Almost all people have diff erences of opinions--in fact, life would get boring otherwise. How you handle an argument can make or break a relationship however, and not all of us get great role modeling at home on this one; remember, nonverbals contribute a lot to communication. In an argument, is your significant other belittling you? That’s a bad warning sign and can do awful things to your self-esteem. Does he or she threaten or hit you?
That should be a relationship deal breaker. People may modify their habits, but that one is a learned behavior that is incredibly hard to change. You can’t divorce your parents, but you sure can choose what sort of behaviors you tolerate in a significant other.
Does your partner listen and let you get your viewpoint out? Do you afford him or her that respect and courtesy? This is a learned skill, and a useful one. Just like learning to play a sport or musical instrument, it defi nitely takes practice, as it is not intuitive to most of us when the stakes are high and our emotions are turned up in volume.
Here are some simple rules for argument engagement:
- What do you want to get out of the argument?
- What do you not want to have happen?
- What does your partner think? Try to listen first, before responding, and make sure your partner knows that his or her viewpoint has been received loud and clear. A good way to communicate this is to reflect it back, “What I’m hearing you say is . . .” Put yourself in the other person’s shoes before speaking.
- What can you agree on?