What is your goal? Establish what you want from the exchange. Do you want a behavioural change in the other person? Do you want understanding? Do you want them to show you how they feel? Do you want to retaliate or punish the other person? State that goal!
Why now? Are you hungry, tired or very busy? Are you upset about something else, your mother’s health, work or politics? How is the other person doing? Are they too tired, too emotional? Pick the best time to talk not the worst.
Don’t fight, communicate. If you want a battle you shall have one. This may relieve some pressure in you but often your message is lost in your delivery. Fighting also allows the other person to discredit what you have said because of how you said it. Be polite, reserved and get your message across. Don’t give the other person a reason to not listen.
Communicate. Tell the other person how much time you want and what you would like them to do. “Please listen to me for 10 minutes before you go to work! I am feeling afraid. I would like to see you more outside the house. I miss your company!” Fighting is:”You don’t love me anymore! All we do together is take care of the kids!”
Language. Stay away from slang and jargon. When emotions are running high this can be confusing and taken as an insult. “I was gutted when you disrespected me!” Means something totally different from” I was afraid and embarrassed when you told that joke!” Keep you words simple and don’t try and empress them with your language. Your goal is communication not perform.
Body language. Do you have a wry smile on you face? Are you frowning? Are you pacing? Are your hands clenched as you block the exit to the room? Our body can speak more than our words.
Listen. Listen for meaning not words and delivery. Don’t just listen for a mistake in their thinking or facts so you can catch them on it. Why are they saying this in the first place? What do they want? How are they feeling? Does it really matter what time who came home and who said what when. When we talk about feelings we often have to give examples that are not perfect. They are trying to get you to understand. Listen!
Be curious. Interview the person you are having this discussion with. Why now? Do you really understand why they are bothered by your behaviour? Ask them questions and try to understand fully before your respond. Does this person need to tell their story before you respond?
Assume nothing. We often take for granted that we know what the other person wants and what they believe. “I thought you liked it when I paid for things?” “Of course I don’t want to be alone!” Ask the other person if they like it when you do this or if things you do for them are wanted or desired. “I would much rather you talk to me than buy me expensive gifts.”
Experiment. If you always argue about the same things in the same way try a different way. Start the discussion in the morning. Be alone or go to the park. Change your goal to a smaller one. Just listen to them to see if you learn something new or if it changes the dynamics of the relationship. If you have trouble staying in control try writing it down.