Do you find yourself stopping your partner by saying such things as: “Yes but..” “I just want to say..” “No, that’s not how it was..” or “That’s not what I meant..”
This is reactivity and it leads to arguments and worse. It is nearly always an interruption. It is frequently done at a greater volume level and/or emotional level than the person speaking. The speaker feels shut down, often responds at an even higher level or learns to be wary of speaking their mind and withdraws from connection with you.
We become reactive when we are triggered: when we have been touched in some way; instantly feel irritated, outraged, hurt, sad, jealous, etc. Reactivity is our effort to stop that hurtful or “untrue” thing being said. We have to deny it; we just cannot allow that to be out there.
Reactivity says: “My version is the true one.” It does not tolerate any difference in the other person, a different opinion or different version of reality. S/he must be forced to see it your way, right now! It is the very opposite of curiosity and acceptance of difference.
There is one sure way of provoking our partners into reactivity – You Language: “You lied..” “You always drive too fast..” “You wanted to ..” These might include “untruths” about us, so it feels like we have the right to be reactive and interrupt. “Yes but I did not lie.. don’t always drive fast..”
Some couples don’t know how to stop playing the destructive game called You Language vs Reactivity.
If you want to stop it and have a better relationship, you have to give some things up:
Stop using You Language. Talk about yourself, not your partner. You have no right to tell your partner who you think s/he is. Say instead “When you were driving I kept feeling nervous..” Or “It seemed to me that you..” or “I made up that you .. and I felt..”
Stop your own reactivity. Don’t interrupt, remain silent, listen. This might take enormous self-control but it is usually worth it. Wait until your partner has finished and clarify by mirroring: “So you are saying that ..” “So it seemed to you that I..” Do this calmly rather than as an accusation.
With thanks to:
Getting the Love You Want by H Hendrix,
R Pinney and Creative Listening,
Nonviolent Communication by M B Rosenberg.
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