Stop Fighting in 30 days

Week 4: Learn How to Properly Present Your Gripes

4. Think Before You Speak: Before you say a word, ask yourself, "Will what I intend to say damage my partner?" If your answer is yes, then button it. Anything that damages your partner damages you in the end. From now on, vow to say only what you know will be constructive and lead you toward a resolution.

5. Fight for the Team: Remember, your goal is to arrive at a resolution of your issue, not a demolition of your mate.

6. Abort Discussions if the Temperature Starts to Rise: Since no productive discussion can occur when you both are fuming, postpone the conversation until the dust settles. At a calm time, ask your partner for input on how you can represent your issue without infuriating him or putting him on the defensive.

Now that you have these general points under your belt, you are ready to learn my formula for presenting your issues. I want to remind you that my conflict resolution program has been proven effective for over 90 percent of the couples who use it. A cornerstone of the program is the following formula. Memorize it and use it whenever you discuss any issue that is troubling you. Even though your issues will continue to change, the formula for presenting them should remain the same.

Formula for Presenting Your Issues

Beth rushed home with a bag of Chinese food and a video. Tonight was "date night," and her husband Bob had promised to come home early. At 8pm, he still hadn't arrived. Dinner was stone cold and Beth was boiling mad.
Here's what she needs to do:

Step One: Cool-Off Before Talking to Him

Remember that when you are hot under the collar, you are more likely to resort to Fight Traps that will send your partner psychologically -- if not literally -- packing. If you come at him with too much heat, he will either be deaf to your words or he will leave for real.

Step Two: Drain off Your Anger

Use whatever method works for you -- punch your pillow, scream in the shower, call a friend and bitch, fantasize about beating up your partner (knowing that you won't actually act on your thoughts).

Step Three: Dig Up Love

When you are boiling mad, it's hard to remember that you actually still love your mate. Recall the early days of your relationship or a special day that you shared recently. The feelings of love will temper your anger.

Step Four: Wait for the Right Time

Approaching your partner to discuss a complaint when he's busy with work, hobbies or chores is a formula for failure. Wait until your partner is available.

Step Five: Deliver Your Icebreaker

An opening statement -- what I call an "Icebreaker" -- alerts your mate that you have a problem to discuss. If you come at him in the heat of the moment, you will be labeled another type of breaker, if you get my drift. Instead, you want to break the ice and show that you respect him and care for his feelings. This will set the tone for a productive discussion. Here are some sample Icebreakers: "I have something important to talk over. Do you have a few minutes now?" Or, "I have a problem that I need your input on. Is now a good time?"

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