One of the most common causes of relationship problems is presuming to really understand your partner, when it's clear to him or her that you couldn't be more off target. Over time, such presumption -- which goes in both directions -- can kill off any relationship.
Presuming is something you do at your partner from your inside out. Exploring sincere curiosity, on the other hand, is something you do with your partner from their inside out.
The next time you and your partner are stuck in a heated argument that's not going anywhere, try this surefire three-step strategy:
1. Realize when you're being on the offensive or defensive, and stop talking.
2. Admit to yourself that you and your partner are having problem.
3. Ask yourself, "What's it like for my partner right now?"
You will discover an amazing fact about human nature: You can't be sincerely curious about how and what another person is feeling and be angry with him or her at the same moment.
For instance, if you were to say to your partner during a tense time, "I didn't like where this conversation was going, and then I stopped and wondered what it was like for you. I realized that you don't like where it's going either, do you?"
If your partner agrees that he or she doesn't like what's happening, make the following offer: "If you don't like where it's going and I don't either, why don't we stop, start over, and have both of us try to talk without becoming hostile or defensive?" Unless your partner enjoys arguments, there's a good chance he or she will take you up on your invitation.
If your partner doesn't agree, he or she may want to hold onto the anger, rather than make things better. If you're the one who doesn't want to do this, then you're the one who'd rather be right than improve your relationship.(c) 2007 Mark Goulston, http://markgoulston.comMark Goulston, M.D., is a well-known psychiatrist, speaker, business trainer and coach as well as author of "Get Out of Your Own Way at Work." He writes a regular column, "Getting through to Anybody," for divorce360. He can be reached at email@example.com.