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125.008 Books - Constructive Conflict - Keith Wilson

Constructive Conflict

by Keith Wilson

Notes:
- This is a book I picked up because I promised Monique that I would try to find something more effective at helping us work through difficult conversations and decisions than the time we've spent so far with Michele.

Page 12 · Location 112
Instead , you discover that commitment is not something you declare on one bright , over - planned day but something you perform every hour for a lifetime . You realize that trust is not a noun that describes a state ; it is a verb that indicates action . You demonstrate tolerance , listen with your third ear , and cultivate understanding . You learn to agree to disagree .

Page 13 · Location 127
You could go on , doing what you’re doing and railing , ineffectively , at people you’ll never change . Instead , you see their point of view so that you can solve problems together , rather than make new ones . It finally registers that we’re all stressed , we all goof up , and we’re all doing the best we can . You learn you don’t need all that drama .

Page 14 · Location 134
Here are a few major points that must be understood about conflict :
Page 14 · Location 135
Conflict is inevitable .

Page 14 · Location 139
Communication increases conflict .

Page 15 · Location 142
If you want to communicate , and I hope you do , you will have to talk about some of the hard stuff , the stuff that may cause a fight . If you don’t want to communicate , then what are you doing here ?

Page 17 · Location 173
Basically , both you and your partner are constantly asking a single , basic , paramount , provocative question : Are you there for me ? Then you act fast on whatever you think the answer is .

Page 19 · Location 187
Chances are , every fight you’ve ever had with your partner was really a protest about emotional disconnection .

Page 20 · Location 202
You’ll probably find that most often , you attempted to conduct them at a time or in a place not conducive to success .

Page 22 · Location 229
works , it has nothing to do with the skill of the counselor . It often works because the setting works for conversation . It’s private enough so the whole world doesn’t know your business , but you have a trained referee in attendance .

Page 22 · Location 233
However , you can’t schedule a marriage counseling session every time you need to have a discussion . Sooner or later , you have to learn to do it yourselves .

Page 23 · Location 238
The important thing is that you do not start a difficult conversation just anywhere or at any time . Do it in a thoughtful and considerate way so that all extraneous factors can contribute to success .

Page 24 · Location 240
Start with the Easy Stuff

Page 25 · Location 258
When you want [ 12 ] to have a conversation with me that might not go well and you begin by thanking me for my contribution , I can be more open - minded and we can resolve things without an argument . [ 13 ]

Page 33 · Location 338
Twenty percent of what you are upset about has to do with the here and now situation . Eighty percent has to do with what’s in the files .

Page 36 · Location 368
What is it that you really want to know ? Let’s try this one , a question that I believe lies under all the others . Can I trust you ?

Page 37 · Location 379
You hurt me — can I hurt you back ? You want her to feel hit by the same train that hit you when you learned of the affair .

Page 38 · Location 393
Will you let me in ? People in close relationships need to have a reasonably accurate map of the inside of each other’s heads so they can understand one another’s perspective and predict one another’s desires and behavior .

Page 38 · Location 399
Can we get on the right track ? That is a good question , but it’s another one that cannot be answered by talking . It has to be answered by doing . The way to get on the right track is for you to ask the right questions and for her to give candid answers . Give some consideration to your questions . Ask honest questions to get honest answers .

Page 39 · Location 403
Learn Something You keep having the same argument with your partner . You’re always going around in a circle , on and on and on . You never get anywhere , never resolve anything . You’re getting sick of it , and maybe a little bit sick of her . What are you doing wrong ? You’re not learning anything .

Page 40 · Location 412
If you do not have feedback from your partner , you’re not learning a thing .

Page 40 · Location 412
You should never have a serious conversation without inviting feedback . Never say anything to your partner without having her demonstrate that she understands it . Never assume you know something she’s trying to say without checking with her first .

Page 40 · Location 421
Before you do any of those things , check to see if you heard her right . Say something like this : “ You want me to pick up the house and make dinner for when you come home because you think all I do is play video games . Is that right ? ” You are not agreeing with her or conceding . You are not accusing her of something or starting a fight . You are simply reflecting back what you think she said .

Page 43 · Location 445
Your partner should paraphrase , not parrot , the point you just made . It’s possible to mindlessly repeat what someone has said without understanding it . Paraphrasing is harder . Paraphrasing requires that he put into his own words the gist of what you were trying to say . He should paraphrase everything you just said when you had the stick .

