Even the most successful couples can fail at communication when emotions run high. In the heat of battle, words can be spoken before brains are put into gear. Hurt, resentment, or anger can make the best of us lash out.
As the saying goes: “When emotion goes up… intelligence goes down.”
When your partner says something that you feel is unjustified or unfair, it’s super easy to react and spit out something you don’t really mean. Understanding the cause of this reactive behaviour will help you to stop doing it and to understand and deal with it better when it’s thrown at you.
Words are powerful, more powerful than most people realize. They create our reality (and that of others around us), and choosing them carefully will be your greatest friend. When someone throws out a thoughtless comment, the receiving person can easily feel attacked or misunderstood. They feel like they have been judged and tried without a jury, and they go into a defensive reaction. They feel the need to state their case and argue down the opposite view. They perceive a strong threat and come out of the corner fighting.
Avoiding or replacing some words can largely avoid a breakdown in communication and a defensive response. Try listening for these in your next heated debate — you’ll be surprised just how often both you and your partner are using them:
When you say “you should” or “shouldn’t,” what is coming across to the other person is that you think you are superior, an authority, and that you know better than they do. It changes the dynamic from two equal people discussing to a dominant and a submissive relationship.
Try instead: “I would really like it if you could…”
The second you start talking about what you are feeling in sentences that start with “You,” you are probably going to be in trouble. You might say “You never listen to me!” only wishing to impart that you feel unheard, but what the other person hears is “It’s all your fault!”
“You” comes with an imaginary jabbing finger. It’s accusatory, and if the receiving person is already feeling vulnerable, defensive, or emotional, whatever you say after “you” will be interpreted as an accusation.
Instead, try: “I feel like…” or “When this happens, I feel…”
Similar to “should,” “must” sets the speaker up as the expert, the more knowledgeable party. It tells the receiving person that you know better and that they should be doing what you say. At some level, the person you are saying this to will feel that you don’t respect their opinion or their logic or their ability to think for themselves.
Try: “I did love you to…” or “It would really help me if you could…”
As someone once said “Peace begins where expectation ends.” Everyone has a “blueprint” in their head, an idea or a mould of how things should be and how other people should behave.
Come to grips with the concept that other people don’t have to follow your rules and that they may not have the same expectations as you do.
When you use phrases like “I would have expected that you would…”, it’s accusatory. It somehow says that the other person has failed and that is exactly how they will feel. They’ll feel judged and rejected and will more than likely react negatively.
So choose your words carefully and don’t give your partner any reason to feel defensive. Talk in terms of yourself, how you feel, rather than what the other person has or hasn’t done or said.
If you can, take a little time to cool down before you begin to talk together so that you are calm and ready to listen, and answer slowly and think before you speak!
(Excerpt from Lifehack)