When you intentionally injure your partner, you are saying “You are not safe with me. I will do whatever it takes to win.”
Blaming distracts from solving the problem at issue. Blaming creates defensiveness and escalation of the argument.
Use your “inside voice.”
Yelling escalates unproductive emotions and indicates that the message needs to be addressed in a different way or at a different time. Try whispering. It can calm nerves.
Never use or threaten physical force.
Specifically, this includes pushing, grabbing or restraining. It includes punching a hole in a wall, throwing things or breaking something in anger. Expressing anger in these ways violates the other person's boundaries and sense of safety.
Talk about your feelings and thoughts, not your spouse's.
Trying to read his or her mind is an exercise better left to magicians. It also detracts from getting your point across.
Be direct and honest about your feelings and what you want.
Expecting your partner to read your mind is unfair. Making assumptions, irritated gestures, judgments or funny faces are not honest forms of communication.
Stay in the present and deal with one issue at a time.
Focus on the specific issue at hand rather than bringing up other issues from the past or “borrowing trouble” from the future. Sometimes solving just one of your concerns is success enough.
Take turns speaking and listening.
Listening should be an attempt at understanding, not a time for planning your rebuttal. Paraphrasing what you have just heard is often helpful because it can create more understanding of the other's position, and a more willing listener to your own perspective.
Ask questions that clarify, not judge.
“What were you thinking?” “Why did (or didn't) you...?” These questions make the listener feel the need to defend. Defensiveness stops conversations.
Apologize when you are wrong.
It's a great fence-mender and shows respect. Brainstorm solutions. Be willing to compromise.
Call a time-out.
If you find that emotions have escalated to the point that you are not productively solving the problem, excuse yourself. Keep the break short and use it to calm down and review these rules for productive argument.
Don't make comparisons to other people, situations, or ideals.
Don't involve other people's opinions of the situation
Don't make threats
Don't say “always” or “never.” Exaggerations like these do not solve problems and do put the other person on the defensive.
Don't walk away without saying, “I'll be back.”
Treat each discussion with the respect you would treat a colleague in business, and remember that the goal of your business is a successful relationship.