Or maybe just Marianne’s and my relationship, but close enough.
It happened last night, over dinner, mostly because we were both cranky and exhausted from the whirlwind Camp Out Memorial Day experience. But we still had to buy groceries so we were at dinner beforehand talking about the upcoming changes with the move and Marianne starting school and my needing a job and we ended up arguing about something.
Now we don’t usually argue much anyway, but when we do it tends to drag on longer than it should just because one (or both) of us refuse to give an inch. That and we make things about more than what we’re talking about. Essentially we practice “unfair fighting.”
Okay Katie…I get it. I think. But then what is the opposite of that? What does “fair fighting” look like?
Glad you asked. The last time we met with Rev. Kelly, he gave us five points to always keep in mind. Ready? Here goes:
1. Use “I” language not “you” language
- “I” can only say with confidence what “I” feel;
- “I feel like you are being a jerkface” is not an appropriate “I” statement, because it still tells the other person how they are feeling;
- “I feel sad/mad/hurt/angry/annoyed when you…” is a much better “I” statement.
2. Feelings are always right. No one can tell someone else how to feel.
- This is what I did last night, I wanted Marianne to be super excited about the changes and believe I said something like “everything you want is being handed to you – graduate school, it being paid for, having a job – why can’t you just be excited for once?”;
- It’s not that she’s not happy, she just expresses it differently than I do and thinks things through more thoroughly – my telling her how she should feel just encourages her to shut down the line of communication which is not what I (or she) really wanted.
3. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Understanding must precede agreement.
- I think most people try to do the first part but never really get to the second point;
- Until you understand the other person, you just keep running in circles and end up frustrated;
- Once I understood that Marianne will never be as super-duper-over-the-moon-joyously-jump-up-and-down excited as I get sometimes because that’s just not her personality, I was able to reframe my focus on how she actually felt (not how I wish she would feel);
4. Practice Mirroring: “Let me see if I hear you right: You are saying…….”
- This gives the other person the opportunity to clarify their position;
- It also aids in understanding;
- “I hear that you are excited but also feeling nervous/cautious/unsettled…”
5. State the other person’s position to their satisfaction, then you can disagree or share your opinion.
- This can take minutes or hours;
- Until the other person feels that you understand what their position is, the conversation cannot move forward;
- “That’s not how I’m feeling at all, I’m feeling…”
- (Back to #4) “I hear you saying…”
- “Finally…you freaking got it!!! Now we can talk about…
I think steps three through five are sort of all one giant step, but are all important to mention on their own. Once we made a point to use these steps in our argument last night, it died as quickly as it had flared up. Five minutes and done.
I think it also helps that we’re both getting better (and quicker) at apologizing for (un)intentionally hurting one another with our words. It’s amazing how far an “I’m sorry for…” can move a conversation forward.
No matter what happens, never, ever,ever, ever, never ever forget the “I Love You” at the end of it all