10 Ways To Get Along With A Difficult Partner
Is your communication style ruining your relationship? Is your partner's? Learn how to identify and deal with difficult communication styles. Are you living with a bully? Are you getting the cold shoulder from a withholding mate? Do you often feel put down by a critical or judgmental partner?
Anyone can get along with a partner who's accepting, fair, mature, easy-going and direct. But how do you get along with a partner who regularly picks fights?
Whether your partner is a control freak, a game player, irrational or simply immature, there are simple and specific tools and techniques you can use to de-escalate arguments before they get out of control or to repair situations that have already gotten out of control.
There are 40 common communication styles. Twenty are positive and constructive, while 20 are negative and destructive.
With a reasonable partner you can show by example what you want, ask for what you want or negotiate for what you want. With an unreasonable partner these techniques don't work.
The first thing you must do to improve your situation is to face reality: You will NEVER have a "great" relationship with a difficult partner. All you can do is manage it better. The reason is that difficult partners don't want to have a "great" relationship. This is your goal, not theirs. You have no control over your partner, but you do have total control over yourself.
If, for whatever reason, you've decided to stay in a relationship with a difficult partner, the following 10 tips may help take some of the burden off of you and redirect it back to your partner, where it belongs.
Tip 1: Know why you stay with a difficult partner
Are you choosing to stay or do you believe you have no choice? There are just as many reasons as there are relationships for staying with or trying to communicate with a difficult partner. Sometimes we feel as if we have no options. Sometimes it feels comfortable to us because this is how we were raised. Sometimes we don't even realize it can be different or better. Be clear about why you're staying with a partner who treats you badly and it will make it easier for you to cope.
Tip 2: Don't get sucked into their trap — don't let them make it your problem
Remember that their behavior usually has nothing to do with you. Don't take it personally and don't get emotional (granted this is easier said than done, but even small steps will eventually take you great distances). They often have fun sucking you in. Don't make it fun for them. A screaming baby is certainly irritating, but you don't take their crying personally. Think of your partner as a screaming baby who will eventually cry him or herself out.
Tip 3: When he or she attempts to escalate a disagreement, it's your job to de-escalate
If your partner is out of control, disengage yourself. Don't engage him or her. Keep your distance. Be polite and agree with them. Say I'm sorry if you've done something wrong and say I'm sorry you feel this way, if you haven't. Don't bring up hurt or anger from the past. Don't walk out of the room; just be calm and quiet. Don't assign blame, take the blame. Don't make them wrong, make them right.
Tip 4: Be an observer
Notice if your partner is difficult with everyone or just with you. Then observe the situations in which your partner's difficult communication style presents itself—during arguments, while making plans, during conversations, when you make requests? You may be able to avoid these specific situations in the future. When you communicate, pay attention to body language, yours and theirs. Pay attention to how you say it, not just what to say. For example, are you being sarcastic, insulting or using a hostile tone
Tip 5: Take away your partner's control by having a goal
Know what you want the outcome of your communication to be. Focus on one thing or one problem at a time. Stay focused and on task. Clearly define the goal of your communication. Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked. Stay focused on your goal, not on their behavior.
Tip 6: Understand your partner's goal
Difficult people are difficult because they get something from it. They get control, power, attention and ego gratification, for starters. If you can figure out what they really want, you may be able to give it to them and avoid their acting out.
Tip 7: Ask more questions
Knowledge and awareness is very powerful. Ask if they're aware of what they're doing. Ask for as much information as possible, to find out what they really want. Ask for clarification. Ask them what they want from you. Ask what you can do for them. Ask questions and try to find out what they're really saying or trying to say.
Tip 8: Timing is everything
Take a time out if you need it. Reschedule or find out when it is best for them to communicate whatever it is you need to communicate. Make sure it's a good time for a discussion or to make a request. Again, if they're irrational or out of control just be silent and patient.
Tip 9: Use rewards and punishments
We're all motivated by different things. Some of us by rewards, some of us by punishment. Identify a more positive substitute for his or her current bad behavior and reward your partner when he or she moves in a positive, constructive direction. If feasible, let your partner know that for every criticism you receive you will be withholding or eliminating something your partner values. Stop responding to the negative criticism in any way. Simply ignore it. Let your partner know that you will no longer tolerate destructive criticism.
Tip 10: Don't expect your difficult partner to change overnight — if ever
Trying to change someone is always an exercise in frustration. If you decide to stay with a difficult person or engage them, then think of it as your problem not theirs. Because we tend to believe our positions and ourselves we believe that we're right once we've decided something. You may be able to alter their behavior with carrots and sticks, but you'll likely never change them. They will only change if their behavior stops getting them what they want and likely, not even then.
The goal of these tips is to help you understand and change your behavior. If you're able to influence your partner, consider it a bonus.
For a free sample from Steve Stewart's new e-book "Is Your Communication Style Ruining Your Relationship—Is Your Partner's: Learn how to identify and deal with the 20 most difficult communication styles" visit http://www.ImproveYourRelationship.com/communication-style.html
About the Author
Relationship coach, author and speaker, Steve Stewart's new book "52 Simple Rules to Improve Your Relationship" is available at http://www.ImproveYourRelationship.com. For 100s of relationship tips, techniques and tools to help you improve your relationship, you can also subscribe to his free, monthly "Relationship Tips" e-newsletter.
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