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 the 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. Therefore, when our 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.
Often the argument
then is not so much about
the issue of discussion, but more
about our point not being valued. What we
want is not necessarily for our partner to agree
with us, but for them to not devalue
what we are sharing.
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 they have to say. Often the argument then is not so much about the issue of discussion, but more about our point not being valued. What we want is not necessarily for our partner to agree with us, but for them to not devalue what we are sharing.
When we discount by making fun of what is said, by telling our partner that they should not have those feelings, by telling them to get over it, by not responding to their sharing, and by using the word "but," we close off communication. Using the word "but" discounts what goes before it. It is a way of not validating, acknowledging what a person is saying, or accepting the other person. 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 are 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
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