Have you ever played argument poker? I see your undies behind the door and raise you leaving dishes in the sink. Well, I see your dishes in the sink and raise you dropping your clothes on the floor. Right! I see your dropping clothes and raise you …..
This is how we get stuck in an argument. It starts by raising one issue, and the other person becomes defensive, naturally, and makes a worse complaint, raising the stakes. Before we know it, we’re arguing about everything.
How To Stop
Dr John Gottman refers to defensiveness as one of the Four Horsemen that will end relationships. It’s natural to come out fighting when we feel attacked. But, just because something feels natural, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
The alternative to defensiveness is to take responsibility.
Let’s try that again.
You’ve left your undies behind the door again. That really annoys me and I’d like you to put them in the laundry basket please.
Sorry, I did that again and it annoys you. I’ll do better.
Thanks – I’d appreciate that.
You may notice that I’ve used two other strategies here:
Ask for what you want rather than criticise – another of the Horsemen