Good communication is clutch.
By Heather Steiger
Last updated on Oct 20, 2023
Photo: SanneBerg, marekuliasz | Canva
He’s mad. You’re mad. You’re both defensive and somehow the argument is no longer about the original disagreement. It’s now a battle of who will be right and who will be wrong. (In the heat of the moment, we often say things to sway the conversation our way, even if it’s not 100 percent true.)
Small variants in our language make a big difference when communicating with your partner.
Try changing a few bad language habits so you can stick to the point and resolve the original disagreement.
Here are 6 language tweaks that’ll improve your relationship:
1. Don’t use the words ‘always’ and ‘never’
“You always leave your clothes on the floor.”“You are always negative with the kids.””You’re never home to help put the kids to bed.”
‘Always’ and ‘never’ put your partner on automatic defense. Why? Because it absolutely can’t be true.
There will never be a time where ‘always’ works because there’s always an exception to the rule. (The same goes for ‘never’.) He can’t always leave his clothes on the floor — he puts them in the basket at least once.
Other options: ‘often’, ‘a lot of times’, ‘rarely’, or ‘very little. But if you say ‘always’, you’ve just added on an additional fight.
2. Make it about you
You’re not going to make your point by pointing fingers. Instead, turn things around and make it about what you need, rather than about what he does (or doesn’t) do.
“I am a person who needs to be snuggled.” (Instead of, “You never snuggle anymore.”)“I need to go to bed each night feeling safe, and I can’t do that if I’m worried about someone breaking in.” (Instead of, “You never shut the garage door before you go to bed, and it drives me nuts.”)
3. Don’t bring everything up in the heat of the moment
It’s easy to hold things inside to avoid a fight, but because of our innate desire to be right all the time, those things tend to creep out during a fight later on. If you and your partner are in the heat of the moment, throwing out three more things that bothered you in the past month will only make that fight harder to get over.
Use your “I” statements, and your partner will be much more open to problem-solving the little things when both of you calm down.
4. Compliment each other often
Research shows that for someone to perform at their best in the workforce, they need six positive comments to negate one negative comment. You need an even greater positive-to-negative ratio in a relationship because you’re twice as invested.
Every time you tell your man he’s hot, that you’re lucky to have him, or that you appreciate him being so handy around the house, it makes him feel needed and wanted. So when a fight inevitably comes up, he’ll feel your relationship is solid, which keeps his focus on meeting your needs (instead of the fact that you seem unhappy and want to change everything about him).
5. Watch your tone, voice level, and curse words
Nothing spirals a fight out of control more than explosive yelling, cursing, and nasty tone.
You may not be able to change your partner’s, but you can control your own. If half of the battle is under control (as in you), half of the fight is under control.
Emotions tend to take over during these times, but if you stay in control, you can think logically. Even more, you’ll stay respectful. Showing respect for one another, especially during arguments, is essential to a happy relationship.
6. Avoid offensive comments — they get you nowhere
Six months after a fight, couples often forget what the fight was about. What neither of you will forget, though, are the sharp jabs that dehumanize or make the other feel inept or invaluable. Offensive comments linger and build resentment in a relationship. Don’t invite that into your relationship!
Learning to rewire how you and your partner speak to each other isn’t easy, especially if there’s a pattern that needs to be broken. As with anything, focus on changing one thing at a time. (Master that skill before taking on the next.)
Once you’ve become a language master, you’ll find that your arguments are shorter and nicer. Additionally, the discussions will be more about love and communication, rather than winning the war.
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Heather Steiger is an elementary school teacher and freelance writer. She has been published in Guideposts, Yahoo Parenting, Fox News Magazine, CNN, Something Special Magazine, Psych Central, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, and Popsugar.