Honey, We Need To Talk
Does this statement make you cringe? I know it does for a lot of people.
When someone says, “we need to talk,” it usually means a tough conversation is about to happen.
As cliche as it might sound, the reality is that we do need to talk. It is a myth that a happy marriage is one without conflict. Conflict inevitably comes up. It is the way the couple copes with conflict that will determine whether or not the marriage will thrive.
Here are some tips on how to move from conflict to compromise:
When you are the speaker:
- Describe the situation without criticism or blame. However justified you feel in blaming your partner, this approach is not effective because it builds resentment and defensiveness
- Make statements that start with I instead of you. I statements are less likely to be critical. Of course you can come up with I statements that thwart this general rule, like “I think you are a jerk” but we both know that is not going to lead to a productive conversation.
- Be clear. Asking for “support,” will not produce a desired effect because it doesn’t tell the listener what actions to take to improve the situation.
- Don’t let problems build-up. When we store problems, they escalate in our minds. Often, we avoid conflict only to burst later, which causes emotional flooding for both parties. At that point, no productive conversation can take place.
When you are the listener:
- Focus on understanding your partner’s perspective.
- Postpone persuasion or defending yourself.
- Ask questions but maintain the focus on your partner’s experience.
- Validate that your partner has a right to his/her point of view.
Conversations usually end on the same emotional tone that they begin. Before you begin, check your tone by doing a test I call “What is this? vs. What the hell is this?!” Asking “what is this?” with genuine curiosity fosters an atmosphere for open communication. Asking, “what the hell is this?” will result in defensiveness and gridlock.
With a healthy dose of patience and kindness, even the most difficult conflicts can be managed with a good conversation.