When you’re upset with your partner and feel a heated discussion (that’s therapist speak for a big argument!) brewing, the last thing you want is to use kid gloves. However, that’s exactly what John and Julie Gottman tells us we should be doing. The Gottmans are world-renowned researchers who are famous for their work studying couples.
When you’re irritated or angry and know you will be addressing a sensitive topic, try taking a step back and using what’s called a “soft startup” approach. This simply means to start the sensitive conversation in a kind and gentle way. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Your tone will make a big difference in how the conversation plays out.
The Gottmans discovered that when you start off a conversation with accusations or critical language, your partner is less likely to be open to hear what you’re saying. Ending the conversation as tense as it started. Makes sense, right? So, if you’re angry, try taking a long walk, take some deep breaths and allow yourself to consider the soft startup before going into attack mode.
Here are 5 Tips on how to Handle a Heated Discussion with Your Partner
- 1) Start with the good – Express your appreciation. Take a moment to notice what your partner is doing right.
- 2) “I” is better then “you”- When you start sentences with “I” you are less likely to seem critical, which will immediately put your partner on the defensive. Take ownership of how you’re feeling, instead of being critical and nasty to your partner. For example, you might say “I don’t feel like you are listening right now” instead of “You never listen to me!!” Put the focus on how you are feeling.
- 3) Complain, don’t blame – even if you are feeling that this is all your partner’s fault, being critical of your partner’s character will get you nowhere fast
- 4) Be polite – Try using phrases like“I would appreciate if….” or “it would mean a lot to me if…”
- 5) Describe what is happening, try not to place judgment
Next time try using the soft startup and see how it makes a difference in communicating with your partner.