So when I got married, I knew that our relationship wouldn’t be all rainbows and butterflies. Someone would have to take out the trash after all. But I had no idea how messy and frustrating combining two lives could be. Though we love each other dearly, we bicker frequently over things little and big. I know for many of you, this may sound familiar when you’re thinking of your parents. Disagreements are a part of life, because no two people are the same. What matters is how you handle those disagreements.
Because my husband and I love each other, we work to improve our relationship. We’re constantly learning how to better communicate and handle disagreements so that they don’t turn into fights. I joke that in these first few years of marriage I’ve earned my Associates degree in healthy conflict. In the coming decades, I’ll go on to earn my Bachlors, Masters, and a few Ph.D.’s. The lessons I’ve learned are applicable in any relationship. So here goes:
It all starts with the body language. This is the easiest thing to fix. Don’t cross your arms or put your hands on your hips. These are defensive and/or attacking postures. They send the wrong signal without you saying a word. Keep your body looking relaxed as you’re talking even if you feel anything but.
So much for the easy part.
Next is the attitude with which you approach the conversation. You need to begin a talk with the mindset that the other person wants to help you out and come to an agreement that you can both be happy with. When you approach a conversation with the attitude that the other person doesn’t want to help you or doesn’t want to agree with you, then they won’t, just because of your tone and your ‘tude. Even if it’s something they don’t mind doing.
Now for the talking.
When expressing frustration or a difference of opinion, speak in “I” statements. “I feel frustrated that I cannot go to Claire’s party because I have finished all my homework and I have proven that I make responsible choices.” While the phrasing may feel a little outdated and lame, it allows you to express yourself in a non-attacking manner. This way the person you’re speaking to is more likely to hear and process what you’ve said. If you say “You always…” or “I can’t believe you…”, the person you’re talking to will put their shields up and stop hearing what you say, only the way you say it.
These three little things will go a long way in preventing conversations from turning into arguments. Learning how to have healthy disagreements is key in all long-term relationships–from family to friends to that special someone. You’ll need to constantly work to improve your communication, so your relationships can flourish.