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3 Keys to Turn a Potential Argument into a Conversation

You’ve been irritated by your partner’s actions for a while. You like to get to places on time and feel uneasy when you have to wait by yourself on the street because your partner is running late. Having a harmonious and loving relationship with your partner is important for you.  For the sake of that harmony, you tend to wait for a couple of days before saying something, although your tendency is to make a passive aggressive comment as soon as your partner arrives late.  Other times, you bring the issue of tardiness up when you are both getting to bed.

If you say nothing for a few days and keep it to yourself, you start fuming inside. The internal fumes turn into resentment over time.  When there’s a lot of buildup and you finally muster the courage to let it out, it usually comes out covered in all that frustration.  Your comment is not skillful, and maybe even mean. You end up having an argument, a trial, and a sentencing all within minutes. And the harmony you were trying to maintain? It goes out the window!

When you resort to the communication habit of quick passive aggressive comments, your partner receives them like poison darts. You notice the disconnection at the moment of saying hello. The disconnection leads you to oscillate between feeling guilty to feeling validated, thinking that tough love will create a change of behavior.  This communication habit moves you away from a loving relationship.

When you wait until the end of the day to talk about it, you are both exhausted from a long day. The outcome is usually fighting before going to bed. Trying to fall asleep when you are feeling so upset deprives you of precious rest time as well as the harmonious and the loving quality of the relationship you are seeking.

Since none of these communicative strategies work in a way that allows you to experience harmony, love or motivate your partner’s behavior shift, I want to offer you three keys to turn a potential argument into a conversation. These three keys can actually fulfill your desire for a harmonious and loving relationship while encouraging behavior shifts.

1. Be crystal clear about your intention before you address the issue and only address that issue.

What matters to you the most? To lecture your partner about the importance of being on time? To let your partner know how tardiness affects you? To shift your partner’s behavior and ask for punctuality?

Decide what your most important intention is and address solely that aspect of the issue. Most people get into an argument because they are either not clear about their intention or because they change intentions in the middle of the interaction. Most likely, you can talk about your concerns about tardiness at other times.

2. Express your intention out loud and share why it matters to you.

When you desire a shift in behavior without expressing your intention or sharing the reason why this behavioral change is meaningful to you, you are opening the door for your partner to create the story that you are trying to exert your power over them.

In my years of working with couples, I have not encountered one person who wants to replicate the relationship of parent-child.  All the couples I’ve worked with acknowledge they long for shared power. If you request a change without offering what’s underneath it, your partner might respond like a teenager does with parents, i.e. rebelling to exercise their own autonomy.

3. Make requests that clearly state the benefit for both of you.

The truth is that if your partner learns to make changes to arrive to places on time; you are not going to be the only one who would benefit. Cultivating the habit of punctuality will contribute to them as well!

Aside from being able to watch a complete show or movie without missing the beginning; they will more likely be greeted with affection; have a more pleasant time and be ready for a restful night when they go to bed.

Now that you have three ways to turn an argument into a conversation I encourage you to explore them. 

Remember, when we argue, someone wins, someone loses, and the relationship gets frayed. 

When we learn to have conversations instead of arguments, we both win. 

We win more intimacy, more of the vulnerability that is indispensable for intimacy, more connection, and more enjoyment.

I can certainly attest to the power of learning to have conversations.  My beloved husband is an excellent attorney and very skilled in arguing. Having conversations rather than arguments has allowed us to address our deepest issues and make the necessary shifts for a harmonious, loving and conscious relationship that keeps deepening and growing after 12 years of marriage.

This article was first published on languagealchemy.com, and is reposted with permission from the author.

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