Ownership + Compassion + Creativity = End of Argument
Winning For One Isn’t Winning At All
I was SURE I was right, yet I knew better than to think being right or winning the argument was going to be helpful in any way. Winning for one isn’t winning at all, especially in romantic relationships. I could take the righteous approach and be victimized by his “wrongness”. But where would that leave US?
If there is one thing I have learned after 15 years with my husband, (and almost a decade of working with couples), is that being RIGHT is a recipe for disaster. It certainly builds distance between us. A much healthier approach to take is it’s either win-win or it’s no deal.
It’s just relationship math.
If I blame, shame or complain, my beloved is automatically set up to defend, resist or lash out. A coaching client described this reaction phenomenon as his “aperture closing”. Just like a camera aperture closes, so do we as humans. And when we close up, shut down or withdraw, well, it’s just a lot more difficult for any light to penetrate and to create art.
Hard Yet So Much Healthier
In the moment of an argument, it can be difficult to let go of being right and instead lean IN to being close. It IS hard. It takes a declaration, commitment and ultimately an intentional Couple Culture. Yet it is soooo worth it. The alternative is to lean in to being right, (which makes them wrong), dismissing their experience and closing off connection or possibility.
One approach is very human, yet very ineffective and the other approach is quite healthy and gets MUCH better results.
First Restore Connection, Then Resolve the Conflict
Resolving a conflict from inside the dynamic of conflict is human, yet terribly messy, ineffective and often causes hurts that can leave a nasty and lasting mark in the hearts of one or both of you.
One of my mantras I repeat to myself when conflict emerges is...
As allies we can get through anything. As adversaries, even the best outcomes will be arduous.
Don’t Land on Your Ass - Use Your Tools
When I’m faced with a conflict with my beloved, I NEED tools. I’ve learned that if I allow myself to indulge in a default, blaming, defending, unconscious or righteous approach, things are likely to go downhill fast. Things escalate or devolve, however you want to look at it, it doesn’t go well. Or sometimes the upset goes internal and one of us bites our tongue. Over time, that’s seriously problematic as well.
Think of a conflict with your beloved like an icy, slippery walkway. If you go running through there without any care taken, you’re likely to slip and land on your ass, HARD.
Grab onto the relationship handle rails for support. Use your tools.
A Game Changing Go-To Practice
My husband and I, along with my coaching clients, have been using this one for a number of months now and it has become an absolute go-to favorite relationship tool. One of the best parts about this practice is that you can use it in most any circumstance and not just in romantic relationship. It can be used well before an argument starts, as an argument is brewing, in the middle of it to pull out of it or after the storm has passed to reconcile.
This tool, or as my husband and I like to call them, this Game, is a GAME CHANGER.
You Down with O.C.C.?
We call it the O.C.C. Game. Ownership. Compassion. Creativity. To make the tool/game more memorable (and more fun), we layered it onto the Naughty By Nature song, O.P.P.. Then when we’re in conflict, one of us will call out (to the tune of the chorus of the song), “You down with O.C.C.?” and the other will reply “Yeah you know me!” as a playful invitation and agreement to use the tool to navigate our way OUT of the conflict we found ourselves in and BACK to each other and our commitment to live into who we say we are as a victory over our moods, hurts or circumstances.
When you blame, BOOM, your beloved is going to defend. Taking ownership is the opposite of blame. Ownership can be one of the fastest ways to call a truce and to realign as partners, on the same team, who want the same thing.
In ANY circumstance there is something you can own...
- I can own that I haven’t eaten in 8 hours and I’m hungry right now.
- I can own that I may have misinterpreted what you intended to say.
- I can own that I didn’t sleep well last night.
- I can own that I’m stressed right now and that it seeped out on us.
- I can own that I don’t know what to do and I’m acting out of frustration.
- I can own that I am afraid, sad, etc.
It matters less what you take ownership for, but that you own SOME element of how you are impacting the circumstances.
Now get into their world. Not because they’re right. Not because you should. Get into their world because you created a Couple Culture, built on caring about each other’s happiness. Because you ACTUALLY care.
