Note: Starting this week, there will be two new posts per week, posted on Tuesday and Fridays, instead of three per week posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Monday and Wednesday posts (strategy introduction and resources) tended to overlap, so I’ve decided to combine them.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure or two, and one of mine is reality TV. Recently I’ve started watching a show called “Married at First Sight” where two strangers are matched by a team of experts, and their first interaction with each other is when they get married. They live together for a period of time, then decide whether they want to remain married. Interestingly enough, it seems to work sometimes for people who are really guarded and usually bail on relationships too quickly.
Anyway, on a recent episode, one of the couples was on their honeymoon. They were discussing the wife’s piercings, and the husband said, “Usually a lip piercing looks trashy, but it looks nice on you.” Unfortunately, all the wife heard was “trashy,” and they were off on their first real fight. This kind of fight is what I call a blurt fight – a completely unnecessary fight caused by speaking without thinking first.
If you dig back into your mental collection of fights you’ve had with your partner, I’m guessing you’ll find at least one of these blurt fights. This is probably one of the easiest types of fights to avoid, but also probably one of the most common. I suspect the reason they are so common is that they are unintentional. It’s easier to recognize an unhelpful comment when you are in a bad mood or your partner has just said something rude and you are tempted to respond that it is when you are just going about your business. The negativity warns you to be careful what you say.
How can you avoid blurt fights, then? The trick is to recognize unhelpful comments on a consistent basis, not just when there is already negativity to warn you to watch your words. Carlson suggests this strategy:
If you have even the slightest doubt about whether or not your upcoming response is appropriate, ask yourself the following two-part question: ‘Is my comment going to add to this conversation – is it going to bring us closer, or is it likely to drive us apart?
There is a fine line here. You do not want to go through your relationship walking on eggshells, constantly worrying that you may accidentally offend your partner. On the other hand, the more often you can avoid unnecessary fights, the more time you can spend enjoying your partner and having peace in your relationship.
If you’d like more strategies for thinking before you speak, here are a couple of resources that may help:
1. A guide to assessing your situation and conversational partners before speaking: http://www.wikihow.com/Think-Before-Speaking
2. 6 questions to ask yourself when in doubt about something you’re going to say: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/6-reasons-why-you-should-think-before-you-speak.html
3. 2 strategies for determining whether to give someone feedback, and how to give it if it is necessary: http://www.derilatimer.com/t-h-i-n-k-before-you-speak/