Most marriage counselors will tell you that the best way to deal with and manage difficult conversations and differences between you and your spouse is to think in terms of being cooperative, seeking out understanding, and utilizing persuasion and influence. All of this is great — and true. But it’s also a bunch of “counselor talk.” What this really means is that you need to understand your partner’s point of view.
Granted, that can be easier said than done — especially when you’re in the heat of the moment and both of you are thinking, “well, I’m right, and you are so horribly wrong.” But with the right attitude, finding understanding is possible. Trust me.
So how do you do that and put it into everyday, real-world practice before things get all sideways?
“What’s the best way for me to keep things from getting heated beyond the point of no return?”
“How do I focus on keeping calm?”
“What’s the best way to keep showing love and kindness toward my spouse when it’s ‘one of those topics?”
Understand my Partner’s Point of View, Understanding before Solutions!
Many couples don’t listen to understand. Perhaps you’re guilty of this, too? Instead of trying to see things from their point of view, we think about what we will say in response. And when your spouse is doing the same thing, a negative dance ensues where shouting, hateful words, and leaps to judgment take center stage.
Remember that in every interaction, there are two valid realities: your spouse sees an issue one way, and you see it another way. Both of you think your take on the issue is valid, but each of your realities — though valid to each of you independently — is also subjective. So, you and your spouse need to stop focusing on facts and instead look at perception.
Even though you see things a certain way, try your hardest to understand your partner’s perception — all while maintaining an attitude to find some degree of agreeableness.
When in doubt, start HERE:
- Slow things down.
- Stabilize your interaction.
- Reduce harsh words and tone (no threats. Think about safety).
- Increase positive words, actions, and tone (this is you being cooperative).
- Create a goal and structure for your conversation!
“I hear you, and I understand your point of view.”
An exercise that The Gottman Institute has shared that we also enjoy is for each of you to take turns expressing your point of view. While one is doing the talking, the other is listening and working on understanding.
It sounds almost childlike, but it truly is about “taking turns” and “sharing.”
When it’s Your Turn to Speak:
- Talk about what you’re feeling, not what you think they feel or think.
- Don’t blame.
- Say what you actually DO want and need, not what you don’t want and don’t like.
- Help your partner really understand you.
- Help them know what is important and why, and why this is meaningful to you.
When it’s Your Turn to Listen:
- Postpone your own agenda, perspective, experience, and potential solutions.
- Hear your spouse’s position, feelings, and needs.
- Validate their position or perspective. Let them know what makes sense to you or what you can agree with.
- Be interested and ask good questions.
All we are saying here is that the reason many communication breakdowns occur is that we are too busy trying to share our own point of view rather than trying to understand why our spouse doesn’t think the same way. Understand your partner’s perception, and you’ll end up finding that communicating and finding common ground is so much easier.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
Did we leave anything out? Did the exercises above work? Have you noticed that your communication has improved as a result? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.