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Insult and launch a character attack (how to start and continue a fight) (DW# 302)

One of the most effective ways to start and keep a fight going is to insult the other person and launch a character attack.

For example, the wife in the example said Such a jerk to her husband when they started arguing about the mess.

Long after an argument is over, such insults linger in the mind and keep burning like a mixture of emotional glue and gasoline. So damaging are such insults, that frequent use of such language qualifies as emotional abuse, a grinding assault on the other person’s sense of worth.

The husband in the example reacted to this with his own character attack on his wife when he said: You can’t talk without getting hysterical.

The use of the word hysterical to describe her behaviour was an attack on her character rather than a comment on her behaviour.
She can do little to change his opinion of what constitutes hysteria.

If he had said, on the other hand, Please lower your voice. It is hard for me to hear what you are saying when you raise your...

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Minimize or mock a complaint (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#301)

One of the worst things we can do when someone makes a complaint in a relationship is to minimize it, or even worse, to mock the complaint by our words or actions.

When the wife in the scenario that we are discussing complained that the husband does not help with cleaning up the mess, he minimized and mocked her complaint by picking up one tiny thing and then saying: There,I helped. Now are you happy?

This is an example of Reductio ad absurdem "Reducing to absurdity" which deflates others by making their wish, complaint, or idea sound silly or foolish.

We can also minimize a complaint by saying something like: Why are you making such a big deal about something so little?

Not only is this kind of response to a complaint minimizing and hurtful, it devalues our partner and what is important to them.

Not a great way to build a relationship.

If you wanted to repair the interaction on the other hand, try understanding the meaning and feeling behind the complaint instead.

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Counterattack instead of responding to a complaint (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#300)

When the husband complained about the mess, the wife instead of responding to the complained, counter-attacked by saying: I don’t see you lifting a finger to help".

She also said: Your mother spoiled you rotten, but I don’t have to take your [nonsense]

A statement such as this does two things: firstly, it escalates the conflict.

Secondly, it diverts the conversation and introduces a new area for potential conflict.

As we can imagine (and may have experienced), when we try to "kitchen-sink" an argument by complaining and cross-complaining about other issues, we cannot get a resolution on any of the issues.

Also, by introducing many areas of conflict into a single argument, we start feeling discouraged about the state of the relationship in general. The problems start appearing larger than our resources to handle it.

Given such an exchange, how could the couple have handled it differently?

1. He could have taken responsibility

He: [Knows the subject is charged, so he takes...

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Blame the other for how you feel (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#299)

It is sooo tempting to blame the other person for how frustrated or upset we are feeling. After all, we are feeling awful and it must be someone’s fault, right?

The husband in the example blamed this wife for driving him crazy:
You’re so messy it drives me crazy.

This is a very common pattern in couple interactions. We link our feelings directly to someone else’s actions. And then we let them know. In not-so-kind language. Usually by attacking.

Here’s the thing: when we attack someone, they are biologically hardwired to defend themselves or to exit the conversation. (Ever heard of the fight or flee response?)

Without a significant level of self-awareness and self-development training, it is extremely challenging to bear the brunt of an attack without defending or counter-attacking.

Blaming also assumes that the listener is the cause of the speaker’s actions or experience, and that is simply not accurate.

The issues that trigger us generally belong to...

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Exaggerate the negative (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#298)

The second issue with the conversation between the couple is that of "Over-statement" (There you go, always criticizing when you first get home.)

When we say things like "always" or "never", the other person’s brain is gets too busy finding exceptions to "always" or "never" to hear our concerns, even if they are legitimate.

Moreover, nothing (almost nothing!!) ever happens ALL THE TIME or NONE OF THE TIME. We can safely say that this husband has come home on many occasions and not criticized when he first got home. And when he hears this statement from his wife, his brain is scrambling to remember all those occasions.

What could the wife have done instead?
She could speak with accuracy and restraint in response to his complaint about the mess.

