You once thought you could place your life in your partner’s hands. Now you’re not so sure. And there’s a fair chance he is thinking the same thing about you.
Issues last and if they are not resolved, the same quarrels happen over and over and they become sensitized. It’s like running your fingernail over the same spot on the back of your hand: The first 20 times hardly matter, but by the hundredth, you want to jerk your hand away whenever the fingernail approaches. Even minor provocations trigger major reactions; a light bump to your hand now really hurts.
Happily, there are effective ways to work out disagreements with your partner. Here are nine effective steps to keep in mind;
- Know what is wanted. All negotiating is about wants: desires, goals, wishes, aims, purposes, values. To get what you want, know what it is. To support your partner, know what he or she wants.
- Be realistic. Our deepest wants sometimes arise from deep within us and may, unfortunately, be unattainable today. We should be realistic. Is a want really attainable? Even if it could be fulfilled, would it be wise? What will it take? What are the costs to fulfill it? Will fulfilling it lead to any negative consequences?
- Establish a favorable foundation. If possible, create a setting of mutual rapport, empathy, and good wishes. Take the time; don’t just loss requests or demands as you rush on by.
- Communicate your wants. Express your wants openly and explicitly. Many of us feel it is dangerous or pushy for us to tell others what we really want, or that they should figure it out on their own. Or that they already know what we want, so it is not necessary to actually say it. But if you do not clearly and verbally tell the other person what you want, how can you expect him to reliably fulfill his part? Be authentic and communicate.
- Negotiate details. Exchanges are at the heart of all relationships. People contribute to us because they care, but they continue to care about us because we continue to contribute to them.
- Make commitments. Establish a clear understanding of what you and your partner will do. Set accountabilities: Who will do what? Check your gut feeling. Do you really feel like this is going to happen? Close at a human level. Thank your partner for talking with you, for being willing to take the time to work things out.
- Address departures from the plan. We must be able to count on people to keep their commitments. This is the basis for trust in any relationship. However, no person manages to keep all of his commitments. When this happens, it is important to acknowledge that and work to restore trust.
- Revise as needed. Plans change. When they do, create a new agreement. Ask yourself once again: Do I really believe that this is going to work?
Find out the beliefs, emotions and decisions that led to the breakdown. This may be uncomfortable for both of you, but if you do not talk about misunderstandings and broken agreements, they are bound to happen again and again.