BY NIA PERSON
We are groomed to strive to be right. if we are not, we can at least strive to poke holes in the other person’s argument so that they can’t be right.
Having a conversation from that space reinforces the misconception that there is only a limited amount of “right” in the world and if you don’t get that “right,” then it goes to your partner (who you have now decided is more of a scrimmage mate). If your partner gets all of that “right,” then the world supply gets depleted by the amount of the “right,” so you better bring the big guns next time before all of the “right” disappears off the face of the earth.
All of this “rightness” can make you feel victorious shortly after the argument, but the “right” paradigm is ultimately damaging to the relationship. What you need to do is identify the types of bypasses, see when they come up in you, then take a moment to apologize and try out a different approach.
Here are some of those things to look out for in your we-need-to-talk conversations (this is just a limited list of the possible bypasses):
Going over what you are going to say next instead of listening. This can happen at the top of the conversation where a person can just completely shut down. Rehearsing can also happen in the middle of a sentence where you may just latch on to one word and start constructing an argument around it completely missing the second part of that sentence.
Letting your anger tip you into hopelessness, whereupon you try to grasp at straws to knock your partner off their balance. It can happen with name calling or with simply bringing up old triggers that have nothing to do with the conversation at hand. “This is why you are just like your father” or “This is just one example of how stupid and oblivious you can be.”
Does this one even need an explanation? This is where you know you are right because your experience says so and there is no room for discussion. This is where people may just plant themselves firmly and not let themselves be moved or shifter even an inch.
That is the beginning of a spiral which can lead to a three or four-hour conversation in which nothing gets resolved. Instead of staying on topic, you may find yourself veering off by bringing up past faults which are completely unrelated to the subject at hand. Usually seen with a hint of blame (just to knock them off their center to try and snatch back the “right”).
When you find yourself in any of those spaces take a moment to stop, breathe, identify, apologize, and try again. It may feel vulnerable and scary, but the pay off is fantastic.
Nia Person has been interested in how people fit together since the first time she realized that the word “sex” can mean a plethora of different things to different people. TMI? There’s no such thing her ears perk up whenever there is a relationship or life mystery to be solved. Nia is SFSI certified sex geek and is shooting Cupid’s arrows as a matchmaker at Tawkify. Nia is currently living in the loveliest of menageries in Oakland, California. Send questions to AskMissNia@gmail.com.