How to Break Old Habits of Arguing, Part II


Last week, I told you about Lyn and Danny who created a ritual for arguing where he used logic and she resisted, then he pressed on and she eventually just shut down. While every couple has their own “dance steps” for arguing, there are small things you can commit to doing that will make it easier for you and your partner to actually talk!

First, you both need to recognize what your dance steps are –and what kicks them into play.  Since they’re not getting you anywhere, agree to try something new.

Second, you and your partner don’t have to shout or pout. People respond more to how something is said even more than to what is said. Don’t roll your eyes.  Don’t be sarcastic. Tone of voice is essential.

Third, stop accusing each other with the word “you.” Every time you say “you never,” “you always,” you push the other person up against a wall and they can only become defensive. Has anyone ever told you what is wrong when you sarcastically asked, “Do you know what your problem is?”

Fourth, you and your partner shouldn’t be required to read each other’s minds, even though you think that if your partner really loved you, he or she would be able to read your mind! The more we love someone, the more we expect him or her to know, without our having to say a word, what we want, need, feel. Drop the games; tell your partner what you need.

Fifth, don’t shut down. Not talking for days on end and then resuming communication without addressing the issue doesn’t solve the problem. Problems don’t magically go away! If you don’t want to talk about the issue in the present moment, then tell your partner you need breathing room — and agree on a time when you’ll address the challenge. Reassure the other that you do want to talk after you’ve calmed down and collected your thoughts. Then follow through on this promise.

Old habits die hard and no one likes change except a wet baby! For Danny, he had to acknowledge that simply pressing Lyn with logic wasn’t going to make her open up. And Lyn had to recognize that “because” said in a whiny tone wasn’t a persuasive answer. They each need to help the other explain what they’re thinking and feeling, using questions such as, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.” “Why do you say that?” “What are you thinking?” “What are you feeling?” “What do you need from me?”

Be bold and tell your partner that you want to argue in a different way. Experiment with these five tips and be surprised at what can happen!

Please send your communication questions to me at:

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