Mark Goulston, M.D.
Expert, Mark Goulston, M.D., shares his #1 tip for avoiding arguments. When you want to improve communication in your relationship, a great method is to concentrate on the potential of the future rather than the disappointments of the past. Talk about what you would like your partner to do in the future, rather than berating them for what they did in the past.
What can we do to avoid arguments altogether? What method should we use to improve communication in our relationships? I’m a great fan of a good friend of mine, Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall Goldsmith wrote one of the best books in the last ten years and it’s called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. And I owe this to Marshall: leverage the future that nobody has messed up yet. Don’t focus on the past in which everyone has their own interpretation; you’ll just get into a fight about each person’s version, and it will go nowhere.
One of the things that he suggests to couples is to say exactly what you want from the other person, because they haven’t screwed up yet. You could say something like, “Something that I would really appreciate when we’re out with other people is sometimes I get a little nervous when you’ll needle me, and maybe I’m a little thin skinned, but, in the future, it would mean a lot to me if you would refrain from doing that.”
It doesn’t always have to be negative. It can always also be a positive. You could say, “You know, going forward, something that really turns me on more than you realize is that when I come home and you greet me with a hug. After feeling hammered all day long the world, when you hug me, it’s kind of like I’m the returning warrior, and there’s nothing that feels better.”
Unfortunately, if you bring up the past, it usually goes in a negative direction. However, if you declare what you want and what you don’t want, not making it an order, the other person is more likely to grant your wishes.
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