The following insights on this topic, come from the great book, "The First Years of Forever" by Dr Ed Wheat, published by Zondervan Publishing House, www.zondervan.com. We hope you'll apply the insights of Dr Wheat. The following are some of the ways the conversation may go wrong:
1. A War to Be Won: The disagreement becomes a war to be won—a power struggle. But the fact is that no one wins in an argument. Your goal should be to win by reaching an agreement or an understanding, while maintaining your good feelings for one another.
2. A Personal Rejection: The disagreement is taken as a personal rejection. Unfortunately, people often confuse rejection of their ideas with rejection of themselves. You can benefit in marriage from bringing your varying viewpoints together and discussing them, finding a solution, and gaining a deeper appreciation for one another at the same time.
3. A Change of Weapons: People change the subject and drag in other issues to use as weapons against their partners, instead of limiting the discussion to the original disagreement. As soon as one feels attacked and reacts with defensiveness, communication and loving intimacy are on the way out the door. If you want to avoid this and resolve the issue, agree ahead of time to discuss only the matter at hand. Let the law of kindness be on your tongue. The Bible says that words can pierce like a sword, but the wise tongue brings health and well-being.
4. Sweeping Generalizations: People, frustrated by their inability to make their point, resort to sweeping generalizations characterized by the use of these expressions: "You always ..." and "You never ..." These are "fighting words" and there is almost no adequate response to them. The temptation is to stoop to the same tactic and argue, "I do not! You always..." or "You never..."
5. Shouting or Siberia: People sometimes respond to disagreements in even more inappropriate and childish ways. One wife wrote us, "I wish my husband could discuss matters without shouting. He seems to think that talking loud and fast is the only way to communicate." A husband told us, "My only option is to agree with my wife on every point. Otherwise, she sends me to Siberia and for weeks at a time."
6. Yes, But..: People often pull out this prize communication stopper: "Yes, but..." which simply escalates the argument. Once we recognize how thoroughly annoying and disheartening this reaction is we can choose to learn other ways of responding when we disagree. Here's how: Refuse to use those two words in combination again. Learn to make your point differently, beginning with a favorable response, such as "That's an interesting way of looking at it. I hadn't thought of it that way." Or, "I see what you mean." Move right on smoothly into your point, presented as a question, "Do you think that...?"
In other words, present your original reaction in the framework of a measured and respectful response to the other person's idea by taking it seriously. Then tactfully offer your question in such a way that it is not regarded as an attack or a put-down. The discussion begins without ever using a "but" and your partner will feel more like rethinking the issue because you've recognized the validity of his or her position.
All these childish attempts to "win" the disagreement can be changed, if there is a genuine desire to learn to communicate. Excitable people can learn to talk more slowly and calmly, to take deep breaths while they're talking, and to stop to listen. People who pout, who use the deep freeze to express their displeasure, can learn that often honest discussion has its rewards. Most importantly, marriage partners can learn to appreciate the peace which comes when they respect one another's right to hold different views and express those views in a calm discussion.
When a disagreement occurs, it's important to defuse its explosive potential by reducing what's at stake. When your attitude changes from win/loss, I'm right/you're wrong position to a "Let's talk this over, but it doesn't affect our love and respect for one another" perspective, you've won the real battle. Here are some additional principles to follow:
Couple Communication Control Calmers
- Response, Not Reaction: Don't interrupt. Listen carefully before you respond. Don't react. Respond. Keep the discussion squarely on the issue at hand. You need to agree, long before disagreements arise, that you will limit any discussion to the present, leaving the past out of it, and limit the discussion to the one issue, refusing to allow side issues to enter in.
- Disagreement, Not Disapproval: Acknowledge that you understand what your partner is saying, even though you disagree. Show him or her respect. Don't let your disagreement of this issue sound like disapproval of your partner.
- The Gift of Empathy: Make it a point to share your feelings, but not in such a way that your partner feels criticized. Encourage your partner to share feelings and respond to them lovingly. Give him or her, the gift of sympathy and empathy. This is one way to teach each other to give what you both are longing for.
- Carefully Clarify: Carefully clarify what you're both saying so there can be no misunderstanding. Take turns doing this, with no interruptions.
- Truthing in Love: Speak the truth in love. The original expression in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:15) is literally truthing in love—maintaining truth in love, both with your speech and with your behavior. Honesty and love are needed, so speak the truth but speak it gently.
- Say "I Need You": Be willing to show your vulnerable, needy side to your partner. Don't be afraid to say "I need you." Sometimes we want to conceal our feelings to protect ourselves, but when you begin communicating, you learn the value of being honest, even about your own weaknesses. Real communication means revealing yourself even at the risk of rejection. When both are willing to do this, you are well on your way to building loving intimacy in your relationship.
- Surprise and Disarm: Stop being defensive when the issue is a personal one. Surprise and disarm your partner by agreeing there is wrong on your side, since there always is (even if you don't wish to admit it). Be specific. "I was wrong" can stop a fight and demonstrate to your partner how to admit wrong, too.
- Apply the B-E-S-T: Apply the B-E-S-T principles in your communication. As you talk with each other, bless with your words; edify (or build up) your partner by what you say and by your interest in what your partner has to say; share openly and honestly; and touch affectionately while you talk. Bless, edify, share, and touch—communicate the BEST to your mate.