Move lovingly from disagreement to compromise

The emotional arousal of arguing with another individual about any topic often increases both parties’ heart rate, fear, insistence level and competitiveness in attempting to persuade the other to change his/her position about a matter of interest to both. In addition to the desire to achieve like-mindedness about the issue, some concessions are wise to offer or negotiate. When the decision at hand is practical, such as exploring the best way to arrive at their destination in an unfamiliar city, the conversation may be easier and pairs may quickly agree to recruit the assistance of local people in guiding them how to best achieve their joint goal. On other occasions of disagreement, both parties may feel that they are the better problem-solver and wish to lead toward a compromise. How can people with varying opinions, choices or options reach an agreement and still maintain their positive feelings for each other?

Most commonly, disagreements are resolved by accepting the knowledge, direction or recommendation of the individual who is more familiar with the circumstances or more versed in the topic. Thus, following those whose knowledge and expertise surpasses one’s own is the fair and smart option. Another wise compromise is achieved by both parties accepting the knowledge of the locals, as they set aside their less than informed options.

In couples, the criteria for accepting the other’s choice comes from inherent trust, respect for the mate’s skills in problem solving, or electing to agree after they explored the subject with a mutually respected expert. Regrettably, some pairs see the process of compromise as a loss to one and a credit to the other’s knowledge, wisdom or problem-solving skills. This attitude may lead some pairs to the habit of having one spouse more likely to command the direction of problem solving and may cause an uneven ratio of each individual’s power in influencing the outcome of their choices and may cause a pattern of one mate repeatedly capitulating to the other. Individuals who are inclined to be fair may alternate conceding to each other about certain decisions and reserving the right to be the “decider” on other topics.

A research study by Cynthia Berg, Mitzi Johnson, Sean Meagan and Associates of twenty- four young adults and six older married couples who discussed their vacation plans and errand-running tasks were rated by the researchers as “High affiliation” or “Low affiliation” by the nature of their discussions. “High-Affiliation” exchanges included cooperative and obliging speech, and “Low-affiliation” conversations included controlling and withdrawing speech acts.

The researchers reported that “High-affiliation” pairs were friendlier and made their decisions more effectively than the “Low-affiliation” couples. The researchers concluded that, “The potential of integrating work on collaborative cognition and conversational processes were significant in bonding the couple and creating a positive connection for the pairs.”

Move from disagreement to compromise:

  • Be attentive to your mate’s needs and preferences.
  • Listen lovingly, remember and attempt to accommodate your beloved’s wishes.
  • Be patient and pleasing to your mate. Happiness for both of you is possible.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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