Page 43 · Location 447
If you asked him a direct question , he should paraphrase the question before answering it . That’s so he can prove to you and to himself that he understands the question he’s answering . Otherwise , he could be answering a question you didn’t even have . What good is that ? When you are satisfied that your partner comprehends the point you made , then you give him the stick . Even if he doesn’t agree , you can be satisfied that he gets it . He knows where you are coming from .

Page 45 · Location 458
Acknowledge Feelings Every communication has two parts : the words and the music . There’s the content of what you say , and there’s how you say it . There’s the thought expressed , and there’s the feeling .

Page 46 · Location 469
you reflected back what you thought you saw in her emotions , that she was angry and disgusted . You didn’t agree with her . You didn’t say , Yeah , I know , I’m a lazy and disgusting pig . You simply acknowledged her emotions . This is important for a number of reasons .

Page 46 · Location 472
she’s trying to say something with her emotions as well as with her words . When you acknowledge the emotions , when the message is accurately received , she may have no reason to continue expressing them . Most of the time when emotions are acknowledged , people can let go of them . When you clearly understand that she is angry , she can stop trying to convince you that she is .

Page 47 · Location 483
The four fouls most prophetic of trouble are defamation , defensiveness , stonewalling , and contempt .

Page 47 · Location 487
If you’re talking with your partner and you catch yourself defaming her , getting defensive , retreating into silence , or expressing contempt , you should stop right there and admit your mistake .

Page 48 · Location 492
If you know you’re committing a violation and you do it anyway , you are behaving like a sadistic prick , unworthy of human companionship .

Page 48 · Location 497
So , what do you do if you spot your partner committing a foul that he doesn’t call on himself ? He might not have been aware of it and might need you to point it out . It’s vitally important that you don’t just let it pass and pretend it never happened . The conversation may deteriorate into a fight if you go on that way , and your issue certainly won’t get resolved . If he is not aware of the violation , he will not learn that he is fouling and will do it again . It’s possible to create a monster out of a perfectly good human being by letting him behave in a selfish , childish manner . Therefore , it’s important to call fouls that your partner does not call on himself . Do it like this : • Try again . • I am getting scared . • Please say that more gently . • That felt like an insult . • Let’s start over . • Let’s take a ten - minute break . • Let’s calm down . • Use an already - established safe word .

Page 50 · Location 517
The First Foul : Defamation

Page 50 · Location 520
Defamation is a false statement that disfigures the character of your partner . It occurs when you take normal complaints and turn them into pronouncements about your partner’s personality .

Page 51 · Location 526
Defamation imputes something horrendous about your partner’s character and distorts reality for dramatic effect .

Page 51 · Location 528
Listen for a few key words and tricks to spot defamation . You’re always . . . You never . . . As I wrote previously , no one always or never does anything . Never .

Page 52 · Location 543
If you want to avoid committing this foul , talk about his behavior , not his self . Talk only about what you know , the things you are an expert on .

Page 53 · Location 546
The Second Foul : Defensiveness

Page 54 · Location 557
When she says , “ You’re a selfish lout ! You never think of anyone but yourself ! ” You say , “ Well , you’re a nagging bitch and you have control issues ! ” When you could say , “ That’s defamation . A foul . Can we start over ? Can you give me specific examples ? ” To spot defensiveness , listen for someone concerned with placing blame rather than finding solutions . Look for one posing as a victim and seeking sympathy , rather than rolling up his sleeves and getting to work .

Page 54 · Location 563
Defensiveness is frequently a secondary foul — a response to another foul . Often defamation precedes it . It’s a response to a rapidly devolving conversation . Your character is being attacked , so you defend it . It’s only natural . Unfortunately , two wrongs do not make a right .

Page 55 · Location 566
The antidote to defensiveness is to take responsibility for something , anything , even if you don’t think the problem lies primarily with you . “ Did I call Betty and Ralph ? No , I’m sorry . I said I would , but I got busy and it slipped my mind . ”

Page 56 · Location 570
The Third Foul : Stonewalling

Page 56 · Location 573
To distinguish a stone wall from a receptive individual , listen for these words : Fine . . . Whatever . . . Sure . . . Later . . . I’ll try . . . Sort of . . . Not now . . . Yes , dear . . . I never said that . . .

