Steps for Getting on the Same Page After a Frustrating Exchange
(I have a female 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 she acted during the previous disagreement. If you don’t like the way she acted, remember that the best way to get her to change the way she acts during disagreements is to react more effectively the next time she acts that way, not complain about how she acted in a previous disagreement.
Let go of the urge to hold your partner accountable for what she said in the previous disagreement. Instead, give her a chance to say freshly what she means and how she feels. If she contradicts what she seemed to be saying in the previous disagreement, don’t penalize her for apparently changing her 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 she acted, but you won’t get her to change by criticizing her in retrospect. The best way to get her to change the way she talks to you during disagreements is to be prepared to react more effectively if she 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 she acted isn’t a crime. It’s just really annoying. It’s normal enough for her to want to have things her own way, and for her to biased toward her 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 hers, consult the Recalibration Protocol or listen to the recordings.
- She doesn’t need to have you point out to her what she 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 she will likely be.
- Just because your partner seemed inflexible or closed-minded in the previous conversation doesn’t mean that she’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. She 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 her, and approach the next conversation fresh, with a good attitude.
- It’s possible that your partner doesn’t mean some of the things she said (or implied) during the previous disagreement. Her 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 she 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 hers.
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 her to talk about her 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 her why she feels the way she does and acknowledge the legitimate wants, needs and values that are driving her preferred expectations.
8 – When she is finished, do the same yourself (i.e., If it was just up to you and she was going to be okay with whatever you wanted, what would you want the expectations to be, and why you feel this way.
If she doesn’t offer validation, ask her if she 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 she proposes.
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