Relationships Psychology: Quick tip for diffusing arguments, enhancing closeness, personal growth, and achieving mutual respect and admiration, even in a troubled relationship.

By Dr Alice Boyes |

This quick and easy tip is applicable to struggling couples who need help to overcome problem patterns of interacting with each other AND to partnerships that are already in generally good shape for further enhancing happiness.

THE CHALLENGE:

Once a day for a week (it might be more realistic to aim for once a day for 5 out of the next 7 days), say to your partner

“That’s a good point” or “That’s a good idea”

in response to something your partner says.

You will need to play psychological detective – keep your ear out for things your partner says or does so that you can whip out one of the phrases above.

The idea is not to lie – you need to find something your partner says or does, however small, that you genuinely think is a valid good point or good idea.

I include “does” as well as “says” because it might be that you compliment your partner on “their way” of doing a task that is different from your way of doing it.

The tactic of saying “that’s a good point” is especially useful for helping diffuse arguments that have become venomous but you can use it anytime (i.e. not just during arguments). As a side note: whenever you are having an argument with your partner you should look for opportunities to say “that’s a good point”.

The goal: to observe what happens when you use one of the phrases above. Observe how using these phrases affects how you think/feel about yourself and your relationship, and how your partner seems to respond to being validated in this way.

THE RATIONALE:

Part of the point of being in a relationship is that relationships help the individuals in relationship to “grow”.

If you think about this, to experience personal growth from being with another person means that you must let your partner influence you.

For you to experience individual growth as a result of being in a relationship, you must incorporate some of your partner’s ways of seeing the world and interacting with the world into your repertoire of thoughts and behaviours.

The state-of-the-art couples therapies have generally moved away from notions of co-dependency in couples as being negative, towards the idea that healthy types of mutual dependency are fundamental to trusting, nurturing couple relationships.

“Letting your partner influence you” is one of the key strategies in this excellent self help book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

(phenomenal information but the examples are a bit corny).

Something else that is important to notice about this quick tip is that it is a “Self change” tactic and not a “Partner change” tactic i.e. You are attempting to change your own behaviour to enhance the relationship, rather than directly trying to change your partner’s behaviour. You are changing your own behaviour in order to change your own thoughts and feelings and because changing your own behaviour in particular ways will often change the way your partner responds to you.

Self change causes partner change because you and your partner are a system in which the parts of the system (you and them) influence each other.

How successful relationship change happens

In most cases successful relationship change is accomplished by self change rather than directly attempting to change your partner.

Research studies have shown that when people try to directly change their partner, it tends to be unsuccessful and even when you are successful in getting them to change it does not generally improve relationship outcomes.

Also, people who come to couples therapy often say that they think their partner does not respect them. Feeling respected is important and this tactic done correctly will help enhance feelings of mutual respect.

Finishing up

So, I dare you to take the challenge above and see if this very simple, non time consuming tactic helps you to respect your partner more and feel closer to your partner.

Small changes can make big differences in relationships and happiness so this is worth experimenting with.

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About The Author

is the author of an upcoming book about anxiety for PenguinRandomHouse. She writes for Psychology Today, GOOD magazine, and is the Emotions Expert for Women's Health Australia. She lives in NYC and is originally from New Zealand.

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