In every relationship there are times when the tension is high, an argument happens or there is active disagreement.
– things escalate to a major problem
– or the fight blows over fairly quickly.
Have you ever wondered what makes the difference?
The difference is “repair attempts”. They are the way to fix an argument.
Counselors use the phrase “repair attempts” to describe the small, and very powerful, words and acts that can make all the difference at times when the relationship is under stress.
when the two people disagree…
when there is an argument…
even when there is simply the potential for an argument.
That happens because a repair attempt gives the subtle message “We are in this together”.
Some repair attempts show understanding of the other person.
Others simply acknowledge what is going on the in moment.
Others are silly, humorous, or off-subject.
Whatever works to de-escalate the tension.
But beware!! What works in one relationship as repair, may not work in another relationship.
Here are some examples of repair attempts:
*In the middle of an argument, one person could say, “This isn’t
getting us anywhere, let’s try again later”
* Instead of disagreeing or trying to get the other person to
understand, one person might say “I think what you are saying is…”
* After a disagreement is over, one person might say, “That fight
didn’t feel good. I hope we can work on staying calmer.”
* After a heated discussion in the car and ten minutes of silence, one
person says, “There’s hardly any traffic on the road today.”
Every repair attempt moves the relationship a tiny bit in the positive direction
…because the underlying messages are “I am not giving up on you.” and “I still intend to be in this relationship with you.”
You may not think about it, but every argument or fight in a relationship causes your subconscious to question if the relationship is ending.
Repair attempts calm down that part of you that is already preparing for the worst!
The most important point about repair attempts is that they must be noticed in order to be effective.
The power is in the receiving, not in the sending.
It can be hard to notice when you are upset if words are being said in an angry tone or begrudgingly, or if they are said with good intentions.
In either case – they are still repair attempts… and they matter!.
When you are the person giving the repair attempt, take a deep breath before speaking so you can keep your tone under control.
And on the receiving end…
It’s vital to try to notice in your relationships all the little things the other person does or says to make things a tiny bit better.
The little things do matter.
What phrases have you used in tense situations that have made things better? Let us know by leaving your ideas in the comments.