This article is written by relationship and dating expert John Aiken – who is often on our screens on Married at First Sight – and first appeared on 9Honey.
We can all get caught up in the heat of the moment and say things we shouldn’t to our partner. After all, we’re only human, and sometimes buttons can be hit during an argument that get us seeing red.
However, there are two words you must never use when bringing things up with your loved one: “always” and “never”.
These two words may seem harmless enough, but they can sabotage a good conversation, and have a tendency to make things go from bad to worse.
The reason for this is that the key to good listening is good talking. That means if you’re going to bring up a delicate topic, and you’re wanting to try and get some resolution, you have to think about how you talk.
Research has shown that the way you bring up a topic will determine how the conversation goes 96 per cent of the time (John Gottman). So if you want to talk about something without it escalating, then you need to do it gently rather than with a sledgehammer.
This is why I suggest you avoid using the words “always” and “never”. If you want to get something off your chest and start with “you always…” or “you never…”, then buckle up, because your partner’s not going to like it.
Rather than being open to your point of view, they will get on the defensive, dig their toes in and look to fight back. Instead of getting your issues out on the table, your partner will likely push back and everything will become a stalemate, and you’ll walk away feeling frustrated and shut down.
The key problem with these two little words is that they’re global in nature. Rather than targeting specific behaviour, they’re general and encompass everything. When you use them to your partner, they accuse them of doing something all the time, every time. And regardless of how calm and level-headed your partner might be, they don’t want to be told they “always” fail at something, or they can “never” do anything right.
So to all those couples out there thinking ‘my partner never listens to me!’, it’s time to take some responsibility and consider how you bring up issues. If you’re using a sledgehammer with phrases like “you always” or “you never”, then you’re not going to be heard.
Instead, go softer and replace them with two other words: “sometimes” and “often”.
For instance, “You sometimes can forget to make the bed” or “You often look at your phone at the table”. This slight change will make a huge difference. Once you commit to doing this, the words “always” and “never” will become a thing of the past, and your heated arguments will become calmer conversations that give you a chance to be heard.
Relationship and dating expert John Aiken can be seen on Nine’s hit show Married At First Sight, the Today show, Today Extra and A Current Affair. He is a best-selling author, regularly appears on radio and in magazines, and can be contacted for speaking engagements and exclusive intensive couples retreats.
The opinions expressed in this column are for general informational purposes only, are based on limited information and are not professional advice. You should always seek your own professional advice for your circumstances. Any actions taken are the sole responsibility of the reader, not the author, Capsule or 9Honey.
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