing in the note are not feelings that should be hugged out, they need to be discussed. The healthier option to arguing and the more emotionally intelligent approach is to communicate your feelings in a way where you’re more likely to be heard and to leave the next move with your partner.
To be continued.