When it comes to handling conflict in our relationships, often the problem is that we are using the wrong tools. Some of those tools are the ones modeled to us by our parents and other authority figures. When conflicts are not resolved, we find ourselves moving to a safe distance and avoiding hot topics.
In terms of conflict, one of the chief culprits is discounting. When items are discounted at a store, we know they have been marked down from their original value. The items have been reduced and are not worth as much numerically. When one partner devalues us by rejecting, minimizing, shooting down, or criticizing what we are saying or feeling, this reaction causes us to feel defensive and angry - consequently escalating the argument.
Weaving goes like this:
"This is what I hear you saying and
this is what I am thinking." If we honor or
respect another person?s point of view,
we have won the argument.
When this happens, we do not feel as though it is safe to have our opinion. As a result, we are not about to listen or share in response to what the other person has to say. Often the argument then is not so much about the issue being discussed, but more about our point not being valued. What we want is not necessarily for our partner to agree with us, but rather for them to not devalue what we are sharing.
When we make fun of what is being said, tell our partner that she should not have those feelings, tell him to get over it, don't respond to her sharing, or use the word "but," we close off communication. Using the word "but" discounts what goes before it. It denies validation, does not acknowledge or accept what a person is saying. We may find ourselves using the word "but" in the following ways:
"I hear what you are saying, but..."
"You did a good job, but..."
"I see your point, but..."
"That's a good idea, but..."
"I see why you are upset, but..."
"I know you are angry, but..."
We want to be conversational weavers, not discounters. A weaver is someone who blends different yarns and colors together
When we communicate as a weaver, we add our position to theirs. A weaver offers a listening audience that says it is safe to share our opinion. We are communicating as a weaver when we appreciate, value, accept, and feel genuinely interested in what is being said, even if we have a different opinion. We are weavers when instead of using the word "but," we use the word "and." Weaving goes like this: "This is what I hear you saying and this is what I am thinking." If we honor or respect another person's point of view, we have won the argument.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700