Two Words that Can End an Argument Nearly every argument is an attempt to be heard or understood. Learn why a few simple words can end an argument and allow you and your spouse to move on. BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
When couples argue, what they're really trying to do is be heard and understood.
“ With all the words we speak, itís important to know the ones that can really impact a relationship for the better.”
It was Sophiaís birthday and even though she had asked her husband, James, not to plan a weekend with his kids on her birthday, he did. His reason? His ex-wife had made plans months ahead for that same weekend, and James didnít want his kids to be with a babysitter. He figured he and Sophia could celebrate her birthday on a different date.
Sophia, once again, felt unimportant and last on his list of priorities. As you can imagine, this recurring issue caused a major argument between the two of them. Even though James and Sophia were fighting about her birthday, they nevertheless love each other and are trying to make this blended family arrangement work.
In the heat of the moment, Sophiaís point of view was: "I canít believe that even though I specifically requested that we do something together on the day of my birthday, and you had plenty of time to arrange something for the kids, that you didnít think enough of me to honor my request. It doesnít even feel like you want to be with me on my birthday!"
Jamesí point of view was: "Theyíre my kids, and itís not like I forgot about you. I did make plans for you the day after your birthday. Iím not sure what the big deal is. I canít believe that youíd even think that I wouldnít want to be with you. It was just circumstances."
The back-and-forth argument continued with no resolution, until Sophia asked James the following question: "I know you have your point of view of the situation, but can you understand at least a little bit of what Iím saying?"
James paused for a moment, and responded, "I understand."
That affirmative response changed the whole feeling for Sophia because she now felt heard, and validated that she wasnít crazy or stupid for her feelings. And because she felt acknowledged, she didnít feel the need to continue arguing with James.
What can we learn from James and Sophia?
1. Even though James and Sophia didnít resolve their differences of opinion, they were able to end their fight. We all want to be heard and understood, and the majority of time thatís all thatís needed.
2. Most people donít know what communication really means. In a nutshell, itís the ability to safely speak your truth to your partner, while your partner listens without interruption. Itís also putting yourself in your partnerís shoes so that you can understand where theyíre coming from, even if you donít agree. Good, clear, and honest communication takes practice and determination.
3. You probably know what it really takes to make your spouse feel cared about and loved, but are you doing it? James and Sophia would be wise to learn the otherís love language. As an example, maybe your spouse feels loved by you showing them affection, or maybe itís important when you feel understood and your spouse expresses his understanding in just the right way. If you know the right "language" that makes your spouse feel loved, and youíre using that language, youíll be amazed at how quickly your relationship can turn around. This is one of the most important skills to developóand if you really donít know what it is, itís time to ask. (Knowing your spouse's "language" gained popularity and understanding based on Gary Chapman's book, "The Five Love Languages.")
With all the words we speak, itís important to know the ones that can really impact a relationship for the better. For James and Sophia, "I understand" changed what could have been a continued, hurtful exchange, into the quick end of the argument because when one feels heard and validated, thereís no need to argue. And, after all, arguments are really just an attempt to be understood.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.