Most of us just want to be heard. We want to know that someone else cares and believes in us. We care most about what our partner (significant-other, lover, or spouse) thinks about us and how they treat us. This makes it extremely difficult when we have an argument with that special someone. Arguments can become very heated over trivial things (e.g. who left the toilet seat up). We can also forget what the disagreement is about when we are arguing, but feel extremely justified that we are right and the other person is wrong. However, arguments rarely make us feel better or heard and they can often fracture our relationships. Here are a few important key elements to communicate more effectively with your partner, or anyone else for that matter:
- Be aware of how you are feeling when you enter into the discussion: If you are overly emotional, it may be better to not say anything at all. Take mental stock of your emotional temperature before you engage in a debate.
- Do not get hooked: being baited for an argument can often occur when your partner says something that is hurtful or that you have a strong opinion about. We almost NEVER change a person’s opinion during an argument. Don’t take the bait! Sometimes walking away or communicating that you are not ready for this conversation is more productive than diving into an emotional roller-coaster of a fight.
- Process over Content: How you communicate is more important than what you communicate. If you are able to communicate effectively within a disagreement, your partner will be more likely to hear you.
- Listen, Listen, Listen: Instead of thinking up a clever defense, listen to what your partner is saying to you. Attempt to use empathic statements (e.g. It sounds like my comment made you very upset or You feel very strongly that the toilet seat should be down). This does not solve the “content” of the agreement, but it communicates that you are listening. This will almost always result in deescalating the other person’s anger toward you.
- Take the conversation to a different level: Attempt to be vulnerable to the other person. Use “I feel: statements (e.g. I feel frustrated when I think you are not listening or I feel sad when you curse at me). This step is about being vulnerable to your partner. Being vulnerable can be very difficult to do, but it will take the conversation to a new level of authenticity. This is typically met with respect rather than anger.
- Agree with what you can: Attempt to agree with one thing that your partner is disgruntled about and apologize when appropriate (difficult for the ego, very helpful for the relationship).
- Stay away from all or nothing statements (e.g. You never… or You always…) This is rarely true and it hardly ever communicates that you are being fair.
The above key points are not complex; however they can be very difficult to follow in the heat of an argument. I recommend (as I continue to do myself) you practice as often as possible. Once you communicate that you care enough to listen to your partner, they will be more likely to return the love.
Marriage & Couples Counseling in Cincinnati, OH
Are you and your partner looking for help from a couples therapist to end the constant arguments or miscommunications? At my Cincinnati, OH based counseling office, I specialize in working with couples. I am an experienced couples therapist. I help couples at all stages in their relationship from premarital counseling to marriage therapy for couples who have been together for many years. If you are ready to reconnect with your romantic partner, let go of old resentments and bring intimacy back into your relationship, I want to help. Contact me today to set up a free consultation or intake appointment for you and your partner.
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If you and/or your partner want to attend individual counseling first, I can help with that as well. I offer anxiety treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy for depression and career counseling. I look forward to exploring how counseling can help you live your best life.
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