This is what it would sound like:

She: [Warily, but with a touch of humor] You’re doing pretty well, this is the first time you’ve complained about that this week.

If we take our time to pause before speaking and avoid...

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Lead with the negative (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#297)

The first issue with the exchange is leading with the negative. The husband made his entrance and said "What a mess"!

Dr. John Gottman, the renowned relationship expert, believes that if the start-up of a conversation is harsh, the conversation will go downhill from there and will generally not end well. If the first statement is negative, the other person will feel attacked and go into defence mode.

What could the husband have done instead?
He could have started by connecting first.

Here is what it would look like:

He: [Walks through the front door. Sees the mess, feels like grumbling, but thinks better of it. Takes a big breath. Kisses wife on the cheek, picks up his daughter and jiggles her in his arms while she giggles and makes him laugh. Smiles at wife.] How’d it go? [They chat for a few minutes. He says something nice about what she did that day. There’s a pause, and he takes the plunge.] I don’t want to hassle you, but could we talk about the clutter?

...

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The foolproof way to have a fight (DW#296)

Whether a relationship is strong, fulfilling and healthy (or not) depends to a significant amount, on the quality of the daily interactions between the people who form the relationship.

What happens during these interactions and communication exchanges on a day to day basis determines the emotional climate of the relationship over time which in turn determines whether or not the people in the relationship feel connected and happy.

Having positive interactions and good communication does not mean that the relationship is free of conflict. Relationship experts agree that to have a relationship free of (apparent) conflict is neither desirable nor healthy. In fact, many would argue that the presence of conflict is an opportunity to grow as an individual and for the relationship to become more intimate as well.

The conflict, does of course, need to be handled skillfully in order for this to happen.

Let’s take a common example from family life to understand this better. The...

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The truth about lying (DW#295)

As we wrap up our discussion on telling the truth about lying, let’s look at some interesting facts and studies from experts about truth and lying

· Research by Kim Serota, a marketing professor at Oakland University suggests that at least in North America, the average person tells one to two lies a day. (People tell more lies in January than any other month. The average person tells 217 lies in January (about seven per day). His research also suggests that "prolific liars" tell a lot more lies than that – according to his study, 5% of people tell approximately half of all lies!

· Most lies are told to get ahead in the workplace, to avoid being criticised or rejected or to hide something from family members. The most benign reason that people lie is to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

· Our culture condones dishonesty and because of this, our own truthfulness declines . "There’s something antisocial about being too honest," says David...

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5 problems with telling “little white lies" (DW#294)

We’ve been talking about speaking the truth and the kinds of lies that are far from the truth and the whole truth.

But what about "white lies", the harmless or trivial lies that we sometimes tell, especially to avoid hurting someone's feelings?

Well, according to Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of the book, Lying, honesty is always the best policy.

"The people who undo their lives, and destroy relationships and careers, always accomplish this through lying," he says. "The decision to not lie is the best prophylactic i’ve ever come across for not bringing needless misery into your life."

Harris firmly believes we should stay away from all lies, including the "white" ones. "They tend to be the only lies that good people tell, while imagining that they are being good in the process," he says.

Here are some reasons that those white lies can damage relationships:

1. We undermine people’s trust.

When people overhear us lying to someone else, it tells them that...

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A third kind of lie {DW#293)

When people are asked to speak the truth under oath, it goes like this:

Do you swear to tell the truth (that is no lies of commission, saying exactly what happened)?

The whole truth (that is no lies of omission, leaving no major fact unspoken)?

And then there is a third statement "And nothing but the truth?", which may be less easy to understand.

Psychologists explain that this sentence is used to counteract what is called a character lie or a lie of influence.

In other words, sometimes people say something completely unrelated to the truth to cover up a lie. These lies are meant to make you believe the person who is lying or to make the person seem like such a great person that they are unlikely to be suspected of lying.

For example, suppose a person at your workplace is suspected of taking money from the cash registers. And it is your (most unpleasant) job to find out who it is. You interview one of the clerks and ask him if he took the money. He does not answer your question and...

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