Relationship Health: Turning Spats into Solutions

Successful relationships are not where two people always agree, they are when two people figure out how to disagree and arrive at a solution with respect and love. 

Impossible, you say?

Rather than resorting to unproductive fighting, give these solutions a try the next time you and your loved one are at odds.

1. Keep Your Cool

Logic and reason are next to impossible to use when you are engaged in a screaming match. Your pupils dilate, your heart races, cortisol and adrenaline run through your veins, and your muscles tense as a part of your body’s natural “fight or flight” response that is engaged when you are in an emotional confrontation. Stop, take a breath, and tell your partner that you need to resume the discussion once you have had a chance to cool down. Once you feel your body return to normal, revisit the topic. Remember, if you can’t keep your voice down, you aren’t ready to talk about it.

2. Use the Speaker/Listener Technique

As tempting as it is to interrupt your partner when you are in a heated disagreement, refrain from interrupting them. Once they have expressed their thoughts, repeat what you heard back to them to show you were listening and ensure you correctly heard what they were trying to say. This helps them feel heard and minimizes miscommunication. Then, once you have expressed yourself, have your partner repeat back what they thought you heard. It may feel weird at first, but this simple technique helps ensure you are both listening as much as you are speaking.

3. Have a Goal in Mind

It is sometimes hard to stay on topic when you’re in the middle of a spat. However, this is not the time to bring up past transgressions or all of your partner’s annoying habits. Instead, have a goal in mind for your conversation and do your best to stay on topic. Not only does this increase your chances of arriving at a solution that is reasonable for you both, it minimizes hurt feelings once you are done.

4. Be Specific About What You Need

Avoid using words like, “Always” or “Never” and instead focus on what you would like to achieve, receive or accomplish. Of course, the underlying assumption is that you know what you need in the first place. If you don’t, devote a little time on your own uncovering what is really bothering you so your conversation can be focused on a solution rather than a problem.

And, if all else fails:

5. Sleep on it

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You were likely told at some point that you should never go to bed angry. In reality, exhaustion can cause tiny disagreements to turn into all-out war. If you can’t arrive at a solution and it is late at night, sleep on it and give it another try in the morning. Just be sure to set a time when you can revisit your issues to avoid burying them permanently.

Remember, healthy relationships do not just happen, you have to work at them. Even small changes to the way you communicate can go a long way toward turning your spats into solutions.