Counselling in Wokingham – How (not to) Argue

Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – paulcockayne3@gmail.com
This blog is intended to give you a flavour of how I work as a counsellor. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links above

There are a number of common traps that couples can fall into when they communicate, particularly if things start to get heated, if they cross the boundary between “discussion” and “argument”. Here are some guidelines that I often give to couples who struggle with communication:-
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Rules for Good Communication

  • We will choose the best time and place for serious conversations. We will agree on this and we will keep to our agreement. If necessary we will set a time limit to the conversation, and come back to it later.
  • We will stick to the real issues. We will not bring in “red herrings” as a way of avoiding topics that we find difficult to talk about.
  • We will own our feelings and not blame partner for how we are feeling
  • We will listen to each other and not blame ourselves for how partner is feeling
  • We will not interrupt each other and we will not monopolise the conversation ourselves.
  • We will not use physical violence. We will call a time out if (and only if) it is necessary to avoid this.
  • We will not walk out in the middle of the conversation (except by calling a time out), we will not sulk or “use” tears as a way of controlling what is going on.
  • We will not be verbally abusive (no name-calling, no personal attacks etc.)
  • We will not bring up grievances from the past
  • We will not manipulate each other by withdrawing love or sex
  • The aim is not to have a winner and a loser but to negotiate and compromise a jointly agreed solution
  • We will admit our mistakes, apologise for them and talk about what we will do differently next time. We will accept our partner’s apology and move on.

Words to Avoid

Never and Always
Don’t say : “You never take the dog for a walk”
Do say : “I feel that I do more of the dog walking than you and I’d appreciate it if you’d walk him more often”

Right and Wrong
Don’t say : “You’re wrong” or “I’m right”
Do say : “I have a different opinion about that” and then maybe explore what experiences have led to you holding those opinions.

True and False
Don’t say : “That’s not true” or “You’re lying”
Do say : “I remember that differently” or “That’s not how I interpreted that”

But
Don’t Say : “Yes, I know what you mean but…..” because this implies disagreement
Do Say : Yes, I know what you mean and…..” because this implies understanding
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Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, and you may be able to add more rules that you and your partner can agree to work to. There may also be some traps that you are not aware of, and coming to counselling can help to identify them because your counsellor is able to view things from the outside.

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About Paul Cockayne

Counsellor, musician, iPhone developer, games-player, cheese-lover....
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