BLOG: 4 Little Words to Create Connection After a Conflict
You've had the fight, you've gotten through it, but now how do you come back together?
- How can you heal the hurts, bridge the disconnect, and move forward creatively TOGETHER?
- How can you honor each other’s needs and experiences even in conflict?
- How can you show each other how much you care and how committed you are to a playful, peaceful, and passionate relationship?
When you’ve had a fight or even just a small argument that weighs on you like a wet blanket, this tool with just four little words can return you to love and partnership.
This tool and these four words are all about clearing out any Rift Residue or Problem Plaque and restoring the connection between you and your beloved. And you can do it in seconds!
Timing is Everything
The key with this tool is TIMING. Timing is everything as they say.
Before you even consider using this relationship tool, be sure the argument is actually OVER. This is a tool to use to RECONNECT after the conflict, repair any damage that may have been done, and bonus, move forward creatively together.
Do NOT use this tool in the HEAT of an argument. It almost always comes out wrong. Do this AFTER the argument and it works most every time.
This tool IS excellent for the times when you're fairly well past the intensity of the conflict, but there's still a barrier, residue or lack of affinity between you.
Consent is Required
If someone is still upset and they say they need some space, Give. Them. Some. Space! You do not want to force this tool on anyone. Yet if you do it right, most often, your beloved will just melt or at the very least, a door will open between you.
15 Seconds to Satisfaction
This tool does NOT need to take a long time either. If you are sincere, then this potent tool that can connect you and eliminate any Rift Residue in about 15 seconds. 15 seconds!
You're communicating in just seconds, your sense of commitment, your care for your beloved and your longing to heal the divide and to create a positive connection. (More in a bit on these two key factors of a thriving relationship - care and commitment).
Simple Is Not Easy
These four little words along with your authentic desire to reconnect and your intentional approach ARE simple. Yet they are NOT always easy to do. It’s not often easy to be the one to approach your beloved with an olive branch after conflict.
Yes, this IS a simple tool, but it is not easy UNLESS you PRACTICE it! The more you use this tool, the easier it gets until then one day, this habit becomes just a part of your Couple Culture.
Being Right Is Wrong
Now here's the thing - The hardest part about using this tool is that you have to give up being right, being adversaries or in any way not being on the same team. It’s NOT about who was right or wrong or any adversarial dynamic like that.
Even if you ARE “right”, that does you no good. It’s the wrong way to go if you want to be close and connected with your beloved.
Plus what is “right” to you may not be so for them. You have one perspective. Your beloved has another. Together you can see more than what either individual can. So listening to BOTH your experience is wise.
On our tenth wedding anniversary, I asked my husband what he had learned about marriage and he said, “When I am SURE I am right, I KNOW I am not.”
Being SURE you are right is a recipe for the disconnect in a relationship. Cultivating a Couple Culture where you are curious, open, and generous in your listening of each other's experience, even when it conflicts with your own, is a sign of a healthy relationship.
If you want to be in a healthy, happy and hot relationship, then you MUST care more about the relationship than you do about being right.
In a relationship, being right is the boobie prize!
Up to YOU
YOU must generate yourself HABITUALLY. It is up to YOU to shift and heal. Not because it is YOUR job, but because you can’t control anyone, you can only alter your own behavior and hope that it INSPIRES your beloved to act too.
It is YOUR attitude and action that make this tool work.
Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship or deepening it. That factor is attitude. William James
It’s about creating connection and safety through intentional touch and these 4 little words.
Impact of Physical touch
Before we get to those 4 little words, let’s look at touch for a minute. There's plenty of research around the impact of physical touch on the ability to resolve conflict. Don’t underestimate the power of your gentle touch to create peace and relatedness between you.
Pollack Peace Building asserts that touch with your beloved offers warmth, sincerity, security, interdependence AND being more constructive in conflict. “Affectionate touch promotes relational well-being and buffers stress during conflict.”
Touch not only has a positive impact in the moment, it has a positive impact over time too. Not just for your relationship, but for your bodies as well. “affectionate touch in relational conflict could have beneficial long-term health implications due to its effect on stress”. “Applying touch intervention to relationship conflict could improve both the personal and relational well-being of the individuals involved.“
Brittany Jakubiak from Syracuse University focuses her research on affectionate touch, social support, and other factors that shape individual well-being and relationship outcomes. She says that, ”touch promotes feelings of security, reduces stress, and is associated with better relationship well-being in terms of relationship satisfaction, commitment, and intimacy.” and that when in conflict, “Touching helped them behave less destructively”.
What’s wild about that study was that they discovered that even if you just IMAGINED the touch, it still had a similar impact. “Participants who imagined touch also felt more secure and more interdependent.”
The words are important, yet the touch says and does so much. Explore what type of touch works best for you and your beloved as you make this tool your own.
2 Core Factors
John Gottman and his Love Lab with their 45+ years of research behind them say that two key elements in healthy relationships are CARE and COMMITMENT.
When you demonstrate you care and you are committed to your beloved you build trust and create opportunities to grow together through your conflict.
This tip is essentially shorthand to show your care and commitment in action.
4 Little Words
This tool, these 4 little words, and your authentic affectionate touch, give you a way to restore the connection between you and your beloved, with very few words, still communicating so much.
When you use this tool, you’re essentially saying…
- “Our happiness is important and we will work this out.”
