Change the way you argue ... forever!
Are you a pirate when it comes to fighting? As in, do you brazenly charge in with accusations, a smattering of profanity and hope to crudely beat your point across? The brutal truth is that this will get you nowhere with your boyfriend.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, compiled a list of 23 phrases that can help couples turn a verbal brawl back down to a constructive fight. Here are YourTango's top picks from that list and why we think they work so well.
1. "You don't have to solve this—it helps me just to talk to you."
This is a good response to any "quit whining" complaints—a non-confrontational way to let him know you need a considerate ear not a contrary opinion. Plus, it's actually a compliment in disguise.
2. "Please try to understand my point of view."
One of the first things to fly out the window during an argument is empathy. The more the accusations escalate, the more narrow-minded both parties get. Try this simple plea early in the argument to ensure that both of you approach the issue with the other's feelings in mind.
3. "This is important to me. Please listen."
You would think listening is a built-in function of any argument, but most of the time, we're too busy calculating what to say next to truly pay attention to our partner's words. Use this clarion call and wait a couple of seconds before stating the most important points you want to get across.
4. "I can see my part in this."
The fastest way to a nasty, no-solution impasse is to unload all the blame on one side. Yeah sure, you may think it's justified, but no one likes to be singled out as the only problem. Admitting your part in the matter, no matter how small it was, can help prevent an aggressive "Nuh-Uh!" rebuttal.
5. "We're getting off the subject."
You start discussing the dishes in the sink, and suddenly it becomes a fight over who forgot to gas up the car. An argument can quickly become a large laundry list of complaint after complaint. Use this phrase to steer the conversation back to the main problem that needs to be tackled now.
6. "What are we really fighting about?"
Small tiffs can mask a larger issue, especially if they are frequent and revolve around the same few things. Instead of fighting each and every incident to the bitter end, work with your partner to determine what could be causing the trend. This phrase can be followed up by:
7. "This isn't just your problem, it's our problem."
This statement can change the fight dynamic from you vs. him to you and him vs. this problem.
8. "Let's take a break for a few minutes."
How many hurtful things have you said when emotions trumped common consideration? If you feel the urge to say something just to inflict pain, the best preventative is to call a time-out. Separate, clear your thoughts and maybe sleep on it. You’d be surprised how fast the anger can pass.
9. "I love you."
Nothing throws off an argument better than this ultimate proclamation of affection. As hard as it can be to say during a verbal smack down, it is an immediate reminder of the basic bonds you share.
And don't forget to reciprocate your partner's own attempts to cool the argument down. Being empathetic is key to mastering this technique.