Today, we’re going to talk about how to have those hard conversations without them ending up in a fight.
Couples Never Have to Fight? Over the years I have developed some wild and crazy ideas about relationships and marriage. One of those ideas is that couples never have to fight. Disagreement is a given but arguing is a choice. This is true whether you are focusing on the toilet seat or how you spend your money.
I know, you’re going to tell me that it’s different in your relationship–that your partner doesn’t listen or gets mad when you try to explain your position. That may be true, but it doesn’t change my position that the two of you choose to fight. The harder or more personal the topic, the more likely the two of you will end up at odds. But there is a way to have a real conversation about a hard subject in a productive way.
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There are two things that are very important to the success of these conversations.
1. The first is that the two of you are calm. Using the 1-10 scale to rate your emotional reactivity that I talked about last time can be a great help. Starting off calm and continuing to keep an eye on your emotions is the most important step in the process.
2. The second important condition is to make sure the two of you have set aside about an hour of time where you won’t be interrupted. Flip a coin or draw straws to find out who goes first. That person then makes a statement about their position on the topic using an “I” statement. Such as, “It really upsets me when the agreed to budget isn’t followed.” Note what word isn’t used—the word “You”. That’s because it is perceived as an attack and almost guarantees a defensive response.
The second person then must repeat back what they heard the first say before they can respond. This ensures that the second person really got what the first said. It also gives that person an opportunity to grab their emotional reaction before responding. You continue back and forth in this way throughout the conversation. This does two things-it makes sure that you both are clear on what you’re talking about and it helps keep the emotional reactivity down.
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Time Out? A critical step to keep this productive is to be willing to take a time out if either one of you gets too emotional. Taking a break and getting calm is the only way to keep it from escalating to an argument. If you call a time out, you must let your partner know when you can resume the conversation. Otherwise, they won’t let you go.
Let Me Know Your Thoughts? Give this a try the next time you want to discuss something important. Let me know how it works for you. Share your thoughts and experience below. Also, if you have a question you would like addressed, write it below in the comment section or if you’re on my website (aFearlessMarriage.com), click on the contact button and let me know there. Thanks for dropping by. Until next time, I hope you have a loving day.
About Lesli. Lesli Doares is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and an expert Marriage Consultant for Huffington Post, SELF Magazine, Woman’s Day, the John Tesh Radio Program and more! To schedule a confidential appointment with Lesli, contact Lesli for a confidential conversation.