Doing These Things In The First 3 Minutes Of A Fight Determine How It Will Go 96% Of The Time

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Getting into an argument with your spouse is never easy. And it can feel overwhelming to resolve conflicts when things escalate.

So, what can we do to ensure that our disagreements start on the right foot?

In an interview with podcast host Dan Harris, clinical psychologists and researchers Drs. John and Julia Gottman discuss the best approach to kickstart your conversation positively within the first three minutes.

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What You Should Not Do In The First Three Minutes Of A Conflict With Your Partner

"The first three minutes of conflict discussion will determine how it's going to go 96% of the time," says John Gottman. To ensure it doesn't go left, avoid what the Gottmans call the four horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These behaviors will only worsen your situation.

Criticism: According to editor Ellie Lisitsa, "Expressing criticism based on your partner's characteristics will make them feel under attack." And when we lead with criticism, we not only hurt our partners but reject them as well. So, rather than focusing on criticism, shift your focus to expressing complaints using 'I statements'.

Contempt: Contempt is something we tend to engage in unconsciously. Rolling our eyes and sighing heavily, we may not see contempt as a big deal. However, according to Lisitsa, contempt is the number one predictor of divorce. To get rid of this behavior try finding things you love about your partner. Express gratitude for these qualities and for the positive actions they engage in.

Defensiveness: Defensiveness is a typical response to criticism, writes Lisitsa. When discussing problems with your partner both parties should never aim to excuse bad behavior. Take accountability for your actions, writes Lisitsa. Understand your partner's perspective and meet them halfway there.

Stonewalling: Stonewalling is when you shut down during conflict. If you find yourself disengaging from tough conversations you're most likely stonewalling. Stonewalling is both hurtful to your partner and yourself. It doesn't allow you to express your feelings or resolve the issue at hand.

To quit stonewalling try asking for a twenty-minute break, writes Lisista. Read a book or go on a walk. The point is to take time for yourself to collect your thoughts. Afterward, reapproach the conversation and try coming to a resolution.

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What You Should Do In The First Three Minutes Of A Conflict With Your Partner

So, how do we resolve conflict in a way that is helpful?

According to Julia Gottman, you need to express how you feel.

Known as 'I' statements, expressing how you feel doesn't involve using the word 'Your.' Rather these statements are used to take accountability for your own feelings.

As the University of Iowa writes, “When we use I statements, it is easier for the other person to hear what we are saying, even when we are angry or frustrated.”

So, instead of saying, "You're making me feel frustrated," say, "I feel frustrated."



Next, explain the situation.

What's causing you to feel frustrated? During this stage, it's okay to use 'Your' but don't place too much blame on your partner. Your goal here is to keep it neutral.

Say, "I'm feeling frustrated. It bothers me when you leave your socks on the floor." This neutral wording will help your partner become less defensive and more receptive to resolution.

To end you want to express a positive need, says Julia Gottman.

Tell your partner how they can help.

Say, "I'm feeling frustrated. It bothers me when you leave your socks on the floor. Please pick up your socks and put them in the hamper."

By taking responsibility for your feelings, you create a positive environment where you and your partner can work together to problem solve.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.