We all have disagreements. Teenage kids think their parents are the meanest and dumbest people on the planet (generally speaking). Couples in a relationship often disagree. Neighbors disagree. We disagree with business people on the phone. How do we solve these disagreements without damaging or destroying the relationship? Who should be the one to give in? Here are some suggestions I learned from a marriage counselor many years ago. (Dave Peterson, if you happen to be reading this, thank you from the depths of my being. We’re still together thanks to your wisdom and guidance. God bless you wherever you and your family are.)
Rule Number One: Think before you speak. Words spoken in anger are often regretted later. Unfortunately, once spoken, they can’t be taken back. Go for a walk and calm down if you have to. Think about the other person’s point of view and ask yourself if there is any room for compromise? Are you simply demanding your own way because the other person doesn’t think the same way you do?
Rule Number Two: Two strokes for every kick. Before saying anything negative, try to think of two things you can say that are positive. “I really appreciate it when you. . .” or “You are very special to me and I want to work through this.”
Rule Number Three: Avoid the use of the words ‘always’ and ‘never.’ They are almost always exaggerations, therefore putting the other person on the defensive.
Rule Number Four: Avoid statements like “You make me feel,” or “You make me so mad.” Your emotions belong to you, and are therefore under your control. Try saying, “When you say. . . or . . . When you do. . .I feel. . .or I get teary, or my emotions go. . .etc.”
Rule Number Five: Be willling to listen to the other person. We all want to be heard. It has been said that our ears only hear every third or fourth word said and our minds put the rest together, so we don’t always hear accurately. Be willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
Rule Number Six: Don’t be afraid to apologize. That is the position of strength, contrary to popular opinion. Why should it matter who gives in first, as long as the situation gets resolved? Most of the time it’s pride that gets in the way. Pride has no place in love (you know, the pride that has a me-first attitude).
Rule Number Seven: Choose your battles carefully. Everything is not worth arguing about. Don’t major on the minors. Remember that you both have quirks the other has to put up with. The Bible says it is the little foxes that spoil the vine. That means it’s usually the little things that make the biggest problems. Try to see the big picture and think about whether or not the issue is really that big of a deal.
Rule Number Eight: If you are on the phone with someone, put a smile (not a smirk) in your voice. Try to defuse the situation. Again, the Bible says a soft answer turns away wrath. I used to work in a call center dispatching emergency roadside assistance. Often the people that call in are in precarious situations and their adrenalin is off the charts. One such customer was cussing me out. Per my training, I listened patiently, let him vent. When he took a breath I broke in and said I was going to do all I could to help him. Little by little, as I responded with positive statements about what I could do and would do to help him, he calmed down. At the end of the call he thanked me for not responding in kind and asked to speak to my supervisor so he could tell her what a good job I had done. Patience is not always easy, but the rewards for practicing it are tremendous.
Rule Number Nine: Relationships require cooperation. One person can’t always be in charge. When the Bible says women are to obey their husbands, it doesn’t stop there. It also says the husband is to love his wife the same way Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. It doesn’t mean lay down and play dead. My husband pointed something out to me one day: God gave each one the hardest command to obey. It is so hard for women to submit. After all, we’re not stupid; we have brains, so why should we? Because we have to learn to obey God, too. Men are generally not as emotional as women. We don’t see love the same way. It’s easier for a man to work to provide for his family than to make himself vulnerable by showing love. But the man also has to learn to love his Creator, God.
Rule Number Ten: Never go to bed angry. Get it resolved before bedtime. You’ll get a good night’s sleep and wake up with a better perspective.
All questions and comments are welcome. Let me know if this works in your life. If you have a problem you want to discuss, find me on FB and send me a private message. I’ll answer you privately and will never post your name without your permission. If I feel your situation may help someone else I will ask your permission before sharing the story, and I would change the names, never divulging location.