This article was originally published on MG International on August 19, 2017.
Think about the last time you had a disagreement with your partner. Big or small, confronted or avoided, how did it make you feel? While you think about your answer, let me explain to you how a small misunderstanding can turn into a source of conflict. Once you understand this concept, you will be able to communicate better with your partner.
Say you and your partner have recently moved in together, or maybe the two of you have been living together for a long time and you notice that they designate the kitchen table as a place to sort through bills and leave important papers. For you it’s annoying because that’s where the two of you are supposed to enjoy dinner, yet every day like clockwork they dump their papers on the table. Usually, you are super annoyed and offended by their clear defiance of your wishes, but before you allow resentment to take root over papers on the table, stop and think about things from their point of view. Maybe the kitchen table was the place to keep papers growing up. That’s how they ensure they stay on top of their responsibilities.
This applies to any situation where you may become annoyed by something your partner does, not realizing they’re mode of thinking is different from yours. Before passing judgment on them, allow yourself to be objective. And, instead of pushing your views ask why they do the behaviors that they do. You will find out that maybe they have some reservations about how you do certain things too. This is the beginning of healthy relationship communication and dialogue.
Be Ready To Adapt
When it comes to communication, everyone’s style is different. The better you can tailor your communication to your partner, the better you can meet your goals. Remember, it isn’t about being bull headed until you get what you want. There are less stressful ways to get what you want that’s harmonious for the both of you.
Be honest with yourself. How flexible are you? Flexibility is when you adapt the way you communicate. Often times while growing up, we develop our perception of what is normal in how we communicate. What may be normal to you may not be normal to the other person. When you find yourself pushing your “agenda” and unable to adapt, you are suffering from anchoring bias. This is a common cognitive bias and it occurs when a person depends on information they got early in life and don’t consider anything else as they get older. Realize that your mental map may not match your partner’s mental map and the two of you have different perceptions.
Remember to examine your patterns often. If you do so, you will be able to be more effective in your personal relationships. Whenever you get confused, annoyed, or angered by some behavior your partner does stop and consider where those feelings are coming from.
Next, see if there are any other ways to achieve the outcome you want to achieve.
Here’s a challenge for you this week. The next time you and your partner have a disagreement, stop and think if there is another way of achieving the outcome you wanted without forcing the way you are thinking of. Try to list at least 3 other alternatives and then write how they can be just as valid as the way you were thinking.