Feeling Angry? Try This "Trick" To Stop A Fight In Its Tracks

not listening

A secret weapon to diffuse any conflict, IF you're brave enough to use it.

Want to know a trick that will help you show love to your angry mate, even in the middle of an argument? You simply need to learn the art of hearing the hidden message your upset partner is trying to communicate. Of course, when your partner comes at you with both guns blazing about you being late (once again), if you're like me, you quickly run for cover. Or you might hold your ground and tell your partner how she's just as bad because she didn't even show up when she promised to pick you up at the train. 

Of course, with that approach, in about two seconds flat, you'll both be locked in the "it's not me, it's you" dance. Just for the record, this will get you exactly nowhere and is a total waste of time (not to mention, not very loving). You both just end up pouting that the other person "never gets me." So what is this special trick that helps you skip the drama and approach conflict with love?

Take Your Partner By Surprise:

Let me invite you to imagine a different approach to conflict.  Suppose you had a way to not only disarm your partner, but also to help bring the two of you closer. Now mind you, this may seem like an about-face for you to take. You may doubt that you can even pull this approach off and will likely feel a little awkward the first few times you attempt it. But don't knock it until you give it a try.

Here's how it goes. If your partner says to you, "Why don't you ever give me a compliment? The last time you said anything nice about me, you had to because the therapist invited you to."

Rather than saying, "That's not true, I told you I liked your dress two weeks ago," try something different. 

Instead, try saying: "Wow, it sounds like you don't have any sense of what I think of you."

She might reply, "Well that's right, I don't even know if you think I'm attractive anymore."

You continue, "So you're saying I am not very forthcoming about how I admire you. You know, I think you are right. I am realizing that I don't say anything affirming about anyone. I know my employees feel the same way. My boss said they have no idea if I like them or not. Is that the way you feel, too?"

She'll likely answer with something similar to: "Well yes ... though I can tell when you hug me that you love me."

To which you'd reply: "I am so glad that comes through because I really do appreciate you and I want you to know how attractive you are to me."

Relieved, she may respond, "That means so much to me. I just need to hear you say it more often."

Resonating With The Feeling Behind The Anger

So, are you seeing the method in this madness? Rather than coming back defensively, you have effectively summarized the heart of what she is desperately wanting you to hear. Even if her anger is intense, know there is an unmet need she's trying to communicate. Instead of responding to the anger, read between the lines and respond to message you hear. And then, consider where her point of view might be right.

The power of this technique is in not only hearing what your partner is trying to communicating, but also validating the feelings behind that message by admitting that their complaint might hold some truth. 

Earning The Right To Give Positive Feedback

Gain some ground with your partner in this approach by using an "I statement." In the scenario above, sharing that you really do want her to know and feel that you find her attractive helped immensily in diffusing her anger. If you said that same statement at the beginning of the argument, she probably would have tried to prove how you never say that. Her defenses were up. Her brain was fixed on the sense that you "never" send messages of liking the way she looks. Once she is hyper-focused on that track, she will ignore anything to the contrary. 

But as you convey that you understand what she feels, she softens. She instantly remembers the occassions when you do display love—in your hugs. This unlocks her ability to now hear you (and your point of view) in return. She is now able to listen and believe you when you say you really do find her attractive.  

It's a simple technique in theory but challenging to use in the moment (when tempers are flaring). But if you want to be closer, bypass the anger and respond to your partner with love, relating to the truth of her experience. In time, validation of her response can lead her to feel warmer and closer to you and open the door for both of you to share more of what you feel and what you want.

For over 40 years Dr. Jim Walkup has been helping couples find new ways to interact and build an exciting life together. For more articles, go to his website at dr-jim.com or to make an appointment, call 914-548-8645.


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