Page 57 · Location 579
If your partner is expressive in other circumstances but not with you , you’re being stonewalled .

Page 57 · Location 581
Flooding also occurs when the emotions are so strong you’re afraid to do anything or say anything because it would probably be the wrong thing . A flood of emotions can submerge your good sense . It’s a pretty good idea to shut the hell up when you are flooded before you make everything worse .

Page 57 · Location 586
If you get flooded when you talk with your partner , take a break by all means , but tell him that’s what you’re doing . Memorize the following phrases : Let’s take a break . . . Time out . . . Let’s cool down . . . Let me think . . . This is going badly . . . I’ll get back to you in a minute . . . These phrases let your partner know what’s going on . Say one of them , or a variation , before you withdraw in silence , get evasive , or walk away , and you are absolved from the guilt of stonewalling .

Page 58 · Location 598
Another thing I recommend for couples who have had problems with stonewalling is the establishment of a safe word . At the beginning of the conversation , agree on some word you don’t use commonly . Oklahoma is a good one if you don’t live in Oklahoma . Having an easy way out of a difficult conversation has a paradoxical effect on people . When you know you can easily stop a painful conversation , you are more likely to go forward with it . It eliminates the need for stonewalling .

Page 59 · Location 605
The Fourth Foul : Contempt

Page 59 · Location 606
Of all the four fouls of an unfair fight , contempt is the most damaging . It’s the coup de grace that finishes off a relationship .

Page 59 · Location 608
You can recognize contempt in its various forms . There are mild versions : eye rolling , sneering , sarcasm , an exasperated sigh . And then there are the strong types : name calling , mockery , scorn , and the pulling out of all the dirty laundry .

Page 59 · Location 611
Express contempt when you’re trying to have a constructive conversation , and it’s lights out . There’s no point in going on . It’s time to take a break , and you’ll need to apologize when and if you return .

Page 63 · Location 648
Remember the alliance alarm ? That feeling you get when you perceive your partner is not there for you ? There are many things you may do when your alliance alarm goes off , but one of the most popular is to punish your partner for whatever transgression you think she committed . So , you are sadistic to your loved one because you want you to be closer . That’s whacked . So , chill out , let it go , tell her how you feel , and don’t hurt her back , even if she deserves it . Don’t be evil .

Page 64 · Location 654
you now know how to have a constructive conflict . You can pick the right time and place to talk about difficult matters . You start with the easy stuff . You pay no attention to the alarm going off in your head . You don’t expect her to fix things she has no influence over . You know what you’re asking . You can learn from her and learn how to acknowledge her feelings . You can call the four fouls of an unfair fight , whether you commit them or she does ; and you know enough not to be evil .

Page 66 · Location 675
If you see that look , stop trying to make your point . You made it already . The job is done . Continue in the same vein and it’ll just get ugly . You need to make a repair .

Page 66 · Location 679
People often say to me , “ Okay , I saw that look and I stopped . Now what do I do to repair the damage ? ” You’re asking me how to love your husband ?

Page 66 · Location 685
In my experience , couples know very well how to make repairs ; they just don’t make them . Or they don’t notice when their partner is attempting to make one . They get stuck on the issue , rather than paying attention to how they are talking about it . Don’t wait until doors are slammed before you stop trying to hammer home the point .

Page 69 · Location 697
The same principle applies when your partner tries to end a fight . Stop talking about whatever it is you were talking about and join him in reaffirming your commitment to the relationship .

Page 69 · Location 705
No one has ever asked me , “ How do I let my partner repair the damage ? ” You don’t have to do anything . All you have to do is notice he’s trying to make it right and stop your part of the fight .

Page 70 · Location 712
There’s no way to compromise . You’re ready to call it quits . What do you do ? Step away from the problem . Look at the big picture . Understand the different points of view . Not just your perspectives on the immediate issue , but what lies behind them . Behind every position is a dream or a value that you and your partner find essential . Acknowledging and respecting these deepest , most personal hopes and dreams is the key to getting past the impasse .

Page 72 · Location 731
When you are able to trace the conflict back to the value that makes the conflict important , you can come up with other solutions that accomplish the same goal . When you know these things about your loved one , you can’t help but respect them . It’s what makes her her . You want her to succeed and accomplish her dreams because , well , what is love if it’s not that ?

