A quick way to go from disagreement, to fight, to actual problem, is by going completely silent.
Silence can pack a powerful message. That silence can be read by your partner as disinterest in solving the problem. It can be read by your partner as blaming behavior. It can be read as you don’t want to talk about it so you don’t want to fix it. When you don’t say anything, you give room for them to fill in the blanks with panic.
Silence can be a defense mechanism for some. If you feel cornered or pushed into answering a question, silence may feel like the best place to go. It prevents you from saying something you don’t mean. It gives you time to think. And, you infer from this, it may prevent the argument from getting worse if you don’t participate in it at all.
For others, the silence can feel like a backing out movement. It can feel like you are choosing not to engage in the relationship by removing yourself from a critical point of discussion.
If you feel that your default conflict mode is silence, or if your partners default conflict mode is silence, try using a pause instead.
I understand that we have a problem right now and I want to talk to you about the problem. I feel like if I say anything right now it will not be constructive to moving us forward. I’m going to need a little bit of time to think about this so we can talk it through together.
I understand that you’re uncomfortable talking about this right now, but this is an important conversation for us to have together. It is important to me to feel like we are both in this as a team. Could you take some time to think about this so we can talk about it later and get on the same page?
There is a desire to press until your partner breaks and says something. This can often lead to unwanted consequences. Like your partner saying something out of pressure or anger that they don’t mean. It can also provoke your partner to shut down further. Silence is not productive because it doesn’t move us forward. A break in discussion can allow us time to gather our thoughts and learn to work together.
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