By: Abigail Brenner M.D. | January 16, 2022
"You may be on the same page with your partner for most things, but there will inevitably come a time when you don’t see eye to eye. You have some choices: You can ignore your differences and just circumvent the issue, or you can keep on trying to persuade your partner to see it your way, or you can get increasingly angry and eventually let your partner have it.
It’s probably a better idea to try to tackle your differences, the areas where you disagree, and attempt to iron out the problem in a way that allows both of you to express your opinions and beliefs, with the goal of finding some common ground, some area of compromise.
How do you do that when you feel strongly about an issue or problem, but so does your partner? Surely, you want to please yourself but you want your partner to feel satisfied as well. However, most of us are not taught how to have a constructive discussion. We model what we see around us. We may have seen people angry to the point where they stop talking to each other, or try to intimidate each other through insults and threats. We’ve perhaps seen situations where the conversation ends when one person declares their point of view the “winner.”
Here are some tips to help you navigate disagreements constructively and respectfully.
Be present and focused. Clear away all distractions—no emails, texts, or phone calls. Leave aside all other issues and things you need to do. Put everything else on hold. Pay close attention. Your only job is to listen carefully and to try to understand, not only what’s being said, but the emotions being expressed. Give your partner all the time they need to explain their side of the argument, discussion.
Don’t lecture. You probably have done this already but making time to constructively work on your differences is a completely different kind of exercise. It’s meant to be a give-and-take, back-and-forth discussion to help clarify your different points of view and to reach some kind of reasonable agreement about how to move forward. Your ideas and beliefs are just that—you’re ideas and beliefs. No more or less valid than your partner’s ideas and beliefs. Don’t lecture, or worse, pontificate from a superior position. This exercise is meant to level the field."
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