Making ‘we’ more important than ‘I’

Do you find yourself arguing frequently with your partner? This may happen for several reasons. If one person is criticizing the other, undoubtedly an argument will ensue. The solution here, obviously, is to stop criticizing. No one likes to be criticized.

Telling someone that what they are doing or thinking is wrong will only trigger defensiveness. Instead of telling the other what he/she is doing wrong, simply ask for the behavior you would like. Offering to modify one of your behaviors in return creates a win-win situation.

Sometimes the arguments are a result of differing opinions. You have probably noticed that when two people are reiterating their respective positions, they may become louder or more forceful, but that rarely shifts the perspective of the other. The result is either a blow-up, with an aftermath that lasts for days, or one party gives in to keep the peace, but may feel unheard or resentful.

This can become a pattern in the relationship, either with a partner, parent, teen, or someone at work. Such a pattern slowly degrades the relationship and provides no opportunity for resolution, or finding a healthier way of communicating.

There is a better way. Marshall Rosenberg is a mediator who worked globally to help countries find agreement over difficult issues. He is also the author of “Nonviolent Communication.” Rather than fighting each other, his model shows the two people (or sides) how to join together and work as a team to solve the problem. One says “black”, the other says “white.” The first step has both working to clearly understand the other’s concerns and preferences. Then each proposes “grey” solutions, until they come upon one that both can live with.

One cannot underestimate the importance of showing the other that you understand what they are saying and how they are feeling. This can be done even if you disagree. It shows respect for the other person and their point of view.

If you are one half of a couple, there will be times when you disagree. It is vital, for a healthy relationship, that you learn the process, and the art of compromise. Indeed, there may be some issues that are non-negotiable for you, for example, things involving legal or moral issues. These should be few, so for most issues, there should be room to reach some kind of agreement.

Neither party may be completely happy with the result of the compromise, but if the relationship is one in which there is respect for one another, both will see that while there may have been a “loss” in terms of one’s stance on the issue, there is a “gain” in terms of the relationship. In ten years, the issue will be o, but you will be reaping the rewards that come from putting the relationship first.

Sadly, in our world there are not enough examples of conflicts being approached in this way. Evolving beyond polarity has to start somewhere, so in our homes is as good a place as any.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.