Page 73 · Location 735
Compromise Compromise is one of those things , like flossing , that everyone says is desirable and few are willing to do . We mostly want our partner to practice it . However , there’s really no need to be cagey about compromise . Just say you don’t like it and avoid it when you can .

p. 77
Some couples have the same fight over and over. Each time, they somehow manage to settle it, but the next time they don’t remember what they decided. Or they remember things differently. Then they argue over who remembered what. It’s far better to write down what you decided while you’re still basking in the warm glow of a successful negotiation. Think of it as the minutes from a board meeting, or an amendment to a marital constitution, or as an important contract. The key is to commit it to writing and put it in a safe place where you can refer to it later.

p. 79
How can reading a book help you have constructive conflicts? It can’t. You can’t learn to play tennis by reading either. You’ve got to play.

p. 81
Very small changes, if they’re the right changes, can make a huge difference. But you’ve got to play.

p. 85
The main point I’ve been trying to make is that relationships put you in conflict. That’s their purpose. You’re supposed to be in conflict with your loved ones, and people who write about family therapy are supposed to be in conflict with one another. If conflict is well regulated, it’s how we all get better.


LIT NOTES

More communication, especially about the hard things, means more conflict. Just talking more is not going to make things better, it will make things worse. There needs to be guide rails, rules, intentions, emotional understanding, to make things better.
- Source
- Page 14 · Location 134 - Here are a few major points that must be understood about conflict :
- Page 14 · Location 135 - Conflict is inevitable .
- Page 14 · Location 139 - Communication increases conflict .
- Page 15 · Location 142 - If you want to communicate , and I hope you do , you will have to talk about some of the hard stuff , the stuff that may cause a fight . If you don’t want to communicate , then what are you doing here ?

Most of the time, when we are fighting, it is because we don't have a clear answer to the question of if the other person is there with good intentions or, for some reason, wants to hurt us.
- Source
- Page 17 · Location 173 - Basically , both you and your partner are constantly asking a single , basic , paramount , provocative question : Are you there for me ? Then you act fast on whatever you think the answer is .
- Page 19 · Location 187 - Chances are , every fight you’ve ever had with your partner was really a protest about emotional disconnection .

It is important to have difficult conversations in an appropriate setting where both people are in the right mindset to have it. Difficult conversations that just pop up can often leave one person feeling overly emotional or unprepared, which leaves odds that the conversation won't go (or end) well. But you have to make the time, the discussions have to be had, they can't be pushed off either.
- Source
- Page 20 · Location 202 - You’ll probably find that most often , you attempted to conduct them at a time or in a place not conducive to success .
- Page 22 · Location 229 - works , it has nothing to do with the skill of the counselor . It often works because the setting works for conversation . It’s private enough so the whole world doesn’t know your business , but you have a trained referee in attendance .
- Page 22 · Location 233 - However , you can’t schedule a marriage counseling session every time you need to have a discussion . Sooner or later , you have to learn to do it yourselves .
- Page 23 · Location 238 - The important thing is that you do not start a difficult conversation just anywhere or at any time . Do it in a thoughtful and considerate way so that all extraneous factors can contribute to success .

Always try to start a difficult conversation with praise or thankfulness for the other person. It sets the tone as one of respectful and loving discourse, not a battle.
- Source
- Page 25 · Location 258 - When you want to have a conversation with me that might not go well and you begin by thanking me for my contribution , I can be more open - minded and we can resolve things without an argument .

Be aware of the background thoughts and experiences of your and the other person. Is this fight really about the topic you're arguing over? Or is there some lingering frustration, or some underlying belief that is causing one of us to act or think irrationally?
- Source
- Page 33 · Location 338 - Twenty percent of what you are upset about has to do with the here and now situation . Eighty percent has to do with what’s in the files .

