Reduce Conflict

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 at 4:49 am

Immediately Reduce Conflict By 50%–Here’s How

In the physician’s office you’re not likely to query your doctor about his/her ailments.  If you did, your own problem might not be adequately addressed.

When you go to a physician,  you go to explain what it is YOU are experiencing–where YOU hurt–what YOUR problem is.  You do that by talking about yourself.  This is common sense, and we all do it automatically, without question.  Why?  BECAUSE IT WORKS–your problem/experience is understood,  appropriately attended to, and ultimately resolved.  That is a metaphor for couples in conflict.

Consider approaching your partner/spouse the same way you approach the doctor.  Imagine talking about yourself,  instead of discussing the faults of your spouse/partner.

What happens when you talk about yourself?   YOU SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE YOUR ODDS OF BEING UNDERSTOOD, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY REDUCING THE INTENSITY, LENGTH AND INEFFECTIVE old patterns you’ve probably been repeating possible for years. In short you break an old pattern.

But you’ve also done something else: You’ve taken charge and control of yourself instead of trying to control/change your partner/spouse.  When you make a conscious decision to break an old, ineffective pattern, and instead take control of yourself, you are doing something very POWERFUL.  You have maximized your odds of being understood.   Conversely, repeated attempts to control your partner’s/spouse’s behaviors, thoughts and feelings is OVERPOWERING.  And guess what–it does not work!

If you want to have a positively effective impact on your relationship, do what’s powerful:  TALK ABOUT YOURSELF.  If you want to break old, ineffective, frustrating or destructive patterns, TALK ABOUT YOURSELF. That is, if you really want to be understood.

So, how do you actually so this?  Well, start with the following exercise: The next time your partner says or does something that rubs you the wrong way, don’t ask the usual question we all know how to ask, such as, “Why did you say/do THAT?!!”

Instead, break that old pattern– talk about yourself by saying something like: “Gee, that was hard to hear– I felt a little bruised when I heard that.”  Leave it at that for the moment.  That will pave the way for your partner/spouse to ask you as question such as: “Really?  What did you hear?” Now, as you answer that question, you have an opportunity to talk more about yourself, which has increased your odds of being understood.  The old, ineffective pattern has been interrupted.

This is easier said than done because it’s hard to break old patterns–they seem to be automatic.  If it did not work as you had hoped, try again.  It takes practice and repetition, repetition, repetition. Remember, progress, not perfection.

Wishing you a more satisfying relationship,

Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT

©Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT 2008

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