Nobody likes a stupid argument. A stupid argument, in case you’re wondering, is one where neither of you keep to the topic that you both need or want to
discuss and instead rush headlong into the land of name-calling, shouting, talking over each other and other things that prevent what could be a useful conversation that gives you each what you need and makes your relationship stronger.
If you’ve been reading some of my recent posts on Verbal Graffiti, you know that I’ve been talking about the various ways we prevent direct and useful conversation. Today’s post is about how to handle Verbal Graffiti so that it doesn’t cover up the conversation you really mean to have
and want to have. I have 12 tips for you on how to keep your conversation clean of Verbal Graffiti of the stupid argument kind.
Tip #1 Confirm the Other Person’s Point of View
This is the first step because taking it can sometimes end an argument quickly because no real disagreement actually exists. If you have misunderstood or misheard, you’ll suss it quickly by restating what you think she said. This also gives her a chance to expand upon or clarify what she said. Sometimes what we mean and what we actually say are two different things.
Tip #2 Commit to Listening
Listen with the intention of understanding what she wants you to hear. Then state it back to her and ask for confirmation. Then ask him to do the same with you. Often a conversation turns toxic because each side wants to be heard but neither is taking the time to listen. Understanding and acknowledging are not the same as agreeing and capitulating.
Tip #3 State the Common Goal
If you want a new car and she wants to a major make-over of the master bath, your common goal is an upgrade from your current standard. Whether it’s who should take out the trash, put the kids to bed, how to spend the household budget, or whether to accept a job offer, there’s almost always a common goal. In some cases, like religion and politics, the common goal is that each person’s beliefs are acknowledged, affirmed and respected…not adopted.
Tip #4 Confess Your Secret Motive
If there’s no reason to get rid of the car you have now, and you see the sports car as ‘your’ car, your motive has a lot to do with your self-image and how you want to pamper yourself. There’s nothing wrong with any of this (assuming you’re not chronically selfish). Confessing this as your secret motive adds to her ability to understand your point of view.
Tip #5 Ask a Question
Often when you have confessed your secret motive, she will do the same. But if she doesn’t, it is okay to speculate, in the kindest words you know, why she wants what she wants.
Tip #6 Put Things in Perspective
Remind yourself that minor things are just that: minor. On your deathbed, will it really have mattered if you routinely did some chore you detest? Look for opportunities: putting the kids to bed can bring rewards that you won’t realize until you’ve done it for a while. Reframe your choices: perhaps you’d be happier with a slightly used sports car of your dreams instead of no sports car.
Tip #7 Acknowledge that You Need a Middle Ground
When you can agree on the fact that a choice is going to have to be made, you’ve opened the door to continued conversation and the necessity of considering some compromises.
Tip #8 Admit Your Partner’s Good Points
If he’s said something that has changed your point of view, say so.
Tip #9 Let the Conversation Ebb and Flow
Let agreement come in its own time, without coercion and without a stopwatch. Any serious disagreement you may have has been brewing for some time. You shouldn’t expect to resolve it in an instant, and agreement under duress is no agreement at all. When the current conversation seems to have reached its end, acknowledge that you want some time to think about it and set a time to check back in and renew the discussion.
Tip #10 Seek Resolution, Not Verdict or Absolution
You know you’re just spoiling for a fight when you voice a put-down cloaked as a rhetorical question, such as, “Why can’t you for once just do what I want?” Instead, ask for what you need: “I don’t like it when my request is met with an immediate refusal. Please talk with me about this situation.” Likewise, don’t focus on who is right or wrong. If she says you ‘never’ take out the garbage, your response that you took it out once two months ago will only inflame the situation. Moreover, you’ve just proven her point.
Tip #11 Be Okay Without an Equitable Resolution
Sometimes, the best resolution is one where you simply end up doing what the other person has asked because you value the other person and the relationship. You may end up putting the kids to bed most nights, without extracting a specific trade. So what? Unless you’re already doing all of the household chores, there’s probably room in the relationship for you to take on one more thing without throwing the balance of joint responsibilities out of kilter.
Tip #12 Time-outs are Okay
Sometimes, a conversation turns into a full-blown argument and you know you don’t have it in you right now to follow any of the other 11 tips. So here’s one final tip: you never outgrow the right to a time-out.
Live Honest, Open, and True
Verbal graffiti includes all of the useless things you say that turn a conversation into an argument. When you find yourself in the midst of an argument, try these 12 tips for getting your conversation back on track.