Have a clear idea of the question you're trying to answer when having a hard discussion. Oftentimes the information you seek will not satisfy your needs, and a long, hard conversation will not accomplish anything productive. Here are some common questions and what they really mean, and perhaps a more productive way to think about it
- "Can I trust you?" is not a high quality question because you'll never have the answer. There is always more to do, more to say, something unsaid, something said improperly, etc. The better question, and the result of this line of questions is "What will I do now?"
- "You hurt me, can I hurt you back?". Yes, of course you can. You know this person very well, you know exactly how to hurt, but is it worth it? Does it accomplish your goal? If "yes", then you probably don't really want to be in the relationship.
- "Will you let me in?". Sure, you know each other well, but people change. Do you know, really know the other person's desires and motivations?
- "Can we get back on the right track?" This is a good question, but requires action. It requires good questions and honest answers. It requires two people who want to make it better, and commit to taking action.
- Source
- Page 36 · Location 368 - What is it that you really want to know ? Let’s try this one , a question that I believe lies under all the others . Can I trust you ?
- Page 37 · Location 379 - You hurt me — can I hurt you back ? You want her to feel hit by the same train that hit you when you learned of the affair .
- Page 38 · Location 393 - Will you let me in ? People in close relationships need to have a reasonably accurate map of the inside of each other’s heads so they can understand one another’s perspective and predict one another’s desires and behavior .
- Page 38 · Location 399 - Can we get on the right track ? That is a good question , but it’s another one that cannot be answered by talking . It has to be answered by doing . The way to get on the right track is for you to ask the right questions and for her to give candid answers . Give some consideration to your questions . Ask honest questions to get honest answers .

If you are always having the same argument, over and over, it's because you're not learning anything. The first step to learning is to make sure the other person understand what you said, and the only way for them to do this is to paraphrase what you said. And vice versa, during an important conversation, always paraphrase the content and emotion of your partner. Never assume you understand what is being said without checking with the other person, otherwise you might be answering a question the other person didn't even have! And what good is that going to do anybody?
When you are verifying that you heard the other person correctly, just paraphrase back what you heard and make sure that it is correct. You don't need to agree or concede a point. You should not repeat what you heard word-for-word, because it is possible to parrot something without understanding it. You need to put it into your own words and reflect the emotion as well.
- Source
- Page 39 · Location 403 - Learn Something You keep having the same argument with your partner . You’re always going around in a circle , on and on and on . You never get anywhere , never resolve anything . You’re getting sick of it , and maybe a little bit sick of her . What are you doing wrong ? You’re not learning anything .
- Page 40 · Location 412 - If you do not have feedback from your partner , you’re not learning a thing .
- Page 40 · Location 412 - You should never have a serious conversation without inviting feedback . Never say anything to your partner without having her demonstrate that she understands it . Never assume you know something she’s trying to say without checking with her first .
- Page 43 · Location 447 - If you asked him a direct question , he should paraphrase the question before answering it . That’s so he can prove to you and to himself that he understands the question he’s answering . Otherwise , he could be answering a question you didn’t even have . What good is that ? When you are satisfied that your partner comprehends the point you made , then you give him the stick . Even if he doesn’t agree , you can be satisfied that he gets it . He knows where you are coming from .
- Page 40 · Location 421 - Before you do any of those things , check to see if you heard her right . Say something like this : “ You want me to pick up the house and make dinner for when you come home because you think all I do is play video games . Is that right ? ” You are not agreeing with her or conceding . You are not accusing her of something or starting a fight . You are simply reflecting back what you think she said .
- Page 43 · Location 445 - Your partner should paraphrase , not parrot , the point you just made . It’s possible to mindlessly repeat what someone has said without understanding it . Paraphrasing is harder . Paraphrasing requires that he put into his own words the gist of what you were trying to say . He should paraphrase everything you just said when you had the stick .

Always acknowledge the other person's feelings when you paraphrase them. Often times the emotional content of somebody's communication is more meaningful than the words, and if the other person is very emotional about something, the might not be so much about the words at all. When you acknowledge the feelings behind the statement you can diffuse a bad situation and address it more effectively.
- Source
- Page 45 · Location 458 - Acknowledge Feelings Every communication has two parts : the words and the music . There’s the content of what you say , and there’s how you say it . There’s the thought expressed , and there’s the feeling .
- Page 46 · Location 469 - you reflected back what you thought you saw in her emotions , that she was angry and disgusted . You didn’t agree with her . You didn’t say , Yeah , I know , I’m a lazy and disgusting pig . You simply acknowledged her emotions . This is important for a number of reasons .
- Page 46 · Location 472 - she’s trying to say something with her emotions as well as with her words . When you acknowledge the emotions , when the message is accurately received , she may have no reason to continue expressing them . Most of the time when emotions are acknowledged , people can let go of them . When you clearly understand that she is angry , she can stop trying to convince you that she is .

