There’s a Change Coming
My wife Maude and I have a very loving and peaceful relationship, and we’ve looked hard at what we do to create this.
One of the things is how we use language.
Most conflict in a relationship arises not from what is being said, but from the language that is used to say it.
Change your words, and you can radically improve your relationship.
Start With …
- Firstly, say “I” not “you”.
- Say “I’m cold”, rather than “You pulled the blanket off me.”
Here you are saying how you feel, and not what the other person did.
By phrasing it this way, two things are different.
Firstly, it is no longer an accusation of the other person’s behavior, so it does not provoke a defensive response (“No I didn’t”) or a counter-attack (“Well, so do you.”) It is merely a statement of how the world is for you.
Secondly, a statement in the first person is an act of intimacy, a revealing of your self.
By speaking about your own feelings, you offer closeness and invite empathy.
In Stark Contrast
In contrast, talking about the other person’s behavior is often taken as a criticism.
That’s painful, and more than likely will elicit a hardening of their position in the form of a justification for the action, or an attack on you in return.
When trying to resolve conflict together, almost any statement about the past tends to feel accusatory.
Try changing your language to only use the present tense.
When coupled with “you”, the past can become the speech of blame.
For instance, instead of “You left your dishes in the sink again”, you might say “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the housework.”
Likewise with the future; speaking of what should be is often a way of avoiding what is actually happening in the present.
You Can Use ‘We”
This is not to say that there is no place for speaking of the past or the future; certainly we need to plan, and we need to use our past experience to guide our current behavior, but it is rarely constructive in the context of a personal conflict.
When it is necessary to digress from the present, using “we” is often a constructive approach.
Make sure you use these language suggestions in the spirit in which they are meant, rather than literally. It is easy to stumble, and imply criticism or blame within the guidelines suggested.
They exist as an aid to help you develop a different way of relating.
Ideally both partners will commit to this style of communicating, but even if only practiced by you, significant change can take place, as the negative feedback cycle of an argument is interrupted.
By continuing to communicate, yet not treating the conversation as adversarial, you can single-handedly encourage a different style of communication.
This technique works with all relationships, not just for couples.
It also works with family, friends and work colleagues.
You will find that when both parties relate in this way, conflicts become discussions.
By offering up your feelings as well as your point of view, each person gains insight into and empathy for the other. This allows for an exploration of possibilities that eventually leads to a solution that works for both people – a mutual solution where no compromise has taken place.
Speak Your Mind, With Your Opinion
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