Whether I ask for a show of hands in an audience I’m speaking to or simply discuss with clients, there is INDEED, one argument I can count on the majority of individuals saying: “Yes, that happens all the time! Why?”
Visualize this scene: You and your significant other are just home at the end of your day. You begin to discuss plans for the evening.
One of you says: “What do you want to do?”
The other says: “I don’t care, what do YOU want to do?
And now it unfolds: “You decide, I really don’t care.”
“OK, do you want to grab some dinner somewhere?”
“Well, what would sound good to you?”
“I said I don’t care. Would you like to do something else?”
“I already said I want you to decide!”
There are likely many variations on this interaction. Regardless, both people are now tense, irritated, and the interaction can easily escalate into an out right argument, making the entire evening a “bust.” So what has happened? What makes this so RECOGNIZABLE to most people?
Review the comments. What’s the common denominator? First, and most important, neither person has made “a statement of preference.” That just means saying what you want or prefer! And then waiting for a response. It’s simple but it’s seldom the way these conversations unfold unless you’ve read a lot of books or been to workshops or therapy! It’s hard, for many people, to make statements of preference. BECAUSE: I don’t want to take a stand and be REJECTED or cause a CONFLICT! Really, that’s the bottom line. Consequently the thing you want to avoid is the exact thing you have put in motion.
When one person is vague, the other believes he/she has to make an attempt to either read the mind of their partner, OR keep digging for a specific preference….exciting the anxiety of getting “it wrong,”…..all the while doing exactly the same thing…avoiding making a statement of preference. Now both are trying to figure out what the OTHER really wants to magically avoid conflict — so both will be happy! Keep this in mind….no matter how long you have been together, you can’t honestly read one another’s minds. Actually if you do figure out what the other wants once in a while, I think it’s typically accidental! Unless, of course, you are deeply intuitive. Regardless, stick with stating what YOU want with a GENUINE OPENNESS to the preference of your partner.
FIX it and trust it’s easier than you believe — even as you read this. Say what you want to do. BUT what if the other person disagrees or does not want to do what you suggest? Ask for the other’s opinion. What if it’s totally different? Well, now, two different ideas are on the table. They are CLEAR. That sets the stage for NEGOTIATION…..
“I WANT to go out for Chinese.”
“I just had Chinese so I would prefer Italian.”
Obviously it’s a difference, but it is clear and on the table. Now negotiate.
“Not sure about Italian, but I would like to explore the new sushi place.”
“Was there last weekend. What about a compromise and do our favorite place, the _____”
A plan unfolded…no one is upset. No tension. But you DO have to say what you want. You DO have to be open to the other having a totally different preference. But once you see you can discuss and negotiate, simply by being direct, stating preferences, then discussions get easier and easier with practice.
Be courageous! Try it. And if you truly have NEVER had the kind of argument I’m describing, Or you have but have learned how to handle it, let me know! I want to hear about your relationship.
Read more in my book WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME: MAYBE NOT THAT MUCH.
Listen to Dr. Linda Moore and Mike Manko discuss the types of arguments all couples have and resolution on the SteveAndMikeRadio.com podcast.