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Melli O'Brien



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Three Steps to Stop Arguments

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness.

Today, I'm going to share a three

step method to stop arguments.

Now we probably all had the

experience of trying to express

how we feel to someone and that

leading to an unintended argument.

We've all been there.

Well, psychologist, author, and

relationship researcher, John

Gottman says that in those times, a

mistake that we often make is that

we start the conversation with what

he calls a harsh startup, which

comes out sounding like basically a

criticism towards the other person.

A harsh startup usually begins with the

word, you, as in, you never pull your

weight around here or you don't even care

what I want or you don't listen to me.

You didn't do the dishes.

So starting a conversation like

this, the other person is very likely

to get defensive and things can

pretty easily escalate into a fight.

In fact, Gottman's research found that

96% of the time, if the discussion

starts with harsh startup, the outcome

of the conversation will usually end

as it began, negative and hostile.

So how can we communicate

more clearly and effectively?

Well, Gottman recommends

using a gentle startup.

You can read more on the gentle startup

in his book, which I highly recommend.

But here today, I'm going to boil it

down to three simple steps that you can

remember and just give these basics a try.

So step one is start with, I feel.

In difficult conversations, start

with I statements instead of

you statements, that way you're

much less likely to be critical.

And if possible, you want to

name the actual emotion you're

feeling in the situation.

So I feel frustrated or I feel sad.

Step two, describe what happens

specifically that led to you feeling that

way, but without making any judgements.

So the first two steps might sound

like this, instead of saying you're so

lazy, you can say, I feel frustrated

because you said you would do the

dishes last night, but you didn't.

Instead of saying you're so bad with

money, you could say, I feel concerned

because the last three weeks you've

spent more than our agreed upon budget.


A big difference.

And then step three is

to ask for what you need.

So in this step, it's really important

to ask for what you do want from

the other person in positive terms

rather than what you don't want.

So after you say, I feel frustrated

because you said you would do the dishes

last night, but you didn't, then you

can add, I would really appreciate it.

If you could do them today.

When you say, I feel concerned because

the last three weeks you spent more

than our agreed upon budget, you can

then add, would you please stick to

our agreed upon budget from now on?

So step one, I feel.

Step two, describe what

happened without judgment.

Step three, ask for what

you need in positive terms.

Now, of course it goes without saying

that speaking in a polite and kind and

caring way goes a long way to diffusing

any potential arguments, because so

much of our communication is not in the

words, but in the way we speak them.

As Mother Teresa once said, "Kind

words can be short and easy,

but their echoes are endless."

So I encourage you to give the soft start

up a try the next time you find yourself

needing to have a tricky conversation.

As always, thank you for your

practice and your present presidency.

Let's settle in for today's meditation.

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