I grew up with two younger brothers, so ESPN was constantly playing on at least one television. I also attempted sports in junior high and the first two years of high school. I wasn’t great at it but did find a temporary calling as an athletic trainer- still involved, a lot less coordination needed. The point is, I’ve been around sports a lot in life.
With basketball especially, as the game is winding down, many times you’ll hear the coach yell “slow it down”. The reason for this is to see what the other team’s intentions are, to be able to look at the best options and to make judgement calls that will help their team win.
A marriage is no different. When a couple is in a deep, heated conversation, as the coach, I’ll tell them to “slow it down”. My reasoning is no different than that of a basketball coach. As the conversation escalates, heart rates get over 90 beats per minute which means one of them is completely flooded and no longer thinking rationally. If the conversation continues this way, the couple, as a team, loses.
What happens when they do as I’ve coached and they slow it down?
It’s important to remember that conflict is caused in the first place by disconnection. At the heart of that disconnection is the assumption that their partner has anything other than good intentions or that their wellbeing isn’t being taken into consideration. It’s an assumption that paints their partner in a negative light.
When the conversation is slowed down, deep breaths are taken, maybe a break in the conversation with the intention of using the break to self-soothe and come back after each person has calmed themselves, a new perspective is offered, and assumptions are avoided. Instead of thinking that their partner is out to get them, each perspective can be heard and analyzed accordingly. Instead of criticisms and contemptuous comments being thrown or incredible amounts of defensiveness being exhibited, each person can be heard, seen, understood and compromises can be made. Like, real compromises. Not a case of “he wants this and she wants that so they end up going with his idea” kind of “compromises”. They’re each able to see that they’re a team, a unit, working together for the same goal. They’ve slowed down enough that their heart rates stay under 90 and they’re able to keep their emotions in check.
When they’ve slowed down, they’re able to remember that the person sitting in front of them is their friend, their person, their lobster. They’re able to remember that this person is a human being with feelings and emotions, needs and wants and they’re able to treat them as such instead of being out to hurt them to feel in control.
When you get into a discussion that is heated or starting to escalate, don’t get passive aggressive or condescending. Instead, slow it down. Come at it from a place of genuine curiosity. Ask questions like “can you elaborate on that? Help me understand… What do you mean by….?” and remember that it’s not about being right. It’s about understanding and validating. Validation does not mean you agree with them, but it does mean that they have a perspective and even though it may not be the same as yours, it is how they remember it and that needs to be taken into account. Loving them means truly listening without trying to convince them why they’re wrong and you’re right.
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