A Twitter friend recently shared a blog post with me that he thought I would enjoy. He was right. Michael Hyatt is the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing, a social media guru and leadership evangelist. He revealed on his blog that he had a fight with his wife, Gail, admitted that he was in the wrong, and then shared what he learned from the disagreement.
Here are his 5 bites of insight.
- Clarify our expectations up front. Most conflicts are born out of a misalignment of expectations. In this particular argument, I had a set of unexpressed expectations that Gail failed to meet. If we had discussed them before the day began, we would have likely avoided the problem altogether. But, she didn’t know, because I hadn’t bothered to articulate them.
- Assume the best about each other. This is especially difficult in the heat of the moment. It is easy to impute motives. But, realistically, your spouse does not get up in the morning intending to make your life miserable. You have to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he or she is well-intentioned.
- Affirm the priority of the relationship. The most important asset you have as a couple is the health of your relationship. You don’t want to win the battle but lose the war. Near the end of our argument, I finally came to my senses. I said, “Honestly, I don’t know who is right or who is wrong. What I know for sure is that I love you and that trumps everything.” She quickly agreed.
- De-personalize the problem. When you square off against one another and make it personal, it gets ugly. If you are not careful, you end up cornering your spouse and leaving them no other option than to react or retaliate. Instead, you have to move to their side of the table, and work on the problem together.
- Listen more than you talk. When you get angry, it is easy to rant—to give expression to your emotion. This is almost never a good idea. Instead, if you want to be understood, you must seek to understand. (Thank you, Dr. Covey.) This means trying to see the other person’s point-of-view. Ask a question, and then ask a follow-up question.
I agree with him, almost 100%. I can say that a lot of what he is encouraging has been touted by marriage enthusiasts for years and are key lessons in pre-marital counseling and marriage conferences. Casey and I have found them to be foundational principles that help us function well in our marriage on a daily basis.
So why almost 100%? In tip#2 it almost seems like acknowledging your on each others’ team and that your love for each other supersedes any disagreement will be an adequate resolution to any argument. Although this is an important perspective to have, especially when disagreeing, if the core issue isn’t resolved, it will rear it’s ugly head again, despite the love-trump card.
In #5 he states that giving expression to your emotions is almost never a good idea. I don’t agree with this statement at all. Feelings and emotions are important. They need to be acknowledged and expressed. Fear of emotional expression has caused great pain in our marriage and left many issues unresolved and allowed resentment to build. I think the key here is really paying attention to the root emotion and expressing it. We have found that when we are honest about what we are feeling – fear, sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, hurt – it makes it easier to draw closer to one another and feel empathy.
What are your thoughts on his 5 tips? Would you add any to the list?