Dr. Anthony Chambers, Chief Academic Officer of The Family Institute and the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies Director at Northwestern University, discusses common mistakes couples make during arguments and how to avoid them. He emphasizes the need for teams to focus more on happiness than fairness, providing several strategies to communicate more effectively, such as being specific in criticisms, avoiding defensiveness, and focusing on problem-solving rather than blaming.
- Common argument topics among couples include money, sex, and parenting. Underlying these disputes is often a flawed concept of “fairness,” leading to resentment.
- It’s crucial to avoid personal criticism during arguments. Instead, criticism should be specific and focused on behaviors or incidents, using “I” statements to express feelings.
- Defensiveness can derail a conversation, turning it into a confrontation. Couples should instead assume some validity to their partner’s concerns and approach issues with curiosity rather than judgment.
- “Stonewalling” or shutting down emotionally during an argument is toxic and escalates the fight. Couples should strive to make each other feel heard and understood.
- Timing is essential when discussing contentious issues. Avoid bringing up significant problems at inappropriate times or under the influence of alcohol.
- Taking breaks during tough conversations can be beneficial, but it’s essential to return to the conversation later. Over-focusing on diagnosing the problem can lead to feelings of hopelessness. Hence focusing on solutions is equally critical.