When was the last time you came out of an argument where both you and the other person felt heard, validated, and could explore alternative solutions?
Yep, I thought it’d been awhile. Me too.
Today I’m going to show you how you can argue less and be heard more.
Because how you argue will reflect on the legacy of faith you’re building. And you don’t want that reflection to be negative, do you?
5 tips to argue less and be heard more
So, for the sake of a working example, imagine that your husband has just said, “I’m going to quit my job and we’re moving to the Caribbean.”
Your immediate reaction is to shout, “YES!” But your next split-second reaction is an inner panic screaming, “How on earth will we survive without an income? Are you CRAZY?@%!*?”
How do you keep your sanity and save your marriage in this situation?
1. Listen well to the other person’s argument.
Why listen? You want to validate anything that is true and good in what the other person shares—even if you don’t like it.
In the case of our example, you can confirm that the Caribbean sounds like a wonderful place to live, there are probably islands that have a lower cost-of-living than where you presently live, and it’s only a short plane ride home to see the grandkids.
2. Try to identify the underlying concern as you listen.
So your husband wants to quit his job and move to the Caribbean—this isn’t the real issue. The real issue could be how stressed he feels with his work load or the anxiety he carries over a problem he can’t control.
If you can name the real issue, you can honor it and present an option to his sudden decision.
You might say something like this, “I know you’ve working under a lot of pressure, and it must be very stressful for you. I’m guessing that you feel your life is spinning out of control.”
If you identified the real issue correctly, let him talk about it while you listen and validate his feelings.
If you didn’t, ask him what feeling is behind his sudden decision to move to the Caribbean. When he shares his feeling, ask him what brought this feeling to the forefront for him. This will help you think of acceptable options to his problem, which you can present in a few minutes.
3. Mention that you’d like to explore other options.
Don’t share a solution yet, especially if you haven’t thought of one! Just present the advantages of what exploring other options might be.
This is important, so I’ll say it again: Don’t share your concerns or solutions with the other person; just say that you’d like to explore some other options.
(Few of us do this. We go straight for refuting his side of the argument and get tuned out—leaving us feeling unheard and spittin’ mad.)
You want to show him how hearing other options can have benefit before final decisions are made.
In the case of our jump-ship-for-the-Caribbian example, you might say, “If we go with an alternate suggestion, we might save money, and you could still get relief from your work schedule.”
4. Give some other options.
Now that you have his attention … who doesn’t like to know you have their best interests in mind … you can present other options.
If you haven’t thought of a suggestion yet, just say something to buy you time to think. “Let me make a pot of coffee first. Then we’ll talk more.” He’ll wait patiently because he feels you’re on his side, and you might have a good idea.
Then pray and think real fast while you make coffee.
Your suggestion might simply be to take a sabbatical from work for a month as you both explore less stressful job opportunities. Or you might suggest downsizing your living arrangements to get out of debt. And you can always suggest looking at other places to live besides the Caribbean such as Latin America if that suits your fancy.
5. Only after you share your suggestions can you also share your fears and concerns.
Tack your concerns on at the end of your suggestions … something like this:
I thought we might consider taking a sabbatical from work to rest and really consider all our options before making a final decision. There are other places we might want to move and other jobs we might want to explore. Or there may be an answer right here at home.
Having time to think it through would help us address the areas that concern me such as lack of finances and moving away from our family and friends, which are a major source of emotional support for me.
And you can always throw in the thought that’s its important to you that however you go about solving this problem, you want it to represent Jesus to those that are watching your life.
OK, so most arguments aren’t this dramatic.
But the principles are the same:
- Listen and validate
- Identify the underling fear or emotion
- State the advantages of other options you’d like to explore together
- Share your suggestions
And there’s nothing wrong with just saying, “No, that’s not going to work for me.” Just use a nice tone of voice when you say it.
This may seem contrary to your natural way of responding to ideas you don’t agree with. It is for most of us.
Ask my family and friends, and they’ll confirm that I still react more than respond with these 5 tips. *lowers eyes in guilt*
Well, now that I’ve made myself soul-naked before you, I think I’ll go watch an episode of NCIS where all the world’s problems get solved in one episode.
And if you’re interested in more along these lines see 6 Responses That Help Defuse A Tense Situation and How to Listen to People When You Are Mad at Them or What Makes Life Important When Views Collide.
Catch you next week, Susan
“Jesus likes it when we share.” -Adelaide, age 3: Pass this along to everybody and their brother. OK, maybe not everybody’s brother, but all of your friends would be nice.