It happens almost without warning. All of a sudden you’re in an argument with your partner. In the back of your head you’re thinking, “Why are we having this argument? This is such a little thing.” Or, “You’re telling the story so wrong.” And the argument continues (and usually escalates) until one of you gets hurt bad enough or gets tired enough to leave the conversation.
Not exactly anyone’s idea of a good way to spend time and energy. Seems fair to say that what you’re doing isn’t working, so let’s find out how to correct it and stop arguing so much.
How do you stop fighting so much?
Refine the purpose of the conversation.
You may not realize it, but the purpose of the conversation for each of you was not the healthiest approach, and there there’s a better way!
The purpose is not to:
You both lose when one person needs to be right. While you can’t control the other person, you can control yourself, so do your part. At the heart of the matter, rarely is “right” the main thing.
The conversation is rarely about what we think the conversation is about. (That’s another blog post in itself.) So it’s very easy to understand why we can get confused and think it’s important to be right.
Prove a point.
With this approach, every argument is basically a battle of counterpoints. One person makes their point, and then the other person makes their point, and then the other person makes a counterpoint, and then the other person makes their counterpoint…
Basically what’s happening is each person wants the other to validate how they see things or experience things. Because we are selfless creatures by nature, it’s hard to make that happen unless we do it intentionally.
Perhaps this is the most important thought of this post:
At the heart of every argument is an invisible “Ow!”
It may be small or large, but it’s there.
With that realization, you can set a focus for a new purpose for the conversation.
That purpose is to:
Validate the other person’s perspective.
With practice, you can learn to hear out your partner without feeling defensive. In most cases, your partner is not trying to get you to agree with them (sometimes they are) but to listen to them. Even though the narrative of today’s world says acceptance and agreement are one in the same, it is possible to affirm and accept someone without agreeing with them.
Sending a message that you care enough to listen, especially when you may not even agree, often provides the space for a great conversation that leads to reconnection.
Learn why they feel the way they do.
Native Americans have a wonderful phrase: “Take time to walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins.”
Without this approach, we are left to fill in the gaps with what we think is the proper information. We all know what “assume” means. The goal is to get the other person to tell us, “That’s right.” When we can get them to say this, it means that in their brain they feel like we “get” them. Each of us knows how wonderful it feels when we sense that the other person “gets” us.
So the new purpose of the conversation is to soothe and reconnect. Validate. Listen. Learn. Reconnect.
Or, you can keep on doing what you’re doing.
Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.