• Why You’re Addicted to Defending, Justifying and Explaining Yourself — And What to Do Instead

    If you find that you and your partner keep having the same fights over and over again, it’s likely that both of you are focused on winning the fight rather than resolving the issue. You probably wind up in a deadlock. Neither of you feels heard or understood. “If you would just listen, you would see that I’m right!” (Translation: If you still don’t think I’m right, then you haven’t been listening.)

    Here’s the simple, but not easy, solution: 

    Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood.

    You’ve probably heard this before. It’s one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a cornerstone of the famous Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. But what does it mean in practice?

    It means that as soon as you realize you’re trying to be understood, stop. Recognize it, then set it aside. You can even say it out loud to your partner: “Wait. I’m trying to be understood, but actually I don’t think I understand where you’re coming from, and I want to understand.”

    I want you to imagine saying that to your partner in the middle of a fight, and notice what happens in your body. Imagine hearing that from your partner, and again notice how your body responds to that statement. You probably notice an easing of tension, shoulders dropping slightly, that chaos in your chest settling down. Those are good signs; they’re signs that your nervous system is coming down out of fight-or-flight dysregulation, and into a more regulated state, which is where we want to be when we’re trying to resolve an issue. 

    See if you can try this the next time you and your partner argue. Once you’ve declared your intention to understand your partner’s perspective first, you might be thinking, “What now? Check out my post on why you’re not as good a listener as you think, and how to listen better.

  • Safe Enough To Lose

    I wish for you a relationship in which you feel safe enough to lose. 

    What do I mean by that? I want you to have a partner who will respect and love you even when you admit that you’re wrong, or that you misunderstood, or that you made a mistake. 

    Did you know that you can have an experience of something, and also know that your experience isn’t the only right one?

    Does your partner make it safe for you to give up being right? Without doing the “gotcha” thing, criticizing, or invalidating your experience? Making sure you know you “lost”?

    Does your partner ever give up being right themselves?

    Do you make it safe for your partner to give that up?

    When we stop having to be right, having to win — we change the molecular structure of the relationship. We put down the fight and pick up the connection. We choose love and listening over fear and going to war.

    Does all of this sound great — and totally out of reach? You just need to learn new skills. One of my favorite resources is the book Getting To Zero by Jayson Gaddis. I use the tools in this book with all of my couples therapy clients, and get great results. 

    Go forth, and lose!

  • 3 Little Words that Transform Conflict into Connection

    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.”

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  • You’re Not as Good a Listener as You Think — and How to Listen Better

    Most of us instinctively listen in a way that makes conflict worse, not better. We listen to respond. Think about it. Your partner is upset because you don’t help out enough with the kids on weekday mornings. You’re listening very closely, keeping tabs on what everything your partner is saying…and logging how you’ll respond. She’s totally twisting my words! Oh, that’s not how that happened at all. Come on, he knows that wasn’t what I meant. Well, I had a very good reason for doing what I did.

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  • Does Rest Feel Out of Reach? Try the 52-17 Rule.

    Even if you’re struggling to schedule a vacation or take a day off, you can get a lot of bang for your buck by taking just a few minutes of rest throughout the day. Our bodies are hardwired to work in short spurts, and it’s no coincidence that we naturally break long stretches into bite-sized pieces. Studies show that those short periods of rest are powerful, and those who take regular breaks are often more productive and mentally healthy than those who don’t. 

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