2 techniques to reduce conflict in your relationship now



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Does the conflict in your relationship seem to escalate quickly? Does it seem that what happens during an argument is much more damaging than what started it in the first place? If so, you may be experiencing an emotional flood. In John Gottman’s research, he noticed that partners who end up divorcing often experience flooding. He developed a time-out technique to help couples change the way they argue.

When we’re inundated, we can’t think rationally, so we don’t communicate effectively and we don’t listen very well. Signs can be an elevated heart rate, feeling hot, a clenched fist, an angry outburst, or screaming. I always tell my couples that you can ask for a break if you feel like you or your partner are overwhelmed. No need to explain why, but find a password so you both know what you mean when you say it. For example, if one of you says “Pause!” you will both know that a time out has been called.

Once the expiration time has been declared, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Set a time limit: 20-30 minutes is usually a good starting point for a time out.
  • Go do something relaxing and fun (take a deep breath, meditate, go for a walk, listen to music, or play a game).
  • Don’t simmer and think about the argument and what you want to say next; you take a break from the conflict.
  • Dome return at the agreed time even if it’s just to tell your partner that you need more time. Coming back shows that you are not avoiding the problem.
  • If you’re calm and ready to talk, don’t pick up where you left off.
  • Start by telling yourself how you feel and what you need from your partner: a smooth start.

Another technique that can help dramatically reduce conflict in your relationship is my favorite antidote to Gottman’s famous Four Horsemen. During sessions, I can remind couples to “modify this start for me” or ask them: “Can you rephrase this using a I declaration for your partner? »

what is a I declaration? You have something you want to say to your partner (or anyone else, really) and you want to say it in a way that he won’t feel criticized or defensive. You will have to formulate it without using blame or attacks. A critical example would be “Seriously? You never do the dishes when I ask you to,” while a soft start would be: “I feel overwhelmed by the pile of dishes. Could you finish them before I finish cooking?”

Can you hear the difference? Say it out loud and imagine your reaction. The second feels much safer to answer. There is no blame, no criticism, no judgment. Here is the formula for a perfect I declaration:

  • start with “I feel _________” (This takes responsibility for your own feelings.)
  • Describe why without using “you” (to prevent them from feeling blamed and defensive).
  • Ask for a positive need: “Can you do this?” in the place of “Don’t do that anymore.”

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