During a conflict with your partner, you may find yourself falling into the common “I’m right/You’re wrong” thinking trap. You are on the defense, concentrating your energy on “winning” the argument by proving to your partner all of the reasons why your position is the correct one. Sound familiar?
When we switch into this mode, we are more concerned with “being right” than resolving the conflict at hand. In doing so, we tune out what our partner is feeling—using a metaphorical red pen to keep track of all the corrections we would like to make once he or she has finished speaking. At this point we are no longer listening.
To avoid falling into this trap, it can be helpful to remember that you can both be right. Each of you is experiencing your own subjective interpretation of events, and all of the emotions associated with them. Even if you can use logic or deduction to prove your point, you can never disprove what your partner is feeling. Everyone has a right to his/her opinions and emotions. And even though you may disagree, you can still respect and validate those experiences.
Some helpful tips:
- Give your partner your full attention. When you feel yourself starting to become defensive, shift your focus back towards what your partner is trying to communicate. (And make sure that you are free from any outside distractions -television, cellphone, etc.).
- Ask clarifying questions. Instead of responding quickly, stay with what your partner is trying to say by asking him more questions. This will show your partner that you are interested and care about what he is saying. It will also help prevent simple misunderstandings and save you both from unnecessary heartache.
- Validate your partner. Everyone wants to feel heard, and a simple validation can go a long way towards preventing an argument from escalating. Let your partner know that you care about her emotions by making a statement about her experience, such as “I hear how frustrated you are.”
To learn more about improving communication with your partner, schedule a couples counseling session with one of our professional counselors:
Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P