Hal Runkel, a relationship and family therapist, shared his best advice for de-escalating a conflict that’s spiraled into danger territory.
His advice is just one word: “Ouch.”
It’s a word that doesn’t get used nearly enough in marriage, Runkel told Business Insider.
“When [you’re] in conflict, inevitably [you] will say something that hurts the other person using the ‘inside information’ that you have on them or that they have on you,” Runkel said.
At that moment, Runkel said, “Everything in you wants to scream something right back at them: ‘Oh yeah? Well, you’re starting to look like your mother!’”
Here’s where the word “ouch” comes in handy. Runkel explained that the best response in this situation is simply, “Ouch. That one hurt. I don’t know if you were meaning to hurt me; I don’t know if that’s what you were going for; but that’s what you did.”
Your partner may get defensive and say something back like, “You’ve said some pretty hurtful things to me!”
Now here’s your line: “You’re right. I have, and I hate that I have.”
“That conversation — which was a very familiar path, that fight — is now a totally different path because one of you chose to actually get vulnerable,” Runkel said.
“It wasn’t a step of pushing [your partner] away. It was a step of inviting [your partner] in by saying: You know what? I am open enough to you that you can actually hurt me. So now how about we talk to each other as if we actually love each other?”
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