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Soucheray: Need to argue? Consider this tack

Probably the most common reason couples identify for seeking therapy is a lack of thoughtful, considerate communication. They say they don't know how to talk to each other so that both partners feel they have been heard, or how to share their feelings so that no one gets upset. Generally they report that the discussion quickly turns into an argument, someone says something hurtful and then there is just more to be angry about.

Chris Witt, a communication specialist, has identified a simple method of discussing important, yet potentially delicate, concerns in a manner that is respectful of everyone involved. He says that the couple should begin by selecting a time and place to talk that will be relatively uninterrupted for the length of their discussion. One person should begin by making an "I" statement. And then this is the hard part. The person who is listening asks clarifying questions, with no accusations, blaming, defensiveness, yelling or name-calling. The one who began the conversation tells the questioner whether they have understood his or her concern, and if they have not, states it again calmly.

The one asking clarifying questions asks three to four questions before making any comments about the situation, because by the time they have asked questions to really understand the other's concerns, there is generally no fight, anger or reason for upset because the one asking clarifying questions usually understands the situation in a much better way.

Now I know this may sound like a perfect world, as if it is impossible in someone's living room, with real people present, to discuss troubling issues this calmly. But I have to tell you, this process is amazing. The person listening, if they listen without defending themselves, has much more compassion for the one speaking so that there is little need for a larger discussion or argument. The couple understands each other and they have more empathy for each other. A discussion like this is beautiful to witness and refreshing to experience, as it is a way for couples to understand each other, as well as providing a pathway to intimacy, which therapists usually state as the ultimate goal of therapy.

So what do you say? Would you be willing to try this process of discussing an important issue with your spouse? If so, try the steps listed above. And if the process breaks down, take a breath and walk away, but agree to come back and discuss the issue at a later time. If you try it and have a difficult time, seek out a therapist or your pastor and ask them to allow you to engage in your conversation with them present.

Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist