When our relationships fail it is because we have made choices that are destructive and self-defeating. So caught up in our ego and our need to be right, we are blinded to the truth that love flourishes when we are compassionate, accepting, and forgiving.
So what can we do about it?
STOP YELLING AND DISENGAGE
When we are yelling at each other we are not effectively communicating. We are not listening to the other person's point of view. There is no true dialogue. No meeting of the minds. No desire for a meeting of the minds. We are just trying to continually drive home our own point, our own grievance, our own sense of righteousness and our need for retribution.
This behavior is not merely a pointless waste of time. It is incredibly destructive to the relationship because basically all we're doing is attacking and abusing each other. More to the point, we usually end up saying hurtful things we wish we hadn't said, which turn into resentments, which get lodged in our partner's heart, where it can be very difficult to remove.
Consequently, the best thing to do when we're yelling at each other is to stop yelling and disengage. We agree that we're not being productive, that we should table the argument for a while, go our separate ways for a while, give each other some space for a while. We agree to re-engage in the disagreement at a later time when we've both cooled off, have had a chance to think about all the issues involved, and are prepared to calmly discuss, mediate and negotiate a peaceful resolution of the problem where both party's needs will be taken into consideration.
VALIDATE, SOOTHE AND COUNTERPOINT
When we are engaged in an argument we oftentimes respond to what we perceive as an attack with an attack. Out partner accuses us of some wrongdoing. We feel it is unjustified and not true. But usually the first thing that comes out of our mouth is: "That's ridiculous!" "You're crazy!" "There you go again!" "Calm down!" "You're being hysterical!" "Did you forget to take your medicine?!" "Are you having your period?!"
We engage in all sorts of name-calling, shaming and blaming. It is all extremely invalidating to the other person. And it usually leads to them being infuriated, them responding with anger, aggression and name calling of their own, and an escalation from a potentially minor issue to World War III.
So here's what we do: When we feel someone is unfairly accusing us of something, rather than immediately going to the default mode of "the best defense is a good offense," we take a moment to think before we speak. And then we validate their feelings. We let them know we have listened to what they said. We have heard their complaint. We understand why they perceived the situation the way in which they did.
And then we soothe them as well. We take the time to remind them that we love them. We care about them. It is not our intention to hurt them in any way. Their feelings matter to us.
And then we counterpoint. We express our position, our perspective on what happened.
Here's an example of the three-part process: When our partner accuses us of doing something unloving, we might say, "I can understand why you thought I was being inconsiderate. I want you to know that I care about you and am concerned about your needs and your feelings. In this situation, when I said ________, what you heard was ________, but what I meant was ________."
By first taking the time to validate and soothe them, they feel respected, they feel they have been heard, and they are much more likely to not get defensive and angry when we challenge their perceptions, and they are much more likely to be in a frame of mind where they can hear our position and calmly discuss and resolve the conflict.
By using these two techniques, a great deal of time once spent in emotionally exhausting and physically draining arguments can be redirected into enjoyable and nurturing experiences, which reaffirm our love and our commitment to our partner.
For more by Walter E. Jacobson, M.D., click here.
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