A cool way to break the cycle of conflict in relationships

There was a giant oak tree in the middle of town. It was the pride and joy of everyone. It was sort of the town mascot, no one could remember when it wasn’t there. It just was. One day the town folks emerged from their homes to find the oak tree had just fallen over during the night and exposed the inner trunk of the tree. Unbeknownst to the towns people it had been eroding away from the inside for many years of disease until the thin outer crust was all that held it up. The wind blew and down it went, it didn’t take much. No one had suspected. It looked so solid on the outside.

Destructive communication is just like that. Thousands of inflections, barbs, insinuations, minor insults, accusatory words that may not get much notice in and of themselves, over time will erode the tightest relational bond. I see it often in my office, couples engaged in escalating patterns of communication never leading to positive outcomes. Once this dynamic is entrenched in daily communication it becomes almost invisible but very habitually repeated over and over with relationship withering results. There grows an atmosphere of negativity between the couple that makes resolution and clarity all but impossible. Over time the relationship erodes like the oak tree until it snaps.

Negative Positioning

Negative positioning starts out bad and gets worse leaving no room for the dignity and face saving that humans instinctively require: ‘You always leave your clothes laying around’ is fraught with accusation and anger. ‘Why did you leave your clothes on the floor?’ already assumes the worst. ‘You should have called me last night!’ or ‘You never think of me when you’re out with your friends!’ again is accusatory and angry. The stance taken as we communicate with each other can lead to impenetrable defensiveness or can keep lines of communication open for a positive resolution rather than just the same old fight.

Positive Positioning

Positive positioning is a choice of wording that takes responsibility for yourself in the communication and is worded respectfully. ‘I’m wondering if you would mind putting your clothes away?’ or ‘I’m just wondering did you leave your clothes on the floor?, ‘I feel anxious when you don’t call me if you’re going to be late because I worry you may have been an accident.’
Respectful positioning rephrases/reframes the same thought but from a much more open and positive stance allowing for constructive loving dialogue rather than defensiveness and accusations that can lead to breakdown.

Respectful Positioning

I’m wondering if…….
I’m curious if…
In my experience….
In my opinion…
I feel….
I think….
I feel_____, when you_____, because….
From my point of view…..
From my perspective….
What if…..
Is it possible….
It might be….
In my experience….

This kinder, gentler, more responsible form of communication leaves room for growth and a healthy trust between partners rather than shutting down any way of resolution because it offers hope and assumes the best from the start. If I can help you in your difficult communications, if you find yourself fighting all the time or just not talking at all please contact me.

Speak Your Mind


MFT license 42762

Rhombus Counseling
335 Church Ave. Chula Vista
, CA 91910

(619) 518-1323

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