Conflict, fights, arguments, disagreements – these are all words that make us want to go hide. As I sit with couples on a daily basis, I listen to the creative ways that each party escapes in order to avoid all of those above words. While there may be something that is bothering them, they will avoid discussing it for fear that it will lead to an “argument.” When he or she comes home in the evening, their ultimate goal is not to spend time together or emotionally connect but to just “avoid a fight.” It almost at times feels like when we were teenagers and our goal was just to stay out of trouble. While it is nice to have a quiet evening and not experience conflict – that position by itself is a long ways from intimacy and connection.
In a study conducted by the University of California, researchers examined how couples fought. They made an interesting discovery regarding those couples who fought, but did so productively without being adversarial, and who actually increased their connectedness. What was the secret? It is so simple that we might be tempted to just dismiss it as semantics. But I would remind you that the difference it made for these couples was powerful.
Here you go – they simply changed the pronouns that they used. Instead of using words like “I,” “me,” or “mine,” they used the plurals “we,” “us,” and “ours.” Really? Really! Why would that small change in words have such an impact? Because instead of creating a feeling of “me against you,” it indicated that we are in this together, working to jointly find a solution. It communicates that we are on the same team.
Recall when you first entered the relationship with your significant other – you were looking for someone to be “on your team.” Team mates will absolutely encounter differences – but they are still on the same side. As you work through disagreements this week – begin to make this small change in your language and see how it can change the atmosphere in your relationship.