By Susie and Otto Collins
Does it seem like any conversation with your partner turns into a shouting match?
Do you feel like your mate can’t (or won’t) hear what you have to say?
Does it often seem like your partner yells at you more than he or she speaks to you?
Yelling, shouting and arguing do happen. We all lose our cool from time to time and say things more harshly than we intended. Some of us try to keep our intense emotions under control, but then we have a major meltdown and let it all out.
You may have mostly been on the receiving end of your partner’s anger and shouting. Or, it could be that you tend to rise to his or her level of intensity and you both end up yelling.
While it’s certainly not healthy to hold in your emotions or to try to hide how you truly feel, it’s also not healthy or effective to communicate with your partner by shouting and yelling.
As you probably already know, when you are being yelled at, it’s nearly impossible to really listen to the meaning of the shouted words. When you are yelling, it is also nearly impossible to communicate and be heard.
If your partner has a habit of yelling at you and you’d like him or her to stop so that you two can really communicate and connect, try these 5 tips…
#1: Recognize your role.
It’s rarely easy to acknowledge that you also play a role in the conflict that’s going on in your love relationship or marriage– but you most likely do. Have the courage to recognize the role that you play.
It could be your tendency to get defensive, to close down and become silent, to criticize, blame or judge. When you feel calm and clear-headed, think back to the last time you and your partner had an argument or he or she yelled at you. If you were an observer looking in on this situation, what would you notice about how you usually act and react?
Be sure that you are taking responsibility for your share and not the entire dynamic. Recognizing your role does NOT mean that you take on the blame for your partner’s yelling, words or actions.
#2: Interrupt the usual pattern and try something different.
Once you have a better idea of what you usually do when your partner yells (or even before he or she yells), you can start to catch yourself sooner when you do the things that feed into the contentious situation.
When you notice your own voice starting to rise or feel yourself closing down and becoming silent– or whatever it is that you do– then you can interrupt yourself mid-stream. You can stop before the tension escalates and the yelling starts (or continues).
As you do this, you can also try some new responses to your partner’s yelling or hostility.
#3: Remember to breathe.
As mundane as it sounds, remembering to breathe