1. an exchange of diverging or opposite views
2. to give reasons for or against something
Avoid most arguments by changing the way you talk.
Arguments are fueled by defenses and reactions. If you could change the way you talk when you are upset, angry, jealous, hurt, or fill in any negative feeling, then you could avoid most arguments. Arguments go something like this: “you said...”, “I am mad because you…”, or “you need to...” In all these statements, the initiator either finger-points, blames, or asks/demands change. When people hear these words, they go on the defensive; they feel like they are being told they are wrong. And aren’t they? Because what is an argument other than giving reasons against something? Usually after an argument is initiated, the conversation gets hostile and one or both partners shut down because they are trying to win a debate or to avoid fighting. What if we changed the way we initiated the conversation?
Try experimenting without using blame, finger-pointing, or asking for change. What’s left is expressing thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. You probably won’t argue with someone when they tell you their favorite food is anchovies. You might if they try to tell you that is your favorite food. Keeping the conversation on defining your own thoughts and feelings will take out the triggers that lead to fighting. Your partner won’t need to defend them self if they don’t feel attacked. This will work even in highly difficult or sensitive topics.
Today I was asked to think about how to deal with different political views on Thanksgiving. I did a short interview with CBS21. They asked how we deal with people trying to talk politics. Trying to argue politics is a no-win. You will either damage the relationship or fail to get the other to see it your way.
I work with a lot of people dealing with relationship issues and one of the biggest contributions to relationship dysfunction is the idea that we “should” be the same. That is, if we are in the same family or tribe, we “should” have similar beliefs, values, or ideas. The problem that we face is that our partner, relative, or child is a separate person and has their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. When I try to force my belief onto another, 1 of 2 things can happen: I overtake them or they resist. To illustrate it visually, think of having your 2 hands in fists in front of you. (You can actually try this) Now, open one of them and cover the other fist. That is you getting your own way. You kill off the other. They comply whether resentfully or passively willing. Now the other thing that can happen is they resist. This is having your 2 fists hit each other and bounce off.
If you do not damage the relationship, you’re still not likely to change anyone’s mind. Beliefs are hard to change because when they are challenged it sets off signals in our brain. You have probably heard of the fight or flight phenomena and when we are challenged, it sets off the same process. Each person is operating on an emotional level and not thinking rationally. Now you are in a situation where the person you are trying to reason with is not able to hear you. In fact, neither of you are probably using your ears to hear at all. Each is waiting to use the other’s words as launch pads for their next argument.
So, if you do decide to engage in post-election debate, I hope you know the battle that you are in for. The holidays are stressful enough, if you really want to feel close to family try and have conversations that will not flood your emotional ability to respond.
I work with couples to help them explore and find ways to better connect with each other during times of stress and tension. One of the most common reasons couples seek therapy is communication issues. This breakdown in communication is the worst during conflict. A healthy couple is able to tolerate difference and allow one another to express ideas. Following a developmental model created by Dr. Ellen Bader and Dr. Peter Bader, I work with couples to see where they have become stuck in a stage that does not tolerate difference. According to research, we start relationships feeling like our partner is on the same page - maybe that we think alike, have similar interests, and as a result, have very little conflict. There comes a point (should be developing about or before 2 years in relationships) when healthy couples need to be able to tolerate difference to move forward and progress. It is actually this differentiation that allows the couple to get stronger. It helps couples face stress, challenges, and brings newness into the relationship. Couples who stay in the symbiotic stage often avoid fighting (i.e. shut down) or become angry trying to bring home their point. These rounds seem to go on and on with no real winner. My approach to couples work is to help partners chose goals that will strengthen their relationship and ultimately help them discover the freshness and intimacy that they desire by allowing healthy differentiation.
I want to get this blog rolling by introducing myself and my views on therapy. I am really excited to be opening this practice. Being a therapist has been my goal since I was an adolescent. Maybe it is true when they say (at least for me) therapists get into this field to figure themselves out and to help themselves feel better. The good news is that I have done a good bit of that and now it is exciting to watch other people achieve those goals!
I think therapy (or alternatively “changing”) is about people learning what they do, discovering and trying out options, and then evaluating their choices to decide if they helped. So how do therapists do that? Well, there are a lot of different methods and theories that therapists can follow. I follow the principles of Gestalt therapy. One of the things this means is I believe in the value of others’ thoughts and values. I am a therapist who listens to understand the way my clients think and feel. I don’t want to talk at someone, tell them what they need to do, or give them ways to be different. I work on helping people identify their stuck points so that we can come up with alternatives. I love trying experiments! I am with my clients, helping them learn about who they are, what they think, and how they want to be. I think my work is exciting!