Over my many years as a psychotherapist working with couples, I found it interesting how two people who lived together, ate together, played and argued together could have such different perspectives on their disagreement.

Often, one or both see the world as black or white, or right or wrong. Most often, there is more talking than listening. When an individual feels accused the tendency is to get defensive, put on a protective coat of armor, thus diminishing his or her chance of really hearing what is bothering their partner. Words like “you never”, “you’re always”, “you should”, get tossed in the air with volume but no purpose. A tug of war ensues, each trying to get the other to see their side.

I often work with couples on responding versus reacting, as yelling or shutting down puts an end to any effective communications.

Clients progressed when they followed the emotional rules for conflict: OBSERVE, THINK and then ACT. To develop this skill, one has to learn how to press the “PAUSE BUTTON”, listen to their partner and reflect back what you heard them saying. This provides an opening for feelings to be relayed and for those feelings to be acknowledged. I often told clients that developing this skill is like going to the gym. It is arduous, at first, and with many repetitions you start to feel the benefits of your efforts.

Challenge yourself this week to observe how you deal with conflict at home, at work and with friends. Do you fire back, get quiet, or use sarcasm? Can you HEAR what the other person is saying, even if you disagree?

Remember the “PAUSE BUTTON.”

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