It’s a paradox of life: nobody likes conflict, and, conflict is inevitable. In fact, one of the best predictors of long-term success in a relationship is the ability to handle conflict well. So, how can you do it better? Start with three magic words: “That makes sense.”

Conflict is by nature an adversarial proposition. It’s me vs. you. One of us has to be right, to win. The problem is, that stance — me over here and you over there — keeps us in defensive mode which cuts off connection and collaboration. 

But when you take a moment to look at the situation through the other person’s eyes, your perspective widens. You can probably imagine a world where the way they see it…makes sense.

So, say so. “That makes sense.” These words bring us out of that adversarial place. Now we can look at the problem together, from the same side. This magic phrase validates the essential truth that there can be multiple perspectives, multiple experiences, even of the same event. Think about it: this is why multiple witnesses testify in court cases. Different people experience events differently, and none of those experiences is invalid. 

When you take the time to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and validate their point of view even if it’s different from your own, you automatically put yourself and the other person into a more connected state of mind. It also shifts your mindset from defending, justifying and explaining yourself, to really getting where the other person is coming from, which calms both their nervous system and yours.

If this makes you feel nervous, like you’ll “lose ground” if you do this, consider what might be going on there. Do you have a conscious or unconscious belief that you have to win in order to have power and control in your relationship? What if you decided that you’d rather be happy and connected, than right and disconnected? Is your relationship one in which you feel safe enough to lose?