In disputes within a relationship, it is important that the couple sees, hears, and values each other’s position equally.
In the moment that one person’s position becomes more important than the other’s, a power game ensues. This dynamic is the enemy of intimacy and resolution. But when both parties value themselves highly enough, then power struggles can transform into tremendous growth within a relationship.
Here are some important tips to keep the lines of communication open as you talk your way through an argument or heated discussion with your partner. Be sure to check out my previous post on things not to do in relationship talks.
- Do make “I” statements when you want to communicate to the other person regarding an issue that has impacted you. Starting a sentence with “You” generally leads to a shaming statement directed at the other person, who often retreats defensively. Making an “I” statement keeps the possibility of a dialogue open and fluid. Do keep the issue in the present and be specific about what you’re referring to. Don’t drag in the past.
- Do recognize that while your partner must realize how their behavior impacts you, they are not responsible for the feelings that come up within you.
- Do refer to the other person’s behavior, but don’t attack their core precious self.
- Do identify what you would have preferred to see happen in the event or behavior that occurred.
- Do ask the other person for feedback after you have completed your thoughts.
- Do keep eye contact when you speak.
- Do try to keep your tone of voice from going to extremes. Try to stay regulated and even in your tone, even if you are angry.
- Do take a “time out” if you are becoming too extreme in your tone or language, because at this point you are becoming abusive. Agree to return to the conversation when things cool down.
- Do inquire about the other person’s behavior; do not define their reality. (Example: ‘What I saw was …,’ ‘My experience was … ‘)
- Do ask questions in a spirit of inquiry, not one of interrogation.
- Do negotiate your needs and wants.
- Do expect your feelings to be heard — and cared for.
More relationship tips: “Don’ts that don’t make relationships work”