Avoiding topics that you know you need to discuss is common. Unfortunately, in relationships it can be costly in terms of the distance it can cause between partners. Here are a few guidelines that may be helpful to use the next time you and your significant other decide to talk about an issue that you have previously chosen to avoid or deny in the past.
1. Give your partner a heads-up that you would like to carve out time for a serious talk.
2. Create three talking points (and only three!) and memorize them. Be able to make each point in one sentence. If you say nothing else, these are the points you need to make. Now you have a skeleton outline to help you return to the issues at hand if you get sidetracked.
3. Be concise. We tend to say too much. Say it once. Let silence happen while your partner processes your points.
4. Don’t be in it to win it. Be in it to discover how your partner sees it. In fact, ask, “How do you see it?” This attitude shift is critical. It’s not a fight. It’s a discussion.
5. Stay in the present! Do not bring up past transgressions no matter how tempting it is to zap the other person with old atrocities. That’s hitting below the belt. Defensiveness and anger will follow, and your talk will dissolve into an argument no one can win.
6. After you’ve covered your three talking points, ask, “Where do we go from here?” Be prepared with your own suggestions, but listen to your partner’s ideas, too. He or she may suggest alternatives that never crossed your mind.
7. If you’re reduced to shouting, be confident enough to end the discussion. Suggest you both think about what happened and set a time to talk within the next 24 hours when both of you have calmed down.