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Before the Heated Argument

Usually a heated argument doesn't begin suddenly.  There is often a long slow build up of little disconnects.  Attuning yourself to the more subtle forms of disconnect can prevent heated arguments.  Let's look at a few.

The free association parallel conversation

In this type of conversation there is a quick volley of ideas or stories back and forth and sometimes one person is still talking when the other person begins.  The topics change frequently.  The content may be neutral or even celebratory.  At a party or family gathering this can be connecting, but when it happens consistently in intimate relationship, it distracts from going deeper and the need to be heard goes unmet.


Your partner expresses a difficulty, curiosity, a story, or experience and you offer what you know about that topic.  When you immediately offer what you know, you miss the opportunity to hear your partner's experience.  The simple act of asking a follow up question about what your partner has shared, before sharing your information, builds a sense of trust and mutuality.


You don't really have "a need to vent".  Venting is a strategy that may or may not meet your needs for empathy, clarity, and support.  Sometimes venting helps get clarity and sometimes it just creates more anger and irritation.  Either way venting without asking your partner if she or he is willing to hear you, often doesn't meet your partner's need for consideration and choice.  If you choose to vent, first form the intention to get to clarity or empathy for yourself or another.  Then, ask your partner if he or she would be willing to listen for no more than 2 or 3 minutes.  Complete with a connection to the needs up in the situation and a commitment to learning how to meet them next time.

You shouldn't feel that way

You see your partner upset and hurting and you see how it comes from a misperception on his or her part.  You want your partner to feel better so you make an argument for how s/he has no reason to be upset.  Regardless of the accuracy of your partner's perception, s/he is having a particular experience, the first thing needed is to be met in that experience.  You can do this by reflecting back the situation, feelings, and needs you hear being expressed.


You make a request and your partner says no.  You begin to explain how your request is valid saying things like, "I worked hard so you should...", "I went with you last time so you should...". You become a lawyer presenting a case.  Often your partner presents the counter argument.  This might start with something small like rearranging the furniture. Rather than arguing your case you can get curious about what feelings and needs are up for your partner that has him or her say no.

As you become more and more aware of these little disconnects you will be able to track the sense of each as it arises and make a choice about how you would like to connect.

Take a moment to reflect on which of these are most common in your relationship.  This week, see how many times you can catch yourself in this kind of dynamic.

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1 Response

  1. Mar 02, 2011

    Yay! So happy to hear it, thanks for letting me know.

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