If you want your partner to care about your feelings, seriously consider your point of view and be willing to make some changes, do these 7 things:
1. Get Into the Right Frame of Mind
A. Remind yourself:
- You’ll be most powerful if you can temporarily let go of the need to get immediate change and accept the fact that sometimes it takes a while. You can afford to take your time.
- In the end, you can stand up for yourself if you need to. But there isn’t anything to be gained by jumping the gun. Keep your eye on the bigger goal. In the end, nobody’s going to pull a fast one on anybody here.
B. On a scale of 1-10, how frustrated are you right now? (1 = Mild; 10 = Intense). If your rating is 3 or above, relax your body and slow your breathing (use Resistance Breathing). Do what it takes to get to a place inside where you feel calmer, more patient, and able to hear your partner out without interrupting or disputing her points. Find a way to feel temporarily okay, even though you don’t like the way things have been going. Wait until your frustration level is below 3, then talk to her.
(For help with this step, listen to Recording 2 at https://thecouplesclinic.com/dhrs-rec/.)
2. Avoid Triggering Your Partner’s Natural Defenses
- Don’t jump to conclusions about what she did or why she did it. Keep an open mind. Investigate.
- Don’t act like your perspective is better or more correct than hers until you’ve listened to her and demonstrated that you understand.
- Keep in mind that there could be more than one valid way to do things or make sense of things. You might not like how she’s thinking or acting, but that doesn’t mean it’s misguided or wrong.
- If you act like she’s misguided or wrong in situations that aren’t really about right and wrong, you’ll be acting just like people who rarely get what they want and need from their partners.
- Just because she might not be misguided or wrong doesn’t mean that you need to just back off and be okay with whatever she wants (or however the is thinking). There’s probably nothing wrong with what you want either, (or with how you’re thinking) and when you disagree, both of you need to be willing to be open-minded and make some adjustments.
- (For more detail, listen to Recording 3.5)
Briefly explain why you’re frustrated or confused, while also…
- acknowledging that you might not have all the relevant information,
- inviting her to explain, and
- assuring her that you will try to listen with an open mind.
(For more detail, listen to Recording 3)
4. Find the Understandable Part
Ask clarifying questions until you think you understand the legitimate want, need, or logic behind her behavior or opinion (even if you don’t agree with it).
If you’re having a hard time because she’s talking angrily or harshly, don’t make a big deal of it, just try to redirect her. Say something like:
“I’m having a hard time listening, and I think you’re trying to say something important. Can we slow things down a bit?” (If she doesn’t slow down, withdraw from the conversation, saying something like, “It seems like you need to vent some anger but I can’t do this. I’m willing to talk, but not right now.”) For more detailed guidance, listen to Recording 7.
Let her know that her perspective has merit, even if yours is different. Say something like…
- “There’s nothing wrong with what you wanted (or with your perspective). You wanted it (or were thinking this way) because… [summarize the legitimate want, need or logic that is behind her behavior or opinion].”
6. Clarify and Respect Your Differences.
If you and your partner are not on the same page about the best way to handle this situation (or other situations like this), say something like:
- “It sounds like if it was up to you, this is what the decision would be (or what the expectations would be in similar situations… [elaborate…])..and your reason is…[elaborate…].”
- “If it was up to me, this is what the decision would be (or what the expectations would be in similar situations…[elaborate…], …and my reason is… [elaborate…].”
- “I’m thinking that we both have some valid points and we probably want the same things. Some of these things are probably just a little higher of a priority to me and some things are probably just a little higher of a priority to you. But we might not be that far apart.”
7. Offer to Work Together
Say something like:
- “How about if…[suggest a compromise that incorporates both of your preferences or viewpoints. Invite her to do the same].”
- “Give me some time to think about what you’re saying. You are making some good points. Let’s take some time to let this conversation sink in. How about if we come back and talk more later after we’ve had some time to think about it?”
If she is critical or dismissive of your perspective, don’t make a big deal of it. Just say something like,
- “Hey, I’m trying to be respectful of your perspective, and I need for you to try to respect mine. Obviously we have different opinions and it seems like we need to try to work together to find a solution that works for both of us as much as possible. How about if we stop fighting each other and try to work toward some sort of compromise?”
(If in the end, your partner insists on having her own way or that she is right and you are wrong, listen to Recording 6.)
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