Arguing With Your Spouse

Interesting tidbit buried in an article this morning that I’m going to steal a lot now. Here’s the article in CNN Money, called Will Your Money Fights Lead to Divorce? Down near the end, Commentator Jeanne Sahadi quotes Dr. John Gottman’s advice about how to criticize your spouse in a constructive way.

The problem we husbands and wives have when we argue is our tendency to make global statements. Instead of describing my fear for my wife’s safety when she neglects to wear her seat belt, I might say, “You’re so sloppy. You don’t care about me at all.”

Gottman’s suggestion is that whenever we need to say anything critical about our spouse, we use an “X-Y-Z” formula: “When you did (or didn’t do) X in situation Y, I felt Z.” And the article applies it this way:

“It’s more constructive to say, ‘When you bounced several checks, and the bank called, I felt embarrassed and angry’ rather than ‘You’re incredibly irresponsible for bouncing a check, I’m constantly have to pick up after your mistakes and fix everything you screw up,'” [Gottman] writes.

If we husbands and wives could learn to use that simple technique when we argue, it might make my business dry up practically overnight. Now wouldn’t that be a trip?