Of course you’re smart enough to know that there are two sides to every story. But is that what you’re focused on when you’re in the midst of a heated argument? I doubt it!
Not if the rational part of your brain has skipped town leaving the emotional part in charge. But what’s the problem with that? After all, we’re all emotional beings. True. However, your emotional brain without the input of your rational brain is like an unsupervised 3-year-old kid. Things get out-of-hand pretty quickly!
Let’s hear two people who are absolutely convinced that they are right!
“My husband is so controlling. Things have to be done his way. Half the time he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. Yet he acts as if he knows it all and I know nothing. I tell him how selfish he is. He doesn’t even refute me anymore. He just dismisses what I say and goes about doing his thing – even if I expressly ask him not to.”
Sounds like the guy’s a real jerk, doesn’t it? What century is he living in? Doesn’t he “get” how he’s undermining his wife?
However, listen to the other side of the story and things seem to be a bit different.
“My wife is forever telling me what to do. She reads an article, yaks with her friends, watches Oprah and that makes her an expert. She treats me like I’m an idiot who knows nothing. I know I can’t win an argument with her so I shut up and do as I please. She thinks I’m controlling but she’s the one who can’t tolerate if anything isn’t done the ‘right’ way – which just happens to always be ‘her’ way.”
Sounds like the woman’s a real shrew. Who put her in charge of the universe? Doesn’t she “get” how she’s emasculating her man?
If you listen to the other side of the story – when it’s not your story – your perspective readily changes. But that’s harder to do when the story is yours. And it’s practically impossible to do when your emotions are electrified.
So the first thing you need to do is to calm down. If you’re steaming mad, deeply hurt or into righteous indignation, you won’t be able to hear another’s perspective with an open mind or a caring heart.
So first take time to heal your emotional wounds. Then when you’re ready, see if you can listen non-defensively. Own up to things you do that may be irksome. Squash your “yes, but” comeback. Concede a point or two. Stop repeating your story. Soften your position. Recognize some merit in your partner’s viewpoint (i.e. I understand how you can see it that way.”)
Attempt to arrive at a mutual understanding. Aim to develop a workable resolution. If you find that no matter how hard you try your differences remain intractable, seek out professional help. You can’t resolve every issue on your own.
Written by Linda Sapadin, Ph.D.
Linda is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.