There are four common sins of communication, which if avoided, will improve almost any relationship.
1. Criticism/Defamation
2. Defensiveness
3. Stonewalling
4. Contempt
- Source
- Page 47 · Location 483 - The four fouls most prophetic of trouble are defamation , defensiveness , stonewalling , and contempt .

It is important to be able to identify these troublesome areas and stop them, right away. If you're talking and notice yourself commit a sin, then own it, admit it, and try again. If you catch the other person doing it, and they don't own it, then you must call it out right away, you can't let the other person get away with it because it often causes a conversation to devolve into an argument. "Try again", "Please say that more gently", "That felt like an insult", "Let's start over", "Let's take a ten minute break", "Let's calm down", your "safe word".
- Source
- Page 47 · Location 487 - If you’re talking with your partner and you catch yourself defaming her , getting defensive , retreating into silence , or expressing contempt , you should stop right there and admit your mistake .
- Page 48 · Location 492 - If you know you’re committing a violation and you do it anyway , you are behaving like a sadistic prick , unworthy of human companionship .
- Page 48 · Location 497 - So , what do you do if you spot your partner committing a foul that he doesn’t call on himself ? He might not have been aware of it and might need you to point it out . It’s vitally important that you don’t just let it pass and pretend it never happened . The conversation may deteriorate into a fight if you go on that way , and your issue certainly won’t get resolved . If he is not aware of the violation , he will not learn that he is fouling and will do it again . It’s possible to create a monster out of a perfectly good human being by letting him behave in a selfish , childish manner . Therefore , it’s important to call fouls that your partner does not call on himself . Do it like this : • Try again . • I am getting scared . • Please say that more gently . • That felt like an insult . • Let’s start over . • Let’s take a ten - minute break . • Let’s calm down . • Use an already - established safe word .

Sin 1 is Criticism and/or Defamation. It is a false statement that bashes the other person, it is taking a complaint too far and implying something bad about the other person's personality and/or character. It distorts reality for dramatic effect. Some ways to spot defamation is the words "you're always...", "you never...".
- Source
- Page 50 · Location 517 - The First Foul : Defamation
- Page 50 · Location 520 - Defamation is a false statement that disfigures the character of your partner . It occurs when you take normal complaints and turn them into pronouncements about your partner’s personality .
- Page 51 · Location 526 - Defamation imputes something horrendous about your partner’s character and distorts reality for dramatic effect .
- Page 51 · Location 528 - Listen for a few key words and tricks to spot defamation . You’re always . . . You never . . . As I wrote previously , no one always or never does anything . Never .

To avoid committing this sin, talk about the other person's behavior, not them. Only talk about things you know, don't generalize about all of history, because nobody is ever a certain way all of the time, it's not possible, and not a good basis for a complaint.
- Source
- Page 52 · Location 543 - If you want to avoid committing this foul , talk about his behavior , not his self . Talk only about what you know , the things you are an expert on .

Sin 2 is defensiveness and it's about trying to deflect blame or place it on the other person. It is often a response to another sin, like defamation. When presented with something like "You're so selfish, you never think of anyone but yourself!", you'll be tempted to say "Well you're nagging bitch with control issues!", but with some clarity and presence it's easy to know that will not fix the problem, only make it worse. (Not to mention it's the defamation-in-return and purposefully trying to hurt the other person.) Instead, say "That's defamation. A foul. Can we start over? Can you give me specific examples?"
- Source
- Page 54 · Location 557 - When she says , “ You’re a selfish lout ! You never think of anyone but yourself ! ” You say , “ Well , you’re a nagging bitch and you have control issues ! ” When you could say , “ That’s defamation . A foul . Can we start over ? Can you give me specific examples ? ” To spot defensiveness , listen for someone concerned with placing blame rather than finding solutions . Look for one posing as a victim and seeking sympathy , rather than rolling up his sleeves and getting to work .
- Page 54 · Location 563 - Defensiveness is frequently a secondary foul — a response to another foul . Often defamation precedes it . It’s a response to a rapidly devolving conversation . Your character is being attacked , so you defend it . It’s only natural . Unfortunately , two wrongs do not make a right .

