It feels really shitty to share a feeling, need or concern with our partner only to have them snap at us defensively because they feel criticized.
I’m going to give you the key, but you have to know, if your partner doesn’t want to hear you in a positive light, or is used to you criticizing, they might still respond defensively at first.
And if you want more skills, be sure to check out the [FREE] resources I have available (link at the bottom of this post!) to help you and your partner be better friends and use conflict to connect, rather than simply clash.
Give it time, and stick with it. Change doesn’t happen overnight and trust is built. But, without further ado, here is the three step process for sharing your thoughts, needs and concerns without your partner hearing it as a criticism:
Come up with the most generous assumption you can make about their defensiveness
Here’s what that sounds like:
To soften, instead of: "I’m getting really frustrated with how often I have to ask you to look at me when I’m talking."
Try: I know I probably sound like a broken record. Can you please look at me while I’m talking?
2. Get Real! It's so easy to hide behind frustration, when really we're experiencing hurt, sadness, or confusion. Instead of: "It’s like you don’t really care about me enough to just stop for a second and listen."
Try: I know it’s not true, but the story I make up is that you don’t care about my voice when you’re doing something else while I share about my day.
3. Your generosity costs NOTHING. If your partner still gets defensive, instead of: I don’t know why I brought it up again. You never change.
Try: First in your head, find the most generous assumption you can. Something like, "Maybe it’s been a long day. Maybe they just need some time to themselves before we talk."
Out loud: "I hear that I triggered you. I’m sorry. I know it’s been a long day for you. Is there a better time tonight we can talk instead?"
Again, things won't necessarily change overnight, but this process is SO ESSENTIAL to peaceful conflict resolution. And even if your partner doesn't respond well, I promise you will feel better knowing you're showing up with compassion.
If you'd like more resources, be sure to check them out here: https://www.couplesconnectioncoaching.com/services