Steps for Getting on the Same Page After a Frustrating Exchange
(I have a male partner)
PREPARE FOR THE FOLLOW UP CONVERSATION
1 – Be clear about your goals for the follow-up conversation:
Getting on the same page with an agreement about how to resolve the specific situation that sparked the previous disagreement.
Prevent future disagreements by getting on the same page in advance with a default plan regarding how to handle situations that are similar to the one that sparked the previous disagreement.
2 – Be clear about what your goals are not for the follow-up conversation:
Let go of the urge to get your partner to see how badly he acted during the previous disagreement. If you don’t like the way he acted, remember that the best way to get him to change the way he acts during disagreements is to react more effectively the next time he acts that way, not complain about how he acted in a previous disagreement.
Let go of the urge to hold your partner accountable for what he said in the previous disagreement. Instead, give him a chance to say freshly what he means and how he feels. If he contradicts what he seemed to be saying in the previous disagreement, don’t penalize him for apparently changing his mind. Hit the reset button. Allow for a do over.
3- Do what it takes to get to a place inside where the previous upsetting conversation no longer seems like that big of a deal to you. You’re already over it. Rather than re-hashing the past, you’re much more interested in figuring out how to prevent frustrating situations like this from happening in the future.
If you’re having a hard time getting into this frame of mind, consider these things:
- You don’t like the way he acted, but you won’t get him to change by criticizing him in retrospect. The best way to get him to change the way he talks to you during disagreements is to be prepared to react more effectively if he talks to you that way again. The moment has passed. Let it go. Just be clear about how to react more effectively next time (consult the Recalibration Protocol or listen to the recordings about how to be effective during disagreements).
- Things happen. People sometimes act selfishly. Sometimes they are rude, disrespectful, critical or controlling. It’s not the end of the world – especially if you have a plan for getting it to happen less in the future. You don’t need to rub your partner’s nose in it.
- The way he acted isn’t a crime. It’s just really annoying. It’s normal enough for him to want to have things his own way, and for him to biased toward his own opinions. You just need to be sure that your preferences and opinions count, too. To make sure that your preferences and opinions count as much as his, consult the Recalibration Protocol or listen to the recordings.
- He doesn’t need to have you point out to him what he did wrong in order to be motivated to act differently in the future. In fact, the more you try to point it out, the less motivated he will likely be.
- Just because your partner seemed inflexible or closed-minded in the previous conversation doesn’t mean that he’s going to continue to be that way in the next conversation.
- Even partners who have great relationships often don’t get anywhere in the first round of arguments. He will probably be more open-minded and flexible in the next conversation if you can let go of your frustration about the previous disagreement, avoid trying to punish him, and approach the next conversation fresh, with a good attitude.
- It’s possible that your partner doesn’t mean some of the things he said (or implied) during the previous disagreement. His upsetting words or attitude may have been due to 1) misinterpreting your intentions or actions, 2) feeling threatened, 3) the instinctive tendency to defend or attack in the heat of the moment, 4) having a bad day, or 5) being mad at you about something else.
- Even if you’re pretty sure that your partner is coming into the follow-up conversation thinking that he is right and you are wrong, you don’t need to be alarmed. In the end, you can stand up for your opinions and priorities, making sure that they count as much as his.
DURING THE FOLLOW UP CONVERSATION
4 – Begin the conversation saying something like:
“I’m not happy about the way I handled myself earlier. I just want you to know that. I’m going to work on reacting better. I had a hard time with the way you were acting too, but I really don’t want to talk about that. I know that you’re working on things, too.”
5 – Your second statement should be something like:
“How about if, rather than talking about what went wrong or trying to determine who is to blame, we try to understand each other’s feelings, be respectful of our differences and get on the same page with a) how to resolve the current problem, or b) how to get on the same page with a game plan for how handle situations like this in the future in a way that honors both of our feelings as much as possible.”
6 – Invite him to talk about his expectations, saying something like:
“If it was just up to you and I was going to okay with whatever you want…
… how would we handle the present situation?
…what would you want the expectations to be in situations like in the future?”
7 – Ask him why he feels the way he does and acknowledge the legitimate wants, needs and values that are driving his preferred expectations.
8 – When he is finished, do the same yourself (i.e., If it was just up to you and he was going to be okay with whatever you wanted, what would you want the expectations to be, and why you feel this way.
If he doesn’t offer validation, ask him if he can see why you feel this way.
9 – If you and your partner aren’t on the same page with your preferred decisions or expectations, suggest a possible compromise and be responsive to any compromise that he proposes.
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