In any relationship — between lovers, friends, a child and a parent, even co-workers — it’s inevitable that arguments will arise due to a clash in opinions. After all, no two people are exactly alike — one loves chocolate, the other loves vanilla; one prefers watching rom-coms, the other, horror/suspense; and so on.
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The unseen pothole in this scenario, though, is that an argument caused by a difference of opinions can lead to a major catastrophe if not dealt with properly. Seemingly innocuous comments will lead to a shouting match if delivered the wrong way. Disagreements get blown out of proportion if the right words aren’t used. And relationships get broken if these things get out of hand.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve communication and understanding between two opposing parties — and in the process, nurse a relationship back to an even better condition. Take a look at some of these action steps.
One of the worst things you can do is to dismiss the opinion of your partner. It shows you don’t respect her thoughts and think that her opinion is worthless — and that will lead to a bigger argument.
For effective communication, acknowledge the other’s opinion. You may not agree, but it doesn’t mean the opinion is invalid. Keep in mind that you are not the arbiter of what’s right and what’s wrong. As the old saying goes, “Agree to disagree.”
Along with acknowledging your partner’s opinion, you have to give him or her space to voice it out. Let her explain why she thinks that way. And in the same vein, you deserve to be heard, too.
Beau and Sherry, who have been married for six years already and are blessed with a healthy baby girl, have what they call a five-minute rule: Let each other talk for five minutes straight, no interruptions. Being two very different people from two very different cultural backgrounds (Beau is American while Sherry is Asian), Beau and Sherry find their five-minute rule very helpful in keeping their marriage intact.
Listening is very underrated these days; lots of people are becoming more and more self-absorbed. Do your part in lessening noise pollution and hear your partner out.
Stop your innate stubbornness from rearing its ugly head. Life doesn’t always work out in your favor or how you want it — accept that fact. Most relationships come to a stalemate because both parties refuse to budge. The solution? Call a truce, and find some happy medium. For example, a couple cannot decide on which restaurant to go to for dinner. One wants Italian; the other is craving for Thai. The resolution is simple: Find another cuisine that will cater to both palates.
Of course, compromise is not as easy in some cases. Take holidays. Whom should you spend Thanksgiving with — his family or your family? What about Christmas and New Year? Deciding with whom you’ll spend the holidays is usually the root of most couples’ arguments. However, to make things easier, opt for the 50-50 rule: Try to spend equal time with both sides of the family. In an ideal setting, this would be a piece of cake. But realistically speaking, simply try to aim for 50-50 — say, 45-55 or 40-60. Be conscious of tipping the scales too much; doing so will just lead to another round of verbal boxing.
Use Logic and Be Diplomatic
In any conflict, emotions will become more heated and volatile than usual. When a partner criticizes another, the other will, of course, feel defensive and insulted. Yet, a situation like this warrants logic. The one being criticized should step back and analyze what triggered the comment — is the reasoning valid? Meanwhile, the one doing the criticizing should be careful in dishing out his or her opinion. Avoid using harsh words. The tone of your voice should also be modulated. Delivering your criticism in a gentle, yet firm, manner is more effective than stating your opinion bluntly.
Remember, there is a way to be honest, clear, and direct without sounding cruel. For example, your girl asks if you like the blouse she’s trying on. You hate it, but you don’t have to it THAT way. You can just say, “I like the other one better.” She’ll get the hint.
Watch Your Language
Try not to get too carried away with your words. Avoid cussing or injecting swear words in your speech. Those hurtful words will cause wounds that will not heal for a very, very long time — words, unlike physical bruises, leave more lingering marks. Put yourself in the other’s shoes: You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of such callousness, right?
Understand that Men and Women Communicate Differently
One of the biggest differences between men and women is the way they deal with problems and their emotions. When women are troubled, they need to “let it out.” By that, it means they need to talk, to spew, to rant. That’s why girl friends talk a lot — they need an outlet for their feelings, and they do that by talking.
Men, on the other hand, dislike talking about their emotions. They would rather keep their feelings bottled up, and use sports as their outlet. Given this, a woman should respect her man’s need to keep quiet — don’t pry, just let him be. And on the flipside, a man should heed his woman’s need to pour out their feelings — simply shut up and listen, don’t offer advice or solutions unless asked, show your support and sympathy, and quell the urge to “fix” her problem. When women talk about their problems, they’re not asking for solutions; they just need somebody to listen and empathize with them.
Besides, it’s been proven that men don’t really like being advised by women as well. Men appreciate the advice of other men, but when it’s coming from a woman, they feel threatened, emasculated, and incompetent. So listen up, guys, and remember the Golden Rule.
The bottom line is: For a healthy relationship to thrive, effective and clear communication is a must. Both parties should understand how each is wired to communicate in order to achieve such.