A 5-minute conversation can change your relationship.
According to Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less Love More, the strategy for relationship change is based on 3 principles:
- Love is conditional.
- Love’s conditions are met by using the right verbal skills.
- Couples don’t have to talk more, they have to talk better
For her mediation practice, Puhn designed a series of 5-Minute Conversations, each one based on a common issue that often troubles relationships. She encourages couples to use these Conversations as tools to overhaul their communication routines.
We had an opportunity to ask Laurie one question at the More Magazine Reinvention Convention.
(F) Criticism can be detrimental or influential depending on how it is delivered. What’s the 5-minute cure for chronic negative criticism in a relationship?
(LP) You use ‘rational criticism.” This is the intelligent way to make something that is imperfect a little more bearable. The basic theory behind rational criticism is that you have to engage your brain and check your emotions. “Emotional criticism” is not effective. Evaluating the aftermath of an outburst will help you understand the importance of being less explosive and more deliberate.
- Keep your eye on the prize. When you’re about to criticize your mate’s behavior, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What do I want to happen here?” If you want him to spend some family time, but he’s glued to his fantasy football game, don’t criticize his rudeness. Pointing out negative behavior will not motivate him.
- * Sweeten the deal. If you think about the positive reasons you want something to happen, you’re more likely to approach the conversation differently. You might say, “We miss you; it’s a lot more fun when you’re around. We want you to come and spend some time with us.”
- * Say what you want, not what you don’t want, and say it with kindness, not accusation. After pointing out the positive side of what you want, stop there. When your partner makes the change you seek, acknowledge it.
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Laurie Puhn is also an attorney-mediator. She is in private practice in New York.