Over and over when I review arguments after their emotional intensity has decreased, everyone’s most important motivation seems that they want to feel understood. It doesn’t matter if I’m arguing or I see other people arguing.
They don’t even need agreement, just to feel listened to and understood.
When both parties want the other to understand them first, they create an unpleasant but stable system driving them both to anger, frustration, and impatience. Both will keep explaining themselves.
From a systems perspective it’s so simple. Yet in the moment it’s hard to get out of.
Strangely, I’ve never found that pointing out the system helps get out of it. People get to caught up in the emotions and logic doesn’t affect that emotion. Even if they understand the situation, they still want the other to understand them before exiting their role.
Some ways out
Many couples seem to find their ways out that they feel like is their special way of doing it. Or else they don’t last as a couple.
My How To Make Someone Feel Understood exercise can lower the intensity of emotions and make the other person feel understood, which makes them feel good. Sadly, I haven’t found a way to get the other person make you feel understood, except to teach them the exercise and try to motivate them to do it, but that’s hard. So you can make them feel good but you can’t easily get them to make you feel good. Often it makes them feel like they won the argument, which can be frustrating, especially when you had to work hard emotionally to put yours aside. I’m working on that area.
I also find knowing the system I described can lower your emotional investment. It doesn’t help lower the other person’s though.
It’s a difficult situation in the moment, yet so simple in the abstract.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees