The 4 Laws Of Communication
How to get through an argument without arguing.
We’ve all had arguments that got out of hand. We’ve all said things we’ve later regretted. The next time you’re in a heated discussion, remember these tips to help get your point across with the least amount of stress possible.
1. Keep It Simple
Of course, there’s a material difference between the way we talk to our female friends and the way we talk to our spouses; there has to be. I don’t need to go shopping with Anne, but couples are mutually involved and invested in mandatory domestic matters, including parenting and deciding how to spend money. This obligation naturally makes situations more stressful.
In most cases, spouses do understand each other, but I have found that when I make an effort to consider their feelings and speak in a language that the unique person I’m talking to can easily understand, my message gets across more successfully. We are, after all, in partnership with one another, so sometimes we have to bridge the gap by mastering a common language. First think about how they will feel when they hear what you want to say, then tailor it to them in a way that will help them hear it with the least amount of defensiveness.
2. Tailor Your Content
Every person is interested in different things, and this can manifest itself in conflict over the way we talk to one another. One of the first things we can do to address this difference is to make sure that we’re tailoring our communication to fit our audience. You know exactly what I mean, because this is something we already do with our friends.
Let me give you an example. I am perfectly capable of commenting on the cut of a new coat or the sophistication of a pattern on a silk scarf, but I don’t share these details with my friend Anne, because I know that she’s not at all interested in fashion, and having to listen to me babble on about it would only result in her frustration. Many more intimate relationships (especially between men and women) might also benefit from a similar sensitivity. Why don’t we extend the same courtesy to our spouses as we do to our friends, by focusing our conversation on topics of interest to both of us?
3. Stick To The Matter At Hand
So many of the arguments we have stray from the topic at hand. Once you’re angry, it’s easy to get in touch with every single hurt feeling you’ve had in the relationship, and it takes a great deal of self-control to stop yourself from hurling old accusations, even when they have nothing to do with whatever sparked the original argument.
This can wreck real havoc on our relationships. I realize that banishing the memory — and the impact — of a previous argument or betrayal is easier said than done, but I suggest that you make an attempt, when you are arguing, to restrict your discussion to the immediate incident at hand.
For example, your husband may have made plans to play golf on Mother’s Day last year, but that act of insensitivity has nothing to do with why he has once again forgotten to set aside time to pay the household bills — so don’t muddy the waters by bringing it up. The subject of that long-ago golf game should be considered off-limits for the purposes of your argument about the bills. If you can keep your request to asking him to plan ahead so that he can dispatch the domestic responsibilities he has assumed, your husband will really hear you on the subject, as opposed to tuning out, the way he does when you dredge up something he cannot change.
4. Believe What You Hear
I sat, mouth open in disbelief, as my best friend described her first “relationship discussion” with the new man in her life. He had told her, point-blank, that the priorities in his life were his children from an earlier marriage and getting his new business off the ground. The combination of the two meant that he didn’t have a lot of time or energy for a serious relationship. In fact, the two most recent relationships he’d been in had collapsed because he hadn’t been able to give his partners the time and attention they deserved.
I was dismayed to hear the way this intelligent young woman told her story and parried this man’s every excuse with a reinterpretation of her own. She was intent on barreling headlong into a romance with him, despite the warning shot he’d fired across her bow at the very first opportunity. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone but her when their liaison ended five months later, after countless broken dates and promises. He had told her everything she needed to know, right up front, but she had heard something else because she wanted to. Don’t let that happen to you.