This is one of those lessons that seem like a no-brainer. To be honest, this is one that needs reminding in the lives of all of us. Margie really helped me master this concept. It is also one of the most difficult to remember in the heat of an emotional disagreement. The question is how can we change from having arguments to having discussions? I think there is a two-fold answer to this and it begins as soon as the situations comes up.
When we are hurt/sad/upset/angry with something that someone else did or said, or maybe even something we think they did or said, it is important we bring that feeling into light. The reason it is important is because repression grows into resentment. You might want to read that last part again. When we repress our emotions, the other person may continue to do the very thing that angered us in the first place again and again. Not because they are trying to make our life some living hell, but because they are ignorant to the fact we are upset in the first place. That is our fault and our problem to address.
Here is where it gets a little tricky. Before we begin to convey our feelings, we should take a second to ask ourselves some very important questions. The first question I would ask myself is, “If I was in their place, how would I want this brought to my attention?” Nobody likes to hear they upset someone or hurt their feelings. It can feel like they failed. It is also important to not place them on the defensive. Saying things like “You really hurt me” and “You did this just to make me mad!” Can place people on the defensive. Even if they did do something malicious on purpose, you will only compound the issue by attacking them. Remember to ask yourself how you would like to be approached. A more positive approach, and one I recommend very highly, is to ask them for help. Nobody likes to be reprimanded, but everyone likes to feel like they helped. An example could be, “I was wondering if you could help me with something. When you said _____ it really hurt my feelings. I know that wasn’t what you meant to do, but is there a way we could word this differently?” You notice you are asking for their assistance in discovering a solution? You also give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intent, which we can never truly know anyway. How would you respond if someone approached you that way?
The second, and just as important, thing to ask ourselves is “What is the desired outcome?” Seldom is the answer “I want to make them feel bad because they hurt my feelings.” It may feel like that at the time, but if we are honest with ourselves, the answer is completely different. We usually want to create a mutual understanding that what was said or done caused some emotional distress. It is important to do that with eloquence. Once it is said and understood, immediately switch to working to create a plan to avoid the same situation from happening in the future. I actually ask myself that several times in my head in the course of a discussion. “What is my end goal?” Again, ask for help. “How can we work together to make this work in the future?” stands a far greater chance of success than, “You better not do that again!”
Remember, in any relationship, when there is a disagreement, a discussion is a far better result than an argument. Focus on how you would want to be talked to and realize the other party would probably like to be talked to in the same manner. Stay focused on a solution and not dishing out blame. In fact, blame does little or nothing to create solution. Ask for help. involve the other party and you will have many more productive discussions.