Instead of Fighting, Try Negotiating
Saying that communication is the key to a healthy relationship is like saying that an engine is a relatively important part of your car. It really shouldn’t need to be said, anymore.
But knowing that and acting on it are two different experiences. If communicating well was such an easy thing for couples, then why do so many couples have trouble doing it? The truth is that speaking from the heart is one of the most difficult things we do. When we have disagreements with the ones we love, it can lead to very emotional conversations and arguments. Of course, we are only upset because we care and it matters to us how our loved ones feel. Nonetheless, it is easy to get caught up in strong emotions and actually fail to communicate our needs in a way that will generate a positive response from our partners.
That’s why we recommend to our patients learning an important skill: negotiation.
To negotiate means to discuss something in order to reach an agreement, confer. Whether you knew it or not, you probably use negotiation skills on a daily basis, however, these skills become especially important when you are in a relationship that you want to thrive. Here are some basic negotiation skills that you can start using today:
- First, go into the discussion with the mind set of making it a “win/win”, instead of trying to convince your partner to give in to what you want. Remember, you’re a team. Thus, when one person loses, the whole team loses.
- Be clear and state what you want.
- Focus your request on behavior changes.
- Try not to immediately say “No.” Instead, make a counter offer.
- Be willing and open to compromise. This means both of you must be willing to surrender something you want.
- Continue until you reach an agreement with which you both feel comfortable.
- Honor the agreement.
Here’s how it sounds when we do it poorly and when we do it right:
Not using negotiation:
Husband: “I want to go out with my friends on Friday nights.”
Wife: “FINE! You ALWAYS want to spend more time with them anyway!”
Using basic negotiation:
Husband: ” I want to go out with my friends on Friday nights.”
Wife: “I want to spend time with you on Friday nights. Instead of every Friday, how about you go out with your friends one Friday night a month?”
Husband: “I want to spend time with you too, but I also like to spend time with my friends. How about I go out with them every other Friday night?
Wife: “Okay, just as long as we spend quality time together on our Friday nights.”
The difference in those two examples is the tone and the manner in which the disagreement was addressed. The first example showed someone who wanted to communicate a disagreement with her partner’s plan to go out, but it was all emotion with no path to a solution. The second example showed she could still communicate the same disagreement, but in a way that promoted a compromise that ended with a positive outcome. He is able to spend some time with his friends, while she secured the quality time that she wanted with her husband.
All this skill requires is the ability to step back and think for a moment before you respond. It’s perfectly natural to feel strong emotions with regard to your partner. However, by communicating your viewpoint the right way, you can actually convey how you feel in a way that can leading to solving the dispute instead of escalating it to become a bigger one.
If you think you’d like to learn more about these kinds of communication skills, please contact us and we can “negotiate” a consultation.
Drs. Chuck and Jo-Ann Bird