What your beloved is experiencing is important, just because it is their experience. You don’t have to agree with their experience and perspective to be compassionate. Remember this is the beloved you chose. You chose them for a reason. There is genius in your match. Embrace that whatever your beloved is experiencing has wisdom and value in it.
Examples of compassion…
- I can see how important this issue is to you.
- I imagine it’s been hard that you haven’t had much time to yourself lately.
- I appreciate how your childhood might be influencing your experience now.
- I can see how there is some urgency for you to have this handled.
- Your perspective, feelings and needs are important and I do care about them.
- I can see how hard you’ve been working lately and how little sleep you’ve had.
This is your beloved after all. Build trust and goodwill, even in the face of conflict. ESPECIALLY in the face of conflict.
It may not always be obvious how to get into your creative side when you’re trying to navigate your way out of a conflict with your beloved, but it is a magical tool for creating possibility and inspiration between you.
Think of it in the spirit of “Hey wanna play a Game?” Make suggestions, include options. Extend an invitation for their ideas and suggestions without attachment to doing any one of them.
Spark options are endless and can be specific to your circumstances, but they might include…
- We could take a break on this right now and come back in x amount of time.
- What do you think about us going for a walk and just being quiet together for a bit.
- Would you be up for us each taking the other person's perspective for 5 min?
- It might be a pattern interrupt if we finished this conversation in the shower together.
- What if we each researched 2-3 ideas and brought them to a show-and-tell with each other?
- Do you have any ideas on what might make a difference for us in this area?
As before, it is less about the specific content here than the intention behind it. Be open, friendly and stir up a sense of partnership, fun and growth.
Humor REALLY helps here. Just today my husband and I got into some crunchiness during our monthly planning meeting. He turned on the O.P.P. song and started singing the words as O.C.C. and even made up words for the rap. I could NOT stay mad. I cracked up, and the energy had shifted.
Making it Memorable
Now a tool is only as good as it is memorable and accessible. That’s why we layered the tool with the O.P.P. song. It makes it easy to remember the tool and bonus brings in some light heartedness and play.
Another way we keep this tool at the forefront is by making it visible so by the time we need it, we KNOW it. Plus we are more likely to use it as it’s been in our faces so much. Print it, post it, make sure it is visible without having to go look for it.
It Works, IF You Work It
One of the fastest ways to shift out of an adversarial dynamic and into an allied one with your beloved is to apply these three simple, effective aligning steps. Most people melt, almost all at least soften a bit. It’s a hell of a lot more inviting that blaming oor lashing out, that’s for sure!
When you take ownership, it is the antidote to bruises left by getting sucked into the blame game. When you do these three things, your beloved can open their “aperture” and let in your light, your perspective. Plus, most often when you take this first step towards ownership, compassion and creativity, your beloved will also do the same for you. Just don’t expect it!
The tool works, IF you work it.
If you prefer to be right about an argument versus close to your beloved, go for it. But consider if you're in conflict, hasn’t SOMETHING gone awry? Isn’t there something YOU can own? Some compassion you can show? Some creativity you can introduce?
Blaming, defending, lashing out and shutting down are common foremost couples. But you’re not most couples. Don’t settle for the path of least resistance, lean in to the most playful, peaceful, passionate relationship possible.
Remember it is not about loving perfectly. It is about Loving Better.
How might you LOVE BETTER today?
- Pick your prompt. You WILL forget about this tool JUST when you need it the most. So save the image above. Print it and post it on your fridge, bathroom mirror or save it to your phone home screen or as a screensaver on your desktop. You might set a repeat reminder on your calendar so you see it enough that when you DO have a conflict, it’s right there at the front of your mind as a go-to-get-out-of-conflict tool.
- When a conflict emerges, either as it starts, during or after, tell your beloved one at least one thing you can own, one where you can show compassion to them and one idea of how you might move forward as creative partners. You go first and don’t wait for them to reciprocate, but often they do!
- BONUS: Share this tool with your beloved BEFORE you need it. Ask them if they’re up for using the call-and-response game of “You down with O.C.C.?” and “Yeah you know me!” as a way to interrupt an argument to align as partners again. Be fine if they are into it or not. You can say BOTH lines yourself. It may take two to tango, but it only takes one to improve a relationship. YOU.
Your Ally in Aiming for Awesome,
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