Finding Joy from Argument

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I’m not much of a fighter. I like to get along with everyone, and I’m pretty good at it. I know when to duck a verbal barrage wrapped in sweet talk.

In the classic fight or flight mode, when the verbal fight starts I sprout wings.

I’m not proud of it, I’m like a lot of people: keep the peace; let’s all get along.

But there comes a point when I needed to say something that might offend my best friend: my wife.

She sensitive. It’s something I admire and detest depending on the situation.

An online friend wanted to set up a group for a book called Crucial Conversations, by  Kerry PattersonJoseph GrennyRon McMillan, and Al Switzler.

I had the book sitting on my bookshelf the last five years after a business communications consultant told me she has all her clients read it before she starts working with them.

What better time to read it: someone to read it with. Okay, truth be told, I’m not finished with it yet, but the tips and suggestions are spot on even for old married folk like me.

For instance, in passed discussions when my wife started to get upset, I calmed her down; played down the situation or need, but it didn’t resolve solve anything. I buried it.

Now, The book recommends three methods to bring the relation discussions back on track. This works in domestic and work relationships.

First recommendation is to start with heart.

I can only control my actions, so I try and look at if from a caring standpoint. What is it that I really want and what outcomes do I want to avoid? I want to move away from my normal fight or flight conversations, so I visualize ahead of time a goal I need to achieve in the relationship for it to work.

Second, apologize when necessary.

I’m usually pretty good with apologies and I’m sincere. Where I fall down it giving in to a situation I do not find desirable. My mouth agrees but my mind sinks. This is where I needed to build up courage to say what I need without causing a crazy argument. That’s where these next dialog statements worked for me.

Third, use contrasting “Don’t and Do” statements to fix misunderstandings.

It goes like this. When the person starts to get upset and does not understand your actions or your words say, “I don’t want to give you the impression that I ______________ you. I Do value your _______.

For example, let’s say your girlfriend gets upset when you want to go out. She wants to stay home. She loves nothing better than to stay home and she never understands why I like to “ditch” her. She feels hurt and she’s lashing out at you.

Using a Don’t and Do statement goes something like this: “I don’t ever want to give you the idea that I’m “ditching” you. I do love spending time with you. You’re my best friend.” You get the idea — don’t and do statements.

After those statements, you could go straight to “But I need more people contact than you do . . .” which I don’t think will go over well. That’s where the last dialogue activity comes into play. Now, it may seem hockey at first, but give it a try.

Four, use the CRIB method to get mutual purpose.

CRIB stands for

  • Commit to seek mutual purpose
  • Recognize the purpose behind the strategy
  • Invent a mutual purpose
  • Brainstorm new strategies

In commitment to seek mutual purpose, we “start with heart” and decide together to “agree to agree” and stop using conversation that triggers the “fight or flight” in the other. That usually looks like unkind statements or silence.

Once we decide to seek ways to agree, the next step is to evaluate our strategies of trying to get what we want. We have to ask “what is the purpose or reason behind me using that strategy. For example, what is the purpose behind you wanting to go out instead of stay home. Going out is the strategy, but why do it? For what reason? For example, one reason might be you need to talk more with friends. You crave friends conversations, you say. Okay, that’s the purpose for using the strategy for wanting to go out.

You partner needs to look at the reason or purpose she desperately wants to stay home. She may say too much with friends drains her. That’s her purpose or reason for staying home. It’s a reasonable one.

Now, that you both understand your reasons for your stay at home or go out strategy to fulfill your need. Then comes the next dialogue phase: Inventing a mutual purpose.

In inventing a mutual purpose you both come up with acceptable solutions. Come up with mutual reasons and You both start with heart and hopefully through this dialogue it remains. It’s easy to feel upset at some point. Then go back to the “Don’t and Do” dialogue if necessary. Look for mutual goals that satisfy both parties. Now that you have common mutual goals, reasons, or purposes we use the last dialogue technique: brainstorm new strategies.

Now, that you both were honest in what you want, you try to find mutually beneficial strategies for getting what you want. For example, she has a special TV night of music and wants to watch it undisturbed. You decide to plan a night with friends that night.

It’s not perfect and takes practice, but it sure beats a room that feels more like a boxing ring than a home.

Good Luck,

Peace, Joy, Love

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