As this week’s inspiration says, Author Rob Flood credits the principle of first response that helped him change his attitude and save his marriage. This principle tells us that the course of any conflict is determined by the responder, not the initiator. As the responder you have the power to determine the direction of the conversation. As unfair as it may seem, when your spouse angrily approaches you with a concern, you can make a choice to diffuse the situation with the type of response you give. You can make a choice to either pay attention to the message or the approach. If you focus on the message, you will be more likely to respond accordingly instead of trying to match his or her anger.
Flood also outlines the principle of physical touch that helped to save his marriage. Once an argument has already started, this principle is hard to apply. As such, if you apply the first principle and diffuse the situation before a full blown argument starts, the second principle will be much easier to apply. This principle suggests that when you know you’re headed for war, hold hands, sit close to each other so you can naturally touch. Ever wonder why marriage counselors always make spouses face each other and hold hands? In my case, if a situation is really intense, I suggest that the couple sit with their backs touching each other so they are still touching but not distracted by each others’ facial expressions. This is because it’s hard to fight with someone when you’re making physical contact. Try it. The next time your spouse angrily approaches you with a problem that has obviously been bothering him or her for quite some time, take his or her hand, and say, “let’s sit down and talk about it.” Your response will likely surprise him or her enough to actually do what you are suggesting and you will let him or her know that you are interested in hearing his or her concerns. This will allow you both to work toward a solution instead of focusing on the argument.
Research suggests that only 7% of our communication are based on content; meaning, we don’t hear each other enough to even disagree on what each other are saying. What we are mainly arguing about is the fact that we are both angry and the approach; which is why 38% of communication is based on tone of voice and 55% is based on non-verbal signals such as facial expressions and gestures. Although the responsibility falls on both of the participants in the argument, it is easier to diffuse an argument via the response rather than the initiation. And throughout a marriage, both of you are definitely going to swap positions as the responder and the initiator. As such, you may find yourself angrily approaching your spouse and need a gentle answer instead of harsh words as the response. Remember, it’s not about being right or proving to each other that you could be on an episode of Law and Order, it’s about getting each other.
Solomon said, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”