To spot defensiveness, listen for somebody blaming somebody or something instead of trying to find solutions. Look for somebody trying to be a victim and gain sympathy.
- Source
- To spot defensiveness , listen for someone concerned with placing blame rather than finding solutions . Look for one posing as a victim and seeking sympathy , rather than rolling up his sleeves and getting to work .

To avoid being defensive, just take responsibility and don't make excuses. It's not hard to say "No, I haven't done that but I will now". Take responsibility and you take control of your life, this is one of the things you have control over, and therefore one of the things you need to work hard to be in charge of.
- Source
- Page 55 · Location 566 - The antidote to defensiveness is to take responsibility for something , anything , even if you don’t think the problem lies primarily with you . “ Did I call Betty and Ralph ? No , I’m sorry . I said I would , but I got busy and it slipped my mind . ”

Sin 3 is stonewalling - when you shut down communication with your partner by not communicating your thoughts. It is often associated with phrases like Fine... Whatever... Sure... I'll try... Sort of... Not not... I never said that.
- Source
- Page 56 · Location 570 - The Third Foul : Stonewalling
- Page 56 · Location 573 - To distinguish a stone wall from a receptive individual , listen for these words : Fine . . . Whatever . . . Sure . . . Later . . . I’ll try . . . Sort of . . . Not now . . . Yes , dear . . . I never said that . . .
- Page 57 · Location 579 - If your partner is expressive in other circumstances but not with you , you’re being stonewalled .

Stonewalling can occur when one partner feels like nothing they can say will be the right thing to say, or taken oppositely, that everything will probably be the wrong thing to say. It very often happens when one person is flooded with emotions because a conversation has already gone off the rails. It's often a good thing to not make the conversation worse, but stonewalling is not the solution either. To find a middle ground, try saying "Let's take a break", "Time out", "Let me think", etc - just find a way to communicate to the other partner that you aren't withdrawing from the conversation, simply giving yourself time to calm down and think.
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- Page 57 · Location 581 - Flooding also occurs when the emotions are so strong you’re afraid to do anything or say anything because it would probably be the wrong thing . A flood of emotions can submerge your good sense . It’s a pretty good idea to shut the hell up when you are flooded before you make everything worse .
- Page 57 · Location 586 - If you get flooded when you talk with your partner , take a break by all means , but tell him that’s what you’re doing . Memorize the following phrases : Let’s take a break . . . Time out . . . Let’s cool down . . . Let me think . . . This is going badly . . . I’ll get back to you in a minute . . . These phrases let your partner know what’s going on . Say one of them , or a variation , before you withdraw in silence , get evasive , or walk away , and you are absolved from the guilt of stonewalling .

A safe word or phrase can be a good idea to interrupt a conversation that's going badly and let the other person know that it's time for everybody to take a step back, calm down, re-phrase, or try again. This is a good strategy for calling out any of the 4 sins, and works especially well to avoid stonewalling.
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- Page 58 · Location 598 - Another thing I recommend for couples who have had problems with stonewalling is the establishment of a safe word . At the beginning of the conversation , agree on some word you don’t use commonly . Oklahoma is a good one if you don’t live in Oklahoma . Having an easy way out of a difficult conversation has a paradoxical effect on people . When you know you can easily stop a painful conversation , you are more likely to go forward with it . It eliminates the need for stonewalling .

The fourth sin is contempt and it is the worst of all, often signaling a relationship that is badly damaged and, depending on the severity, may not be salvageable. Contempt can happen on a scale from eye-rolling, sarcasm, exasperated sighs, all the way up to name calling, mockery, scorn, and bringing up dirty laundry from the past. Contempt is often punishment for some perceived transgression - you're trying to hurt the other person because they hurt you. It is childish, short sighted, and a loss of control. Don't do it, even if the other person deserves it!
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- Page 59 · Location 605 - The Fourth Foul : Contempt
- Page 59 · Location 606 -
- Of all the four fouls of an unfair fight , contempt is the most damaging . It’s the coup de grace that finishes off a relationship .
- Page 59 · Location 608 - You can recognize contempt in its various forms . There are mild versions : eye rolling , sneering , sarcasm , an exasperated sigh . And then there are the strong types : name calling , mockery , scorn , and the pulling out of all the dirty laundry .
- Page 63 · Location 648 - Remember the alliance alarm ? That feeling you get when you perceive your partner is not there for you ? There are many things you may do when your alliance alarm goes off , but one of the most popular is to punish your partner for whatever transgression you think she committed . So , you are sadistic to your loved one because you want you to be closer . That’s whacked . So , chill out , let it go , tell her how you feel , and don’t hurt her back , even if she deserves it . Don’t be evil .

