So how do we break a pattern that causes distress and frustration and develop a style of relating that communicates what is truly important to us and has the best chance of getting through to the other person?
First, we must step away from the stressful situation and give ourselves the opportunity to truly reflect on what is going on. If we are so focused on blaming the other person for all the heartache they are causing us, we lose an important opportunity to fairly assess the situation. It’s important for all of us to remember that when we accuse or blame another person they invariably become defensive and tune us out or attack back. That’s the surest way for a conversation to deteriorate to an ugly confrontation.
If we are able to sincerely state what’s important to us and how we are feeling, taking responsibility for our own part of the disagreement, we have our best shot at making an impact. Learning how to “speak up” often takes some effort and may not feel comfortable at first. Importantly, we may also conclude that the situation is hopeless and there is nothing we can do to make things better.
In Matt’s case, if he wasn’t so angry at his father he might have been able to see the proposal from all angles, and even consider the possibility that his father’s position had some merit.
Giving himself the chance to calm down and consider all his options might enable Matt to find “the voice” to speak up directly to his father. After one particularly distressing blowup, Matt took the plunge and decided to approach his father differently. He asked to speak to his father privately, making sure it was a time neither of them would be distracted by outside pressures: