Communication While Arguing
Dear Positive Way, I have problems with communicating when my spouse & I get into an argument. I shut down & can get angry. My spouse would really like me to change this, but I am having trouble adjusting and trying to communicate in a better way. I can also interpret things she says the wrong way, and be defensive. I would like advice on how to overcome all this & communicate in a way to resolve the issues instead of making them worse. Thanks! Signed, 071506, age 40
Dear 071506, you are a wise man to seek advice on this issue of communication while arguing. Communication problems is one of the major concerns for many couples and anything you as an individual can learn and improve on with your communication style can in turn help the relationship tremendously. There are 3 articles I would like for you to read and study that I feel can help you communicate in a more positive manner. The links are filters, express and own feelings and conflict.
After reading these articles also take some time to read all of our articles on communication. The more you know the easier it will be to change your communication style in a positive direction. All of these will help you with skills for better communication while arguing. Once you have read the articles mentioned please do the following:
1. Set up a meeting time with your spouse where the two of you can meet without interruption. No TV, phones, or other people around. Tell your spouse you would like 15 minutes of their time to discuss a family matter. Give them a choice of times and let them decide which time would be more convenient for this talk. Bring a timer to the meeting and set the timer for 15 minutes.
2. Practice what you have learned especially from the express and own your feelings article. Tell your spouse you are working hard at learning how to communicate in a more positive manner. Tell them you would like to have short family meetings like this one to allow some practice time putting your new skills to use.
3. Apologize for any problems you have caused because of this issue. Tell your spouse in the most sincere manner possible that you are truly sorrow for your past behaviors and that you will work at improving your communication style. Own up to the fact that you become defensive and shut down during communication.
4. Tell your spouse how they can help you improve. For instance; if you feel blamed or shamed in anyway from your partner then tell them you could listen better if they would not point the finger or put you down in anyway if they have an issue with something you have done. Tell them how to approach you so you won't get defensive and so you would be more willing to listen rather that defend yourself and get angry. Tell her what you are willing to do to improve your relationship and ask her what she would be willing to do to help you through this.
5. Come up with a "code word" that only you and your spouse are aware of that can tell the other one when things are getting a bit out of hand and to stop talking about that subject until there is some cooling off time. For example; let’s say you decide that the word "bingo" when said by either one of you means to stop what you are doing and to call a time out. Nothing more has to be said - only the word bingo and then you both know what that means and no one else needs to know the meaning of your "code word". Once one of you says the word then the conversation ends or changes to something else and you both get some cooling off time before you meet again to discuss the topic that was being discussed when one of you were feeling a bit picked on or defensive. Make the agreement that either one of you can use the code word if you need a break from the discussion and then you both make an agreement to meant later on that day or the next day to discuss the matter in a more calm and civil way.
6. Anytime you are feeling hurt or defensive then it is important to practice the Name Statement that I describe in the express and own your feelings article. This allows for open communication without shaming or putting down your partner. No one likes the finger pointed at them and it is easier to listen if the person talking uses "I" statements instead of blaming and shaming.
Practice, practice, and practice some more. Practice these new skills on even the little discussions like where to go for vacation or what to have for dinner or family gatherings and the like. Practice on family and friends and even coworkers. Be gentle with yourself and know that it will take time to make these new communication skills habit. A sincere apology goes along way and don't hesitate to apologize when you do fall back to your old ways until the new skills become second nature. Everyone appreciates a sincere apology and they will respect you more because of it. You can turn things around in this relationship. Take the lead and practice as much as possible.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. I wish you well in your goal for better communication while arguing. Soon you may find that you have more positive, open discussions than arguments.