It was my birthday, and he's making me cry?!
We had been in this conversation for nearly an hour already, and it was going NOWHERE!
I was at a training with my final presentation happening the next morning, and I was in the middle of practicing when he called.
Seriously?! Please… I really don't have the time or energy for this right now.
But he wouldn't drop the issue, and we couldn't finalize any decisions at all.
I was trying to explain what I needed from him at that moment.
But he was adamant about his point of view and assumed I was somehow manipulating him.
Anything I said just seemed to anger him more.
Any attempt at a solution just seemed to fail.
I gave up.
I didn't know what to do anymore as any further talking just made things worse.
I forcefully ended the call by placating to his demands. I didn't have any additional mental and emotional bandwidth to hold it together anymore and figure out any further compromises.
We ended the call on such horrible terms.
I was still so pissed. I tried to distract myself by focusing on my presentation some more, but my mind was still stuck on the argument we had.
Oh, my. Now reflecting back on this argument with my ex, I can see all these things we were doing wrong. And here's the main takeaway I want to share with you:
You can't control what the other person does, thinks, or believes, especially during a tense moment.
My attempts on trying to convince him were useless as somehow my words felt like attacks. He got defensive and dug his heels even deeper.
👉🏼 When you encounter a moment like that, back off.
A battle takes two sides to keep it going. When one side stops pushing, there isn't enough momentum/force for the other side to continue pushing back. Do what you can to keep yourself calm. Avoid feeding your partner's fire any further. It only takes one person to interrupt the pattern and pivot the argument back into a conversation.
👉🏼 If you have to stay quiet to prevent yourself from saying anything hurtful, do so.
Lashing out by saying something hurtful requires a lot of damage control to undo, so avoid letting it happen in the first place. The eye for an eye mentality just perpetuates more hurt. Don't make your partner out to be your enemy.
👉🏼 Focus on listening and finding understanding, instead of trying to think of a comeback.
The most unproductive arguments are two sides just yelling and talking over each other, trying to make the other person wrong. They're only listening enough to figure out a comeback to justify their stance. What's more important here is to search for common understanding, and you can only do that by asking insightful questions and truly listening to your partner's responses. Understand them, not fight them.
👉🏼 If your partner still doesn't stop, ask to postpone the conversation when both of you have calmed down.
Set firm boundaries to stop. There's no point in arguing further if either or both sides are just getting more emotionally upset, shutting down, refusing to listen or compromise, or starting to say things you can't take back. You'll make more progress when both sides are more neutral and can approach things more calmly, objectively, and in a more loving manner.
➡️ Here's the crucial part that most people fail to do…
Discuss WHEN you'll resume the conversation and how to reduce the chances of future blowups.
Avoid sweeping the issue under the rug or being scared of “opening a can of worms” again. Not talking about it and walking on eggshells with each other make things even worse. That's how things blow up in the future.
Instead, set clear context for both sides to (1) reflect upon what happened and how your own behavior could be improved upon and (2) bring solutions to the table.
No more he-said-she-said debates.
Don't even go into who was in the wrong.
Just focus on finding a resolution together for the original issue, and how to prevent fights like that in the future by sharing what YOU can personally do better.
Remember you can't control your partner's behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.
You can't forcefully make them change either. They have to do so by their own volition.
Focus on how you contributed to the problem and what you can do better next time. (Yup, you can always find something you can improve upon.)
Soo… we almost broke up over this fight, and it took nearly a 4-hour discussion days later to try to smooth things over. This required a couple more talks down the line, too.
(Btw, this situation actually surfaced a red flag for me, but it wasn't apparent until after we totally ended things. I'll talk about red flags next week.)
In the meantime, here's a resource for you:
If you want more tips on how to get ahead of conflicts and misunderstandings, read more here. It'll only take you 5 mins.
Cheers to fewer fights, better conversations, and deeper understanding with your partner!
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Psst, the featured photo is by alex green via pexels