An Important Relationship Survival Skill

Using inflamatory language— especially during a conflict—can cut in ways not easily healed byapologies.

Whether they are cruel and aggressive wisecracks or retorts that penetrate like a fast-flung dart, these types of comments escalate a fight like nothing else. And when the zingers begin to outnumber the kind words spoken to each other, it may be too late to fix the relationship because the love has dried up and blown away.

Learning how to communicate well in a conflict—how to argue without hurting and insulting each other—is possibly the most important relationship survival skill ever. Doing so reduces divorce and domestic violence rates—and increases personal happiness, relationship satisfaction and peace of mind.

Here are a few one-liners you’d do well to avoid:

“That’s not what’s happening here!” This is one of many versions of: “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Whether you say it or think it, the only thing “You’re wrong!” creates is a lose-lose situation.

“You always…” or “You never…” Starting a sentence with either phrase is guaranteed to raise temperatures. How about stating instead that the other person does XYZ “more times than feels good.” Rather than, “You never listen to me,” try something like this: “When you respond that way, I can see that you’re not understanding me the way I’d like you to.”

“You really know how to hurt me.” This line assumes that the other person is intentionally trying to hurt you. It also implies that someone other than yourself has power over what you feel. It places you in the role of emotional “victim.” But you can choose whether or not to be hurt by someone’s actions or words.

“How can you be that way?”This isn’t really a question. It’s an aggressive statement something to the effect of, “You’re a terrible person; you should be ashamed of yourself.”

Of course, these are mild, compared to the doozies we come up with in the heat of an argument. But for love to flourish and deepen, for healthy and long-lasting relationships, we need to learn how to incorporate acceptance, self-understanding, compassion and tolerance into our conflicts.

And maybe one-liners like, “I love you!” 

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