Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Things to Say and Not Say During a Fight

Everyone loves the overgeneralization in fights. Don’t go there. I’m not just talking about the “you *always* leave your shit lying around” or “you *never* initiate sex any more” (or “*everyone* loves overgeneralizing”). Always and never statements are obvious no-nos. The more invasive and sneaky overgeneralizations involve using one instance of a bad behavior to ascribe a personality trait to her or using an instance of a bad behavior to make statements about her intentions. For example, if she leaves dirty dishes in your sink and you want to address this with her, it’s best not to say “You are such a complete slob [attack on a pervasive personality trait].” Address the single instance before you: e.g., “I just cleaned my kitchen and it would be really helpful to me if you put your dishes in the dishwasher.” No need to get pissy and attack her personality. Maybe she intended to clean them up at the end of the night. Besides, dirty dishes aren’t that big a deal. Maybe the reason it bothers you so much is because you are making an assumption about her intentions. “It is so inconsiderate of you to leave your dirty dishes in my sink. I think you don’t really care about me [an attack on her intentions].” You aren’t a mind reader. You do not know what her intentions were or what the real meaning of leaving dirty dishes in the sink is to her. To you it comes off as inconsiderate. In her family it symbolizes a level comfort with the other person that you no longer have to behave like a “guest” in his house. Or maybe the value in her house is to spend time with people, not spend time cleaning things...

Don’t get defensive. If she is the one accusing you of being inconsiderate and leaving the dirty dishes in her sink, apologize. She’s right. You shouldn’t leave dirty dishes in her sink. It annoys her. Only after you’ve apologized for your inconsiderate behavior should you explain your side.

Next up: More Things to Say and Not Say During a Fight

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