Make demands and threats (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#303)

When things get heated up, it is tempting to make demands from, and threats to, the other person.

When the husband demands Leave my family out of this! The wife is more likely to focus on the threat to her autonomy from this demand and it is very likely to divert attention from the topic at hand.

Similarly, when we make threats, empty or real, (Or I’ve about had it!) it sends the other person into defense mode, their thinking brain shuts down and they are actually incapable of hearing the underlying message or need.

What could this couple do instead?

If they were mindful of their communication, their reactions and the words that they spoke, here is what the conservation might sound like.

He: [Wants to fire back but has learned that the impulse to do so is actually a kind of big, flashing warning in his mind to PAUSE AND BUY SOME TIME until he has calmed down] Hmmm. Let me think about that for a minute. [Discreetly takes a few big breaths. Thinks about whether he’s gone overboard. Remembers that people do say that their daughter is well-behaved for a two-year-old. Remembers the time he had her for most of a Saturday and how he had to loosen up on the rules.

Looks at his wife and feels compassion for her, hassled on one side by her daughter and on the other by him.] OK. Would this work: Picked-up living room, so-so rest of house, and we try your firmness level for a while?

She: [Still irritated. But softened by his tone and partial giving in. Considers whether she can actually keep the living room straight up to the time he gets home, and makes a coun­ter-proposal.] Well, I like where you’re going. But what if you’re late and she leaves out some new stuff, and you yell at me about it.
He: [Sees her basic point and doesn’t get distracted by the exaggeration about yelling. Nods]

Can you see how each of them have moments of choice to repair rather than escalate the conversation just by pausing for a moment?

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