As Leo Tolstoy once said, “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” We can smile at that quote or it can inspire us to ask ourselves some wise questions: What is it that happy families are doing? And, do my spouse and I fall into the category of happy couples?
If you want to have a superior relationship with your partner and be a good role model for your children, then enhance your verbal skills today by adopting the tips below. What I have found as a couples mediator is that the same verbal skills work to improve every relationship. These 10 quick and simple tips from my bookFight Less, Love More will keep the peace in the family and make your love connection stronger. Even if you’re using the tips and your husband or wife isn’t, their effect willstill be astonishing.
Pick Your Battles
Before you get angry and reprimand your mate for making a mistake or doing something you told him or her not to do, stop and ask yourself this one wise question: “Does this affect me?” If it doesn’t, button your lips and avoid a fight. After all, your mate is the one who must deal with the consequence, not you.
Be a Detective
When your mate’s mistake does affect you, what then? Rather than being hostile, find out what really happened. Ask neutral and respectful questions such as, “Can you tell me what happened?” or “I don’t understand. Am I missing something here?” You might discover a good reason for the oversight or blunder, which could avoid a blow-up.
Complain with Impact
When you have a complaint, say what you do want, not what you don’t want. For example, rather than saying to your child or mate, “Get off that darn computer – you’re so rude!” instead target your mate using a positive approach: “I miss your company. Can you join me in the living room to hang out?”
Skip the Whatever Word
Being passive by often saying “whatever you want” might temporarily avoid a fight, but it could breed resentment because it leaves the majority of decisions to your mate, which can be stressful. Instead, have a real opinion and share it.
If your mate does something that affects and disturbs you, such as overspending or making plans for both of you without asking the other first, don’t get sucked into the heated “How could you?” argument. Instead, focus on the future by creating policy solutions, as in, “From now on can we agree to make a budget for our personal expenses?” Or: “Can we agree to check in with each other before making plans for both of us?”
Show You Care
Forgetting to ask about what’s going on in your child or your mate’s daily life is a surefire way to erode a relationship. From now on, if you know that someone in your family has an important meeting, test, doctor appointment, or event that day, don’t neglect it – instead, respect it. Call, email, text, or ask in person, “How did it go?” This sends a clear message: I care about you.
Avoid Factual Arguments
Do you and your mate often find yourselves arguing about the name of a restaurant you went to, a certain address, someone’s birthday, an historical fact, or sports figure? Then you are prone to having a dumb argument! Stop the conversation and do an online fact check, call a friend, or simply drive by the location.
Apologize with the “B” Word
Quickly saying the words “I’m sorry” is a bad apology because it often comes off as insincere, and could trigger another battle. Next time you seek mercy, add the “B” word: Say, “I’m sorry because…” and share how you hurt your mate and what you will do to prevent the wrongdoing from recurring. Research shows that when you add the “because clause” your words are more persuasive.
Create Border Control
Are you ever angry with your partner for revealing something to others that you consider private, like a health issue, a child discipline issue, job insecurity, or a marital disagreement? If so, bypass the “How could you say that?!” argument. Instead, establish border control: Outline the topics that should remain private to insure that neither of you becomes an accidental traitor.
Give a Daily Dose of Recognition
Most couples on the divorce path seldom compliment each other. In our online survey forFight Less, Love More, we asked people, “Would you rather your mate compliment you for being kind or good-looking?” The result was that 84 percent of people said “kind.” The lesson: Find daily opportunities to recognize your mate for something that reflects a character strength (you are such a wonderful mother/father, you are so thoughtful when you…).
Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, and bestselling author of “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In,” who frequently appears on Fox News Channel, CNN, “Good Morning America,” and “The Early Show” to offer relationship advice. Visit her at www.fightlesslovemore.com