If either partner commits contempt during a conversation, it must be called out right away and you need to take a break. When you return to the conversation, the guilty party needs to apologize.
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- Page 59 · Location 611 - Express contempt when you’re trying to have a constructive conversation , and it’s lights out . There’s no point in going on . It’s time to take a break , and you’ll need to apologize when and if you return .

The steps to have a constructive conflict are:
1. Pick the right time and place to talk about difficult matters
2. Start nice, start easy, say nice, complimentary things to start
3. Pay no attention to the alarm going off in your head
4. Know what question you're asking, and know that you'll be satisfied if it's answered. Don't expect the other person to fix things they have no control over
5. Paraphrase what the other person is asking, with the intent to learn from and about him/her, always acknowledging feelings.
6. Be aware of, and call out the four sins of an unfair fight, no matter who commits them.
7. Be on the same side of the table when possible. Don't be evil!
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- Page 64 · Location 654 - you now know how to have a constructive conflict . You can pick the right time and place to talk about difficult matters . You start with the easy stuff . You pay no attention to the alarm going off in your head . You don’t expect her to fix things she has no influence over . You know what you’re asking . You can learn from her and learn how to acknowledge her feelings . You can call the four fouls of an unfair fight , whether you commit them or she does ; and you know enough not to be evil .

If you say something that is taken poorly by the other person, either misinterpreted, poorly phrased, not set up well, etc., and you see "that look" of anger, frustration, impatience, etc., JUST STOP. There is no need to belabor the point, it has been made already. If you want to continue the conversation, you need to make a repair in order to move on. The same principle applies if you notice that one partner is trying to end a fight.
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- Page 66 · Location 675 - If you see that look , stop trying to make your point . You made it already . The job is done . Continue in the same vein and it’ll just get ugly . You need to make a repair .

If at any point you can't figure out how to resolve differences and find a way forward, it is time to take a step back and figure out what fundamental underlying values and beliefs are driving each perspective. The only time we'll never be able to compromise is when we feel so strongly about our perspective that we won't give in, and the only reason we could feel that way is very deep seated. Take a break, then discuss (and acknowledge) the background story.
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- Page 70 · Location 712 - There’s no way to compromise . You’re ready to call it quits . What do you do ? Step away from the problem . Look at the big picture . Understand the different points of view . Not just your perspectives on the immediate issue , but what lies behind them . Behind every position is a dream or a value that you and your partner find essential . Acknowledging and respecting these deepest , most personal hopes and dreams is the key to getting past the impasse .
- Page 72 · Location 731 - When you are able to trace the conflict back to the value that makes the conflict important , you can come up with other solutions that accomplish the same goal . When you know these things about your loved one , you can’t help but respect them . It’s what makes her her . You want her to succeed and accomplish her dreams because , well , what is love if it’s not that ?
- Page 73 · Location 735 - Compromise Compromise is one of those things , like flossing , that everyone says is desirable and few are willing to do . We mostly want our partner to practice it . However , there’s really no need to be cagey about compromise . Just say you don’t like it and avoid it when you can .

When you have finally come to an agreement on some important topic, especially if it's an argument you've had more than once, WRITE IT DOWN. Don't try to remember what you decided, think of it as the minutes of a board meeting or a contract. If you can, set a reminder or calendar item to discuss the successful follow-up.
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- p. 77 - Some couples have the same fight over and over. Each time, they somehow manage to settle it, but the next time they don’t remember what they decided. Or they remember things differently. Then they argue over who remembered what. It’s far better to write down what you decided while you’re still basking in the warm glow of a successful negotiation. Think of it as the minutes from a board meeting, or an amendment to a marital constitution, or as an important contract. The key is to commit it to writing and put it in a safe place where you can refer to it later.


Source:
  • Keith Wilson
Tags:
  • book-notes
  • communication
  • relationships
  • arguing