- “I don't know where to go from here. But I want to be closer. Help me move closer to us right now.”
- “I care more about you and our relationship than I do about this fight or being right.”
- “I care about our relationship. I'm committed to getting through this.
- “Your experience and needs are important to me EVEN when they conflict with my own.”
- “What I want most is love and peace between us.’
- I know I love you and don’t want anything between our connection.
- “What can I do to actually make this better? I am interested. I will look. I will act.”
But who has the emotional wherewithal for the time or energy to say ALL that when you’ve had a conflict between you?! Especially when 4 little words can cover it all.
The “What Can I Do?” Caress
Now that you know the importance of touch and the power of showing your care and commitment, here’s the HOW-TO of the What Can I Do Caress.
- Without startling your beloved, move in slowly behind them for a hold and a nuzzle. Your belly to their back. Put one hand on their belly and one on their heart.
- Put your cheek on the back of your beloved’s back/neck with your mouth pointed towards their ear.
- Give a little nuzzle with warmth and affection and whisper “What Can I Do?” - Mean it!
- Then do what they ask or create other options for how to move forward together. Focus on demonstrating care and commitment.
NOTE: If your beloved does not like being touched like this, or whispered in their ear, then ASK them how they WOULD like to be touched. Explore what feels good to you both.
Invite a Future
When you start asking “What can I do?” you are inviting your beloved to move forward together. You are declaring your intention to restore a connection in an actionable way that draws you together and towards something new.
- “What can I do?” invites a future.
- “What can I do?” opens up the door to doing things better.
- “What can I do?” creates opportunity, partnership and builds trust.
If you’re feeling stuck and you really want to move forward, drop any ego, be generous, curious, and compassionate and ask your beloved “What can I do?”. And mean it!
Listen & Act, (But Don’t Be A Doormat)
Now when your beloved tells you what you can do, LISTEN. Not for your rebuttal or counter offer. Listen with compassion, curiosity, care and commitment to doing the parts you CAN do to restore connection now and to do better next time.
When I suggest you not just listen, but also DO what they ask, that does NOT mean that you're codependent, a doormat or that you agree with everything that they say.
Still, be sincere when you use this tool. Be prepared to listen to them and to take action. Don’t come to your beloved in this way without really meaning it. See where you CAN lean into their reply.
Accept the Olive Branch
John Gottman also says that it's not a problem if you and your beloved don’t fight. It’s not a problem if you DO fight and neither of you asks for forgiveness. The real problem is when you DO fight, someone DOES extend the olive branch and yet the other beloved does NOT accept it.
When you ask your beloved “What can I do?” it is vulnerable, exposed, and calls for trust between you.
If you’re the beloved RECEIVING the “What Can I Do?” Caress, then when your beloved does ask you what they can do, ACCEPT the olive branch that is being offered. Give them options and suggestions, but NOT demands. BONUS, ask THEM if they have suggestions.
What Is Winning
Winning is NOT you getting your way or them getting their way, winning is the two of you winning together. In a playful, peaceful, passionate relationship, it is a win-win or no deal.
Trust that sometimes, meeting your beloved’s needs might actually expose you to something new or unexpected as a pleasant surprise. If you care about your beloved’s experience and happiness as much as your own, work together to find synergy and not compromise between you and your sometimes seemingly opposing perspectives or needs.
You might just be delightfully surprised at what happens when you get curious and compassionate about your beloved’s experience and needs after an argument.
Use & Adapt This
Make this tool your own. Explore what kind of touch, specific words or approach works best. Ask them! See what feels good and what does not.
YOU are the sage on your stage. I am just your guide on the side cheering you on to make this tool your own in a way that works for you and your beloved.
If you watch the Quick Tip Video Clip for this tool, you’ll see in real-time how my husband shows that having my hands on his chest is uncomfortable for him so I make adjustments. Listen to each other and uncover what works best for you both.
Something special emerges when you explore this tool and make it your own. Practicing and finding out what works for your relationship adds to the quality of your Couple Culture and ultimately to the quality of your day-to-day lives.
Whether you want a pleasant evening at home or to enjoy the vacation you worked so hard for, this tool allows you to let the conflict go, give up being right, reestablish the connection with each other and get creative about how to move forward TOGETHER.
Being the one to approach first, offering a gentle touch and whispering this invitation is a great way to remedy, heal or bridge the divide between you. Use this tool to unlock resistance and uncurl your toes from the tension and remember, “Oh, that's right, we’re BELOVEDS on the same TEAM!”
One of the possible things you can do after an argument to move not just ON, but FORWARD, is the Argument Even Better Ifing tool. Score your argument, (without rehashing it!), so you can both do better next time.
Check out our Quick Tip Video Clip for The "What Can I Do?" Caress HERE!
- Make sure it is AFTER your argument. The intensity has dissipated, yet there is distance between you.
- Take a deep cleansing breath, lean into your beloved with your chest to their back and your head nuzzled on their shoulder with your mouth pointed towards their ear.
- Whisper “What Can I Do?”
- Listen with curiosity, care and commitment. Let it be okay if they express that there's some residue, you know, and they are still upset.
- Do your best to do what they ask or suggest new pathways forward using the No, But or Yes, And tool.
- BONUS: Do an Argument Even Better Ifing to see how you did and how you can do better next time.
Your Ally in Aiming for Awesome,
Plus be first for top tips, tools and techniques for