The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~Mahatma Gandhi
When disagreements arise, the tactic of “attack and defend” will result in both partners losing the fight. Last week we talked about the destructiveness of the Blame Game. But what do you do after the blame game — to move beyond blame to apologies and forgiveness?
Here are 5 steps from blame to apologies and forgiveness:
1) Separate – Any time there has been an escalation of feelings such as anger, hurt or disappointment, it is vital to first cool down. Often one partner does not want to separate, e.g. “You’re not leaving this room till we’re finished talking about this!” The problem is that you can’t finish talking productively about a disagreement when emotions are high. So the first step is to take some time apart to reflect.
2) Focus In – Next it is important to move from looking out at your partner to looking in at yourself. Ask yourself, “How did I contribute to the disagreement? What part did I play? What am I to blame for?” Both of you have a part in creating the escalation of negative feelings.
3) Apologize First – Start the conversation by taking turns sharing what was your part of the problem and apologizing for it. What did you do that escalated the argument or blocked it from being solved? For example, “I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to what you said.”
4) Listen Actively – Focus on your partner’s point of view and let go of yours while they are speaking. Work to understand what he/she is saying even if you disagree with it. Hear him/her. Then ask your partner to do the same.
5) Problem Solve – Once you truly hear your partner’s point of view and they have heard yours, you will be able to problem-solve, come to a compromise or create consensus. Brainstorm ideas to resolve the issue and end with a connecting hug and/or a statement of forgiveness.
Consciously practicing these steps can help you and your partner create new and healthy communication habits that will allow you to work through any issue.
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