Think about the last fight you had with your partner.
Go back to that argument. And I mean REALLY go back there.
- What do you remember them saying?
- How did it make you feel to hear those words?
- What was your response to it all?
Take your time with this. See if you can actually jot down a few answers.
Now, let's see if you can go back there from an observer's perspective. An onlooker. Outside of the argument.
Imagine you're in a large broadway theater. It's empty. Except for 3 people.
You ... sitting up in the balcony. (great seat, by the way. You've got a killer view of the stage)
And the two people on the stage:
You + your partner during your most recent fight.
Yep, you're watching it all from that killer seat you've got, so that you don't jump right back down on stage + feel all the feels. You're simply observing.
Ok, now that you've cozied in + got your popcorn. I want you to really watch + listen to what went on.
Listening is only half the battle.
We've all heard this before, but what does it really mean?
When in conflict, rarely are we listening to our partner's to understand them. Let's be honest. We're listening for inaccuracies to carefully craft our rebuttal.
We're listening for absolutes "you always" or "you never" to defend against.
But rarely we listen to truly understand what our partner is thinking + feeling.
So, as you're watching from the balcony, what do you HEAR your partner saying to you?
Go deeper with me, for a minute...
This is different from what you REMEMBER them saying.
It's what you HEARD them say.
Often times, we get so stuck on what we THINK they mean.
What they must be inferring. And what they're assuming with their comments, that we actually lose the content.
Content first, Then meaning.
Often times therapists will say, "I don't care what you're saying, I care how you're saying it + what it means."
And I agree with that. Partially.
But again, here's where you can go deeper, to cultivate connection during conflict + not just angry disconnection. (like usual)
While the "what" or content of the argument is not the MOST important, it's important to start there.
Meaning, if you're not clear on what the person said, your reaction is going to muddy things up.
Think about what Maya Angelou said:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When you can display that you actually heard what someone said...
They feel cared for. They feel understood. They feel respected.
Pssst! All the keys to successful conflict include: kindness, understanding + respect.
How to Go Deeper in Conflict:
1. Show them you're actually listening.
The best way actually listen to your partner AND show that you've heard them, is to repeat back to them what you heard them say. Here are a few samples:
"So, if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying ..."
"I want to make sure I'm really hearing you, you're saying ..."
"Wait, before you go on, I want to be clear on a something you just said ..."
2. Allow room for correction or clarification.
By repeating back to them what you heard them say, they have an opportunity to either clarify what they meant, reword the phrase to actually get their point across, or in some cases it's an opportunity for them to apologize for something said harshly or disrespectfully.
"Oh shit, that did not come out the way I was thinking it. Let me try that again."
"That's partially it, but it's more like this."
"wow, that is so not what I meant. Gimme a sec to gather my thoughts."
3. Slow down + share.
When you listen, allow space for correction or clarification you've now created space for a thoughtful response.
The key to good listening, respectful, kind + productive conflict, HOW YOU RESPOND to your partner.
Get thoughtful about how you respond to your partner -- both verbally + non-verbally. Body language, coupled with words are what create the experience.
"Well, that's definitely hard to hear you say. It never feels good to hear these kinds of things. What needs to happen now?
"Ouch. That feels super shitty even though I know it's totally where you're at right now. So ... what can we do about it?"
"It's so hard to listen to you say these things + not get defensive. But I'm trying. Can we slow it down a bit. I really want to get through this without losing my shit."
You've heard me say it before + I will continue to say it over + over again until this becomes second nature to us all ...
In everything you do.
Especially in conflict.
When you slow down, you can go a little deeper + even stay connected.
If you're struggling to listen, or slow down or most importantly to stay connected, even in the midst of conflict, let's talk about how working together can fix that. I'm not here to fix you. I don't believe your broken.
I am here to fix broken relationships. I'm here to take you deeper.
And in that, teach you how to master the messiness of couplehood.