Guidelines to communicate
(I didn’t invent these. They were compiled from multiple sources.)
- First you must realize that nothing good comes from anger. No decision you make in anger is reasonable. One angry person helps make both sides angry. That’s where bad things happen and relationships fall apart. You must try your best to remain calm. When you notice you are becoming angry, you should call for a “Time Out.” Monitor your anger by using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 is calm and 10 is full-blown angry. When you notice your mood getting around a 5 then it is time to call for Time Out. (If you are already angry, you should have called for a time out sooner. It’s not too late to call for a Time Out now.)
- A time out means you both will take a break from the conversation. Anyone can call for a time out (even your child, your mother-in, anyone who sees or hears you arguing). You MUST respect the time out, no matter who called it. You must agree to stop and take a break, even if “I just want to say one more thing.” No. You have to stop. Maybe you need to take a 10 minute break, maybe you need an hour break, maybe overnight. Only the two of you will know how long you need to take. Sometimes a break means you need to get away from each other. Sometimes a break means you sit together watching TV, or just give each other a hug. Decide for yourselves what a break means. But whatever you decide, make sure your mood has come back down to a 1 or a 2 on that 1 to 10 scale.
- Sometimes you have to call a time out because the other person is angry but you are still calm. Don’t tell them they are angry when they are angry, because that can make them more angry. Just call for a time out.
- Use the Time Out as a tool, not as a weapon. Don’t call for a time out just because you want to avoid a certain subject.
- Take turns speaking. Don’t interrupt the other person.
- Let the other person have a turn. Don’t dominate the conversation by doing all the talking.
- Really Listen. Don’t ignore what they are saying while you are thinking about what you want to say next. Listen and pay attention so you understand what the other person is saying.
- Reflect back what you understood to make sure you heard the message the way the other person intended it. Sometimes what we say and what we mean are not the same. When you reflect back what you understood, the other side can agree with you, or correct what they said. For example: Dad:“I hate it when I you come back so late and I don’t know where you are.” Son:”So you want me to come back earlier?” Dad:”No, I just want you to call me.”When it’s your turn to speak, speak directly to the other person. Don’t try to have a conversation while you are watching TV, or doing a chore. Speak to each other directly so you both feel the other person is paying attention to you. So you both feel respected.
- Important conversations should be deliberate – meaning both sides should be ready for it. No surprises. No going out the door to work and “oh by the way,” and dropping a bomb on the other person with no time to talk about it.
- Timing is important. Some conversations might need to wait until you are both ready, or after dinner, or after the kids are in bed, etc. Even if you feel you have to settle something right then, remember that it can probably wait. Some things might need to be settled over several days, or even weeks.
- Be open-minded. Be willing to negotiate or compromise. Find the win-win situation. When only one side wins, the issue will never truly be settled and will likely end up in an argument again.
- Try not to have important conversations in the bedroom. Let the bedroom be your sanctuary, your safe place, your room to be comfortable with your partner. If you need to talk about something serious, take it to another room.
- Realize that some problems can’t be solved. Sometimes you will not agree and there is no changing it. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the relationship or friendship. Sometimes best friends or couples have very different views on things like politics or religion, but they figure out how to coexist anyway. They realize there is no reason to argue about it because they can’t change the other person’s opinion and the other person can’t change your opinion. So they figure out a way to live with it. They figure out that you can still love someone even if you disagree on some things.