When we are arguing with a spouse, in the heat of the moment it’s so hard to do anything but concentrate on OUR needs and the outcome WE want. That needs to change ASAP. In step three of the Anatomy of an Argument series, we learn to identify the underlying needs, values and worries of our mate.
When we assume that our partner’s reasons for wanting something a certain way are stupid or make no sense, we aren’t making room in the argument for the possibility that they actually have valid concerns or worries. If your partner’s reasons aren’t making any logical sense to you, take a step back and get curious, ask questions. Ask if there is a fear that they haven’t disclosed. Ask if there is an influence behind their argument that is steering them in one direction.
You also need to get clear on your underlying needs, values and worries. Don’t just put up a fight because you think you are more right or that your way is best. Remember that most often you two just have a difference in opinion. If you two can come together to discover each other’s needs, you will be solidly more empathic towards one another.
A few years ago my husband and I got into an argument because I said something to his mother that he asked me not to. It was a complete accident, I forgot that he had made that request (which at the time I thought was so stupid!!!) So by the end of the argument, he was finally able to explain to me that I had actually shamed him. EWWWW, that felt terrible to me. The clearer you can be from the get-go, the better.
When you find yourself in a fight with your partner, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and start digging around. You will be far more productive if you can help each other figure out the underlying needs, values and worries. I would love to hear if any of you can conjure up some stories from your own life where you didn’t do this. What happened and what do you wish you had done differently? Please share!