LET’S GET DEEP FOR A MINUTE
“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” -Mahatma Ghandi
Well damn. I don’t think that’s what we aim to do when we argue with our partner, but Ghandi just shed some perspective on something that’s bound to happen in relationships: disagreements, and how we handle them. And maybe hopefully how we DON’T handle them!
FIGHT vs ARGUE vs DISAGREE
These words are used interchangeably when we’re talking about the “act of” in relationships, but let’s set the stage for how we’re talking about it here.
- Oftentimes people say, “we got in a fight last night.” According to Google dictionary, to fight means to take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons. YIKES! Let us hope that’s not what’s really going down between couples.
- Sometimes people say, “we got in an argument last night.” According to Google dictionary, to argue means to exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way. Okay, sounds like that could be what’s really happening with couples.
- Rarely people say, “we had a disagreement last night.” According to Google dictionary, to disagree means to have or express a different opinion. AHH. That sounds so much better, and what we should strive for above the other two options!
Let’s agree to leave fighting out of the equation and speak only about arguing/disagreeing as we continue. You don’t like it? Then we can civilly agree to disagree – and make a case in point right here 🙂
Sadly, in our current events, we’ve seen a lot of actual fighting. People have different opinions, and in some cases that has resorted to violent struggles with physical blows or weapons (as Google defines fighting). When it comes to our relationships, it is an absolute guarantee that between significant others, there will be times when they do not agree. Depending on the topic, or level of passion, those times can go a number of ways. Respectful, civil, neutral ending. It can also be hurtful, negative, going-to-bed-angry. While it may be a bit naïve to think it is easy to always disagree the model way, isn’t it also a bit naïve to think we can’t change the way have these conversations with our main squeeze?
LIKE MONTELL JORDAN SAID: THIS IS HOW WE DO IT
Little things can make a big difference. When it comes to engaging in a disagreement with your boo, knowing the best little things to do to set you up for a successful outcome is important. And to me, manners matter. Out with the yelling and interrupting. In with the simple steps to disagree as politely as possible!
Here’s my little acronym for step-by-step actions when engaging in a disagreement with a partner: SASS…Hold that thought: this little process is fundamental for solid communication in general, not just specific to disagreeing!
- Seek to understand
- Speak it
Let’s break it down a bit more, shall we?
DISAGREE WITH SASS
This is your time to listen. Don’t interrupt! Turn your ears on and your mouth down. True listening is not a skill all people have, and these days it’s very easy to distract yourself from listening. Think about a work setting. Twenty years ago, being in a meeting looking at your cell phone instead of the speaker was not tolerated. Today, it’s expected that in a meeting most people will be on their phones not listening to the speaker! Technology has made it very easy to become distracted which has made it harder for people to practice focused listening. When it comes to disagreeing with your boo, that’s one of the most important times to put the phone down, limit all distractions – and shush while you hear what they have to say.
When it comes to arguing, many people will say they don’t mind if someone feels differently on a topic as long as they know they’ve been heard. That’s where acknowledgement comes in. Acknowledging what someone has said is powerful to humanizing a disagreement and softening potential walls. Don’t immediately retort with why the other person is wrong. Acknowledge them before moving forward. “I hear what you’re saying” is the simplest way to acknowledge that your partner has been heard, regardless of how strongly you disagree.
SEEK TO UNDERSTAND
I quote Stephen Covey all the time, since his knowledge here is always relevant: seek to understand before being understood. Before you go into your list of reasons why you’re right, ask questions! Don’t make assumptions. Clarify what your partner means, why they feel that way, how they came to that opinion or conclusion. Asking ‘why’ is one of the most powerful tools not only to understand the reasoning behind something, but also to understand your partner more!
After you’ve listened, acknowledged, and sought to understand by asking questions, now is your time to speak your truth. State how you see it differently, what your position is, etc. You can also incorporate some of what you’ve learned by listening and asking questions in your response as well! And as you’re speaking, it’s your partner’s turn to shush…and prepare to go into the same steps.
Hopefully SASS prevents a disagreement from turning into an overly HEATED argument. Things will get heated at times when you disagree, no doubt. But when we are intentional about how we communicate through the disagreement, the conversation is 1) easier to swallow and 2) leaves your relationship more intact than if you choose to disagree in a manner that is disrespectful or hurtful.
WHO DOESN’T LOVE A HAPPY ENDING?
If it’s a decision you’re disagreeing on, you and your boo need to work through as much as you need to get to an end result. That may not mean in the moment. You may not have to make this decision for a day or week or year. In which case, pause the disagreement and agree to revisit at another time. Maybe you even agree to do ‘homework’ in between your next conversation, which might be thinking about something differently or reading some new information. If it’s not a decision and merely a point of view, your ending could be agreeing to disagree! And when you disagree with SASS, you can have your disagreement, kiss your partner goodnight, and wake up to a new day without an argument or lovers quarrel hangover. Happy disagreeing!