- Don’t let things build up: The emotional energy intensifies the longer we wait to bring up an issue. Your ability to address the issue calmly after days or weeks of dwelling on it is not likely to go well.
- Express appreciation: When people receive reinforcement for an action, they are likely to repeat it again in the future. Everyone likes to know their efforts are recognized and appreciated.
- Pick the right time to bring up an issue: Five minutes before you have to leave; when you’re tired and getting ready for bed; when you’re really hungry; these are not good times to bring up an issue. Make sure you will be free of distraction before asking to discuss things and find solutions.
- If you stick your foot in your mouth, admit it and start again: Emotions run high in conflicts and sometimes we say things wrong that can make things worse. If you catch yourself in this moment, just admit it and try to get back on track. “I really blew that one, let me try again.”
- Show you care: This is best accomplished without presents and gifts, but by showing interest. When your partner takes the time to tell you about something that affected them in their day, make sure they know you care and hear them. Turn the TV off, put the paper down, look them in the eye, listen to what they say, ask some questions, demonstrate that you understand.
- All a matter of perception: We need to recognize that not everyone sees the world as we do. When the police interview witnesses at a crime scene and get 10 different accounts of the perpetrator, none of the witness is lying or being deceptive. They all believe what they think they saw. What’s “true” or “real” is always a matter of perception. In any given conflict, each person sees, hears, and focuses on certain details. Know that just because your partner sees things differently doesn’t mean their wrong.
- Validation: People get enormously frustrated when they don’t think someone is even hearing what they say. People are often reluctant to acknowledge a person’s perspective because they do not agree with the viewpoint. Discussions are often more productive when we acknowledge and validate a person’s views. They feel respected and heard. Keep in mind that just because you acknowledge someone’s view, does not mean that you have to agree with it.
- Strive to bond and have fun: Couples who are connected by common interests and engage in them together have a solid foundation of companionship. Every couple has some differing interests, but try to find those that are enjoyable to both of you.
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