In a prior blog, I talked about 13 relationship fire starters such as blaming, shaming, defensiveness, deflecting, and stone walling, and I offered two strategies to use to avoid the fire starters. In this blog I want to cover what to do if you or your partner initiates a fire starter.
Fire Extinguishing Strategy #1
If YOU have delivered a fire starter to your partner, take these three steps.
Request a redo. “Stop. Can I have a redo and start over?”
Slow things down and apologize. “I am frustrated and overreacted just now. I am sorry.”
Practice assertive communication: use I-statements; use feeling words; ask specifically for what you need. “It would be helpful to me if you would lower your voice and let me know that you are hearing me. What did you hear me say?”
Fire Extinguishing Strategy #2
If YOUR PARTNER has delivered a fire starter to you, rather than ignite the blaze, consider these four steps.
Let your partner know the primary emotion you are feeling. Let’s take an example of your partner using the blaming fire starter. “When you say it that way, I feel very blamed, and it makes it hard for me to hear you.”
Ask your partner if they can state what they need using I-statements instead of a fire starter. “It’s pretty apparent that you are upset, and I am sorry for that. We’ve talked before about I-statements and that seems to work for us. I would appreciate it if you could use an I-statement to tell me how you are feeling or what you need from me.”
Continue using the assertive communication and reflective listening strategies to extinguish the fire starter: use I-statements; use feeling words; ask specifically for what you need.
Restate your partner’s message often to let them know you understand them clearly before you move through the discussion. “What I hear you saying is … Is that right?”
Once more, if you are unable to stay calm enough to use the fire extinguishing strategy, protect your relationship by calling a timeout and coming back to the table at an agreed upon time.
Sample Extinguishing Responses
My clients often tell me that the first step is the hardest: remembering in the heat of the moment to find their words for healthy communication to evoke the desired response they want from their partner. In The Porsha Principles, I have provided sample words you might use to take the first step to extinguish a fire starter. Here are sample words for three of the fire starters.
Blaming: That was a huge mistake you made.
Extinguishing Response: When you say it that way I feel very blamed, and it makes it hard for me to hear you.
Defensiveness: Of course, I forgot to pick that up on my way home. I have so much on my mind from work, how could I possibly remember something like that?
Extinguishing Response: I feel hurt because I counted on you and it feels like you are saying that it’s my fault, instead of apologizing for forgetting.
Deflecting: Yeah I made a mistake, but it’s because of you that we are in this situation in the first place.
Extinguishing Response: When I am talking about a concern I have and you bring up a concern you have, it makes me feel like my concern doesn’t matter to you and it makes it hard for me to hear you.