I’ve had plenty of arguments over the years. Some of these I’ve used. Some I haven’t. Usually, however, if I did, the fight got worse. Sure, I may have felt temporary pleasure over that “zinger”, but did it really serve me over the long run of the argument? Not really. Amazing, isn’t it? The people we care about most in the world are the ones we let loose the rampaging rabid dogs of war the quickest.
Top 10 Things Not to Say:
- “Whatever. I’m done.”
- “You obviously don’t understand.”
- “If you loved me, you’d know…”
- “I don’t care.”
- “It’s not my fault if…”
- “You always…”
- “I hate you.”
- “I never wanted…”
- “You’re such a…”
- “Shut up.”
It’s pretty clear why these don’t work, but – for the uninitiated – things like sentences that start with “You always…” are impossible to defend against. Because they’re not true. Obviously no one always does something. If that were the case, they’d be doing it all day long, 365 days a year. About the only thing you can accuse someone of always doing is breathing.
This gem is reserved for spouses and boyfriends. The “If you loved me you’d know…” comment presumes mind-reading. And if there’s one thing a man is not equipped to do when it comes to women, it’s reading her mind. Believe it or not, ladies, we don’t think alike! You know how you go out with your girlfriends and you finish each other’s sentences, and there’s all that, “I know, right??” that goes on? It’s because we think alike. We see things in relatively the same way. We are built emotionally in-sync.
Men, however, are not built like us. This is why when we whine and complain they want to “fix it” and we get irritated. Our girlfriends don’t tell us what to do, they just listen, commiserate, and offer up another bowl of Ben and Jerry’s. We’re hardwired differently. Maybe some guys really want to “talk it out” and get all deep in the emotions and really gab, for hours and hours, about what’s bothering them, but most guys just want to say what’s on their mind, fix it, and move on.
Guys want us to respect them. Love is easy for us. Respect is hard. Respecting a man means not embarrassing/criticizing him in front of his friends or family, not making him feel “less”, not attacking him for something he didn’t know he did, not assuming you know what he is thinking or feeling (lack of mind-reading goes both ways), not presuming his intentions, not talking to him like you’d talk to your girlfriends – he doesn’t think like they do.
Women like to marinate. Men like to flash fry.
Here is something we should remember: Productive arguments have conclusions, not concussions.
Top Ten Things To Say: (and mean)
- “I’m sorry.”
- “Let me just see if I understand you right…”
- “I admit that I…”
- “Thank you.”
- “Do you forgive me?”
- “Can we take a minute? I’m getting upset and I want to figure out why.”
- “I’ll be quiet and listen so you can make your point uninterrupted.”
- “I love you.”
- “I didn’t realize I’d done that. What I’d meant was…”
- “I forgive you.”
Oh, words. They’re so easy and cheap. That’s why I put the “(and mean)” in there. When we were younger, my sister would smack me and immediately say, “Sorry.” Then she’d smack me again. Again, another “Sorry.” The word is meaningless if you don’t follow up on it with action and that usually means not doing the same thing you were sorry for over and over again.
As a woman, my particular brand of live ammunition is – you guessed it – words. I can mire myself down so deep in the details of what my husband has said that, by the end, I’ve utterly tied him up in knots. I’ve “wordsmithed” him into feeling frustrated and helpless. That’s like having a debate with someone and having them throw in ridiculous curve-balls like “define logical”.
So as you gear up for that next round, consider this:
- Would you say that to your grandmother?
- How would you feel if the other person said that to you?
- Do you really mean that?
- Is this the most important person in your world? Why are you treating them less than you would a co-worker, girlfriend, Starbucks employee?
- What is your goal in this argument? Winning? Understanding? Compromise?
- Words are permanent. People remember things long after the “I’m sorrys” have been said.
- Accepting responsibility and asking for forgiveness is strength, not weakness.
- Admitting mistakes is difficult, necessary, and builds wisdom.
- Love may conquer all, but it is not just a verb, it’s an action, too.
- Conflict is inevitable. Choosing our response to it is 100% all us.
Ideally, the best thing to do is to recognize that you’re getting miffed, define it (what is really agitating you about what that person said or did?), own it, and articulate it. If you can sort things out before the yelling starts, then you just saved yourself some grief.
I know, words are easy.