How to Argue Productively With Your Partner

When you marry, or enter any long term committed relationship, you might be surprised to find out that, even though you love each other, and share the same values, you can’t argue productively when you disagree.  Indeed, it may seem like you speak different languages, and are talking at eachother, rather than being heard an understood.

The following are some techniques that should be used by both of you to increase the chances that your arguments will be productive:

1.  PICK THE TIME in which you raise subjects that might lead to an argue.  Don’t pick a time when you and your partner re stressed, or in a rush. Pick a tim when you are both RELAXED and in a good mood., and have enough tim to explore the subject without distraction.

2.  LIMIT THE TIME OF THE ARGUMENT to no more than an hour  More than that is exhausting.  Return to the subject at some later date to complete the discussion if there is a need to do so.

3.  Keep in mind that problems often cannot be resolved after just one discussion.  The point of the discussion is not an immediate resolution.  The point is TO HEAR YOUR PARTNER AND BE HEARD.  Often just being heard relieves the tension and you might find that you can just agree to disagree.

4. Invest more energy in HEARING HOW YOUR PARTNER THINKS AND FEELS, rather than in expressing your own viewpoint.  When your partner says something with which you disagree, don’t immediately counter with an argument.  Ask your partner HOW he/she feels. and WHY. And TRULY LISTEN.  If you don’t totally understand the how and why, follow up with more questions.

5.  When expressing your viewpoint, don’t present it as the only correct way to think.  Qualify your argument, and express how and why you think your viewpoint is correct for YOU.

6.  Never use abusive or demeaning phrases when you argue.  Don’t call your partner’s point of view idiotic, for example.  Don’t say things like”That’s silly.”  Always show respect.

7.  If you find yourself angry, frustrated, and in danger of losing your self control of your temper – STOP THE DISCUSSION  IMMEDIATELY and resume it at some later date when you have regained calm.

8.  LEAVE YOURSELF TIME to think about your partner’s viewpoint in an unresolved argument.

Here is a useful exercise to implement – not just in the beginning or your relationship, when you are just learning to argue productively, but ALWAYS:

A.  Pick a subject on which you disagree and in which you’d like to find a resolution.

B.  Ask your partner how he/she thinks it should be resolved.

C.  Try to repeat what you have just heard him/her say.  (Say something like, “What I think you said was that…., because….”  Is that correct?”

D.  Give your partner a chance to correct you if he/she feels he has not been heard accurately.

E.  Tell your partner how you feel about his/her suggestion.  When reacting, never say “You make me feel like….”. Say, instead, “I feel like”.  Nobody can MAKE you feel.  Your reactions are your own, and you must take responsibility
for them.

F.  Reverse the process.  Share YOUR SOLUTION, and have him/her repeat what he’s heard, and so on.

This exercise should be used consciously  and intentionally in the discussion of any sensitive issues until you internalize the process.  It is simply a formal outline of a method of discussing difficult issues respectfully and a simplified way of hearing and being heard.

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