Much of the time, when partners are locked in an argument, at least one of them isn’t listening to the other person and repeatedly interrupts them. That partner is not interested in considering other perspectives. It’s not about trying to be open-minded and consider the possibility that there might be another way to look at the problem. It’s not about trying to find common ground. It’s all about being right and making the other person wrong.
Let’s say we are the partner doing the interrupting. Here’s how it works: As soon as the first few words are uttered, we interrupt our partner and respond with our answer. We assume we know exactly what they’re going to say when we interrupt them and that we don’t need to waste time hearing explanations that continue to defend and attempt to justify their flawed positions.
The reason why we assume we know exactly what they’re going to say before they say it actually has nothing to do with what they’re going to say. It doesn’t really matter to us if our assumptions are correct. All we really want is an excuse that justifies our interrupting them. Assuming we know what they’re going to say beforehand fits the bill.
We believe that wanting to “cut to the chase” gives us license to interrupt them, to not let them finish their point and to steamroll our point right back at them. Truth be told, it’s not really cutting to the chase that we’re after if getting to the truth faster and getting to a resolution faster is its definition.
For us, cutting to the chase means we get to make our point sooner, which involves making it clear to our partner that they are wrong and we are right, that they have injured us, we have not injured them, and that they owe us an apology, we don’t owe them one.
This approach will get us nowhere. It behooves us to listen and to not interrupt. It behooves us to be receptive to alternative viewpoints, to be open-minded, and to not make premature decisions prior to collecting and assessing pertinent information.
If we do this, it will engender trust and increase the potential for effective communication to thrive, for individual needs to be addressed, for compromise and common ground to be established, and for a satisfying, successful relationship with our partner to sustain itself.
Even when, amidst an argument, we have no intention of changing our position, it is still a wise choice to listen and not to interrupt. Here’s what we do: When our partner has finished talking, we validate that we’ve heard them and that we understand and appreciate where they’re coming from. After that, however, we counterpoint by reiterating our position and why it hasn’t changed. By taking this approach of listening and responding with validation and respect, communication will improve. Tension in the relationship will subside. Agreeing to disagree can work.
Ultimately, most relationships will not thrive if they’re all about one partner always needing to be right and always needing to get their way and their needs met at the expense of the other partner’s joy and dignity. Most successful personal relationships tend to thrive on effective communication, mutual respect, moderation, cooperation, concession and compromise.