When things get nasty, it's easy to blurt out something you regret. This is especially true when you're fighting with your wife or partner. No matter how angry you are, think of the long-term repercussions of your words before you speak. The couch can be a lonely place! We chat to Cape Town-based relationship counsellor and executive coach Mary Ovenstone about what not to say during an argument.
During an argument never say…
According to Ovenstone a man should never say the following things to his partner:
– "Are you having your period?" It is insulting to think that all of women's emotions are governed by their menstrual cycles.
– "I'll come back when you calm down and start to make sense." While a break can be helpful if the argument has gotten out of control, it is likely as much your fault as hers. This kind of comment can be dismissive and condescending. It's usually a way to put the blame on the woman's emotions.
– "You don't know what you are talking about!" Even if she isn't 100% clear or knowledgeable about the topic, she is trying to say something that she believes you need to hear. Better to clarify what she is trying to say than to dismiss her idea.
– "You're acting exactly like your mother!" Few things infuriate a woman more than being accused of being just like her mother, particularly if she doesn't get along with her.
– "You don't know how childish you sound!" This is insulting and parental. It sets the man up as the authority figure, inevitably evoking a feeling of rebellion.
Communicate more effectively
Once you've mastered what not to say, it's important to know the right way to resolve an argument. "Deal with the emotions that are at the root of the argument first, then deal with the disputed facts," advises Ovenstone. "Even if all you can do is acknowledge your partner's feelings, this clears the air so that lucid thinking can be restored." Feelings often linger for months if they're not addressed and in this way resentment often accumulates.
"It takes men some time to sort out their feelings in an argument, because they do not have verbal centres in the parts of the brain where they register their feelings. Women do and, consequently, want to use words to express and process their feelings," explains Ovenstone. "So men should say: ‘I hear you, just give me some time to consider this.'"
Anger can sometimes disrupt rational thought. "So each time the emotions get out of hand, take a deep breath and discharge the feeling again," she concludes.