Getting Stuck Arguments Unstuck
"We have the same argument again and again. He wants to spend money on more equipment for his business and I want us to have money in savings."
Arguments like this stay stuck because each person thinks it's about the content of the argument, in this case money, rather than the universal needs alive for each. The first person in this example may be convinced that the only way he can be creative in his work is to buy an expensive piece of equipment. The second person may think the only way she can meet her need for security and choice is to have a certain amount of money in savings. When the needs get attached to the strategies like this a no way out scenario gets created.
Arguments also stay stuck when an empathic connection has not yet happened between the two of you. That is, you haven't yet fully stepped into each other's worlds and connected to the feelings and needs behind the strategy each is putting forth.
What does it take to create this empathic connection?
- First, you need to find a willingness to set aside your ideas about why you think the other person is saying what they are saying. If you have known someone a while, it is easy to think you already know what is true for them. This is exactly what can keep you stuck.
- An intention and willingness to stay with the dialogue until mutual understanding and connection happens. This means letting go of the thoughts that say, "This is hopeless!" or "Let's just drop it we are going to get into a big fight and get nowhere." Then come back to your breath and stay in your seat.
- A readiness to give empathy. Let the person who is most ready to give empathy listen first.
- A willingness to stay with one speaker at a time. This means that even though you have reactions and want to argue your side you don't say anything about you when it is not your turn.
- For the Speaker: be willing to state what's alive for you in a variety of ways. Don't repeat the same phrases again and again. Try a different way of saying it. Help the other person connect with you. Most importantly, just express your feelings and needs without story or justification. Use the feelings and needs list to do this.
- For the Listener: If you are not in a place to offer empathy, then you may want to do some self-empathy first or receive empathy from someone else. Otherwise, repeat back the feelings and needs you hear your partner express and let your heart connect here. You may need to say what you hear a number of times and in a variety of ways before you really connect with what is alive for the other person. If you are hearing more words then you can absorb, interrupt and give back what you heard so far and the feelings and needs you are guessing are alive for your partner.
When you have created an empathic connection, there is natural giving that arises from the heart and you may be surprised at the actions and requests that occur to you in this place.
If you have a stuck argument with someone in your life, spend some time reflecting on the feelings and needs alive for you and what you guess might be alive for them. Before talking about it again, state your intention to create understanding around this. Request that you take turns and follow the steps listed above.