Helpful Phrases for Political Arguments in Your Relationship 10 definitive ways to halt the political divide in your marriage and the words that get it done. BY THOMAS HALLER & CHICK MOORMAN
Illustration by Gabriel Lefrancois
By using the proper language during an argument, you put your relationship above all else.
Are you finding yourself in a disagreement with your partner when it comes to casting a vote in this yearís election? Have you considered not showing up at the polls, thinking your partner will be negating your vote? Are you spending too much time arguing without any positive results? Has a political disagreement resulted in someone sleeping on the couch?
Donít let this come between you. Here are 10 ways to effectively manage the political disagreements in your relationship.
1. Take emotion out of the conversation. When you notice your partner getting hot under the collar, suggest, "Say some more." This "Couple Talk" phrase will demonstrate your interest and encourage your partner to keep talking. Knowing that you care enough to listen and being able to talk further about the issue will bring down their emotionality. Assuming the listening stance moves the discussion from an argument back to a conversation. Another sentence that lowers the emotionality is, "Help me understand why you feel that way." Again, this signals to your partner that even though you may not agree, you desire to understand. This demonstrates respect and caring while retaining your right to disagree.
2. Donít expect to reach consensus. Some issues that exist in every relationship are difficult to agree upon. It could be how often you have sex, what consequences you provide for misbehaving children or how much money to allocate from your budget for fun and entertainment. This fall, the issue that divides you and your partner, could well be politics. Reaching a consensus in politics is unlikely. This would require one person to cave in and go against their basic beliefs. No one likes, nor should anyone be required, to sacrifice his or her core beliefs simply for the sake of agreement.
3. Agree to disagree. Agreement on the best person to lead our country may be impossible, but agreeing on disagreeing is possible. Asking your partner, "Can we agree to disagree on this?" offers a way out of the agreement/disagreement dilemma. It suggests an alternative way to reach a consensus, one that allows both parties to maintain their political points of view. Agreeing to disagree helps you transcend the conflict. It places your relationship above the issue, putting more importance on acknowledging and accepting each otherís beliefs than on making one party right and the other wrong.
4. Find common ground. What can you agree on? You can agree that you donít see the issues the same way. You can agree that neither of you is likely to switch sides. You can agree that the issues will probably remain unresolved. You can agree that you both love each other even if one of you prefers John McCain and the other prefers Barack Obama. You can agree that we live in the greatest nation on earth. You can agree that political dissent is essential for appropriate checks and balances. You can agree on the importance of respecting differences and honoring anotherís point of view, even if you donít agree with it.
5. If you hear a putdown or sarcasm, say, "Ouch! That sounds like a putdown." Your partner may be unaware that those words mock, belittle or tease. "Ouch! That sounds like a putdown," will help your partner stay conscious of the effects of their words. In addition, they will realize that there was a sting associated with them and that it was experienced as hurtful.
6. Own your feelings. If you feel frustrated, angry or sad, communicate those feelings to your partner cleanly. Take responsibility for your feelings by using "I" statements. Say, "I feel angry," rather than, "You make me angry." Tell your partner, "I am experiencing frustration right now," instead of, "You are frustrating the heck out of me." When you own your feelings and express them without an accusatory tone, you invite your partner to enter a dialogue that makes empathy and understanding possible.
7. Remember you're talking to someone you love. If your partnerís tone and language takes on the flavor of a personal attack, say, "Please talk to me like Iím someone you love." This sentence will serve as a reminder to you and your partner that one important goal of your conversation is to stay connected as you move through the communication process. This style of discussion is a reminder that the love you have for one another needs to be honored, even when you disagree or argue. You could begin the political discussion with, "This has the potential to be a heated discussion. Letís keep in mind that we are each talking to someone we love."
8. It's okay to pause the conversation. If the conflict continues to escalate and seems careening out of control, take a time out. Say, "I think we need a time out right now. How about we each go for a ten minute walk and then resume this conversation?" Activate this strategy if frustration is threatening to obliterate listening, if you believe the conversation is heading for dangerous territory, or if you think you might say something you would later regret.
9. You may not get closure. Not all conflict end with closure on the issue at hand, nor does it need to. It isnít necessary to keep arguing until a tidy package of consensus is painfully forged. What is important is that you achieve emotional closure. Agreeing to disagree, remembering that you are talking to someone you love and taking appropriate timeouts will help you reach common ground on the process so you can reconnect emotionally.
10. Debrief later. "Letís talk about how we talked about it," is a useful way to begin your debriefing discussion. During this verbal exchange you will celebrate your communication successes, talk about what could be improved for next time, examine possible growth areas, and tell what you liked about the way you treated each other during the argument. Debriefing an argument helps both parties stay conscious of the process that was experienced so that it can be continually strengthened, along with the relationship.
Lack of agreement in a political discussion does not mean that your relationship is doomed. It does not mean that you have poor solution-seeking skills. It does not mean that you need to sign up for six weeks of conflict resolution classes nor that counseling is necessary. It only means that you do not agree.
It is possible to love and respect your partner regardless of your political differences. It is possible to maintain personal closeness in spite of political distance. Use the strategies above. Hold on to your core beliefs. Stay connected to your partner and join them at the polls.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the authors of "Couple Talk: How to Talk Your Way to a Great Relationship." For more information on this collection of important verbal skills for couples or for signing up for their free parenting newsletters, visit www.personalpowerpress.com.