Couple Fights: What’s the one bit of
advice you’d like to share about making them productive, not destructive?
Posted by: Evan Marc Katz
As far as I know, Dale Carnegie said it first. I’m sure hundreds of other self-help gurus have reappropriated it as well. Maybe I’ll pretend I never heard it before and pass it off as my own idea. But, according to every expert I’ve ever read, the one surefire way to guarantee a conflict is by insisting that you’re right and that your partner is wrong.
Fact: NOBODY wants to be wrong. Wrong is invalidating, emasculating, and embarrassing. And anyone who tells you that you’re wrong has already lost you as an audience. Which means there’s no room for listening or peaceful negotiation. Wrong can ONLY mean a screaming match.
This is why experts often try to reframe relationship debates in terms of how someone feels. It’s not, “You were wrong for talking to that cute guy for an hour at the party,” but rather, “I felt kind of bad when I was looking to chat, and you waved me away because you were engaged in conversation with some other guy.” Same basic premise, very different delivery.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t some empirical right and wrong. Obviously if you skinned her cat, you’re wrong, and if she cheated on you, she’s wrong. But most arguments aren’t this black and white. So assuming you’re looking to get past the argument, rather than breaking up, consider these three steps:
- Listen to your partner’s side.
- Acknowledge your partner’s experience or opinion as valid, even if you disagree with it.
- Talk about how your partner’s opinion makes you feel bad in some way. If your partner truly loves you, he/she doesn’t want to make you feel bad.
Remember, a good arguer gains the sympathy of her partner. And as long as you’re insisting that your partner is flat-out wrong, it’ll be next to impossible to get him to take your side.