How to argue calmly with the end in mind

Saturday October 27 2018

 

By Chris Hart

Never believe couples who say they don’t argue. Disputes are inevitable. It’s also natural to want to get your way — but that sets you up as opponents. Instead, approach arguments as an opportunity to learn more about each other and deepen the relationship. Rather than pull it apart.

Keeping arguments on track is all about keeping your emotions under control. And not letting complaints become judgemental. Like when: “Please help me clear up …” becomes “You’re always such a slob!” Soon that becomes name-calling, mockery and sneers. And you start forgetting why you fell in love in the first place.

Resist becoming defensive, and instead acknowledge your partner’s point of view, even if you disagree with it. Your partner’s also more likely to be receptive to your viewpoint if you first listen to theirs.

Stick to the point of the argument and resist the temptation to bring up other issues. Focus on how your partner’s behaviour affects you, rather than the behaviour itself.

Use sentences starting with “I”, because “You” sentences sound criticising and controlling. And be affectionate. Touching says that you care and are trying to understand your partner’s feelings.

Give your partner plenty of notice if you want to raise something important: “I’m worried about this and that, can we fix a time to discuss it?” And as you argue, think about why you’re reacting to your partner’s words.

Developing an awareness of what triggers your own moods means that you’re better able to control them. And to empathise with your partner’s emotions.

It’s also worth trying other strategies to get what you want, rather than starting a fight.

Like instead of taking every irritation personally, start rewarding the behaviour you want and ignoring the rest.

For example, if your partner never puts his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, give him a quick squeeze anytime he throws just one dirty shirt that way. Overlook all the clothes on the floor without so much as a word. Because rewarding him whenever he’s a bit tidier, means the piles will gradually become smaller.

Another good technique’s called “nudging”. Like if you want to get your wife to do something you enjoy at the weekend, nudge her away from the things you don’t like by offering several other options. Chances are she’ll happily choose one of the items on your list, even if you’ve omitted all her favourites.

Or try “priming”. Just as asking people at an election if they intend to vote increases the chance that they will, asking your husband if he’s going to work on some chore this weekend increases the chance of it happening.

Especially if you frame your question as a subtle compliment: “Are you going to fix the light this weekend? You’re always so good at things like that.”

Above all never let a day go by without showing your partner how much your relationship means to you. And consciously learn how to sort out the inevitable problems.

Advertisement