You can come back with neutral statements like "You seem to be upset about this. Why do you think that is?" or "So you're saying you'd like to feel free to disregard my requests if you don't agree with them. Is that correct?" Stay focused on the other person and their feelings - not your own - advises Pavlina. But don't take ownership of anything they say.
Here's an example that may sound familiar. Your significant other comes home in a bad mood. He's had a fight with his dad on the phone. Normally in instances like this, he won't open up and talk to you. He slams things around. You get upset. He gets upset that you're upset. And the evening deteriorates from there.
If you can hang in there with compassion and verbalize his words and actions back to him in a neutral state, it may allow him to open up, get the thing about his dad off his chest and move on with the night. It's a tricky process, though.
The key is to remain calm inside (which is often hard to do when you feel like frustrations are being taken out on you). In this way, you're sending vibes of concern and compassion, rather than upsetting vibes.
One of my husband's favorite movies is "Gandhi." No matter how many times we've seen certain scenes of this movie, I'm always amazed at the discipline that's displayed - and the global impact it fostered.
No doubt about it, this method takes a lot of practice and patience. Eventually, though, it can become second nature, according to several psychological and communication models. So, the investment of time may be well worth it. And we all know how many times we run up against situations we could use for "target practice!"
This is not to say that we roll over and not stand up for our principles or positions. Healthy debates can be positive with both sides learning something. It's just that when the situation becomes too heated, or the behavior shows up as a pattern over and over, that techniques such as this can be helpful.
Generally, discussions are calm back-and-forth conversations, while arguments are emotionally charged matches that are more about winning and losing than coming to consensus. Discussions are useful; arguments are often not, because they don't involve respecting the other side's opinions - or they end up with one side giving in or admitting fault.
A more productive goal is to defuse an argument so that a discussion can take place at a later time. The calm discussion is the time to consider the other person's views, not when they are red in the face and shouting at you.
Just remember those four words: "You may be right."
Linda Arnold, M.B.A., is a certified wellness instructor and founder/chairwoman of The Arnold Agency, an integrated marketing communications firm. Reader comments or questions may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or e-mailed to livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com">livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com