If you love your partner I am sure you hate a having mental wall between each other. Or being weird around each other even though all you would like is to get back to normal.
So, I asked you (my readers) and my friends on what strategies they used to avoid this problem in an argument with their partners. I wanted to know the systems, not only to improve myself but also end discussions with care and love.
From about 21 different conversations I had, ever advice come under four big categories on how to avoid conflicts.
- Give space or call a time-out.
- Share your emotions before getting into the nitty-gritty of the topic of argument.
- Say sorry quickly if you are wrong and have patience if you are right.
- You can’t resolve a conflict always.
Give each other some space or call a time-out
A time-out is a sports metaphor. In a sport like basketball, a team calls for a time-out to stop action (especially when things go out of hand) and regroup. The same can be done in an argument when things start to go out of hand.
Then a friend suggested to give space when this happens, because one often is able to see it coming. This is very hard and I’m not able to do it every time but at least the times I was able to do it, it worked pretty well. With some space we usually end up realizing it wasn’t such a big deal.
My husband and I sometimes need distance to cool things down. We will say, “I need some time by myself”, “I need to not be around you right now”, “I can’t have this conversation with you right now (you’re not listening)”. These aren’t easy either (easier to say than receive), but it works because it’s not a personal attack, and it is temporary.
Once you both have cooled down, you can restart the conversation.
Share your emotions before getting into the nitty-gritty of the topic of argument.
I liked this advice because in most cases you are reacting emotionally and not talking about the specifics of the topic. My friend Frank shares the key mindsets that he uses in his relationship:
Feel confident with meta-speaking, or stating outright how you feel about something (even if it’s just to acknowledge it’s your “thing” and not hers to do anything about).
I used this strategy recently and it worked out well. When my wife and I were discussing something, instead of getting irritated, I said, “When you asked me about X I started to feel defensive because…” It immediately brought the conversation to an emotional level and we were able to move past the topic quickly.
Say sorry quickly if you are wrong and have patience if you are right.
My friend Sachin shared a system with me that changed my opinion about the role I played in an argument. Especially if you are debating a decision, you have to make as a couple.
He said, “If you are in an argument and you realize that you’re wrong, say sorry immediately. Don’t flex your ego. If you know you are right, but it is not a life-threatening topic, state your opinion and have patience. If you point is not taken, say ‘okay’ and let it go. If your partner doesn’t listen to you and they make a mistake, they might learn from it. If their action is not a mistake, you can learn from it. In the case where you know you are right and it is life-threatening, then hold your ground in the discussion.”
He also talked about the 80-20 principle where at the start you will be wrong 80% of the times, but slowly, by practicing this system, you will get close to being wrong only 20% of the times.
You can’t always resolve a conflict.
Conflicts are inevitable. Like Beth pointed out in a comment of my blog post introducing this topic:
60% of conflicts are not resolvable because they arise out of differences in personalities, habits, cultures, and so forth.
There are times where you shouldn’t resolve a conflict and like one of my friend philosi-fied (I know that’s not a word, but it should be).
If you are open to change, you can always get better
Sure some conflicts can’t be avoided and shouldn’t be avoided. But in no conflict would you want to hurt my partner. Since a relationship is such a pivotal part of our lives, it affects every aspect of our lives. These strategies can help us with the conflicts that should be avoided.
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, there were a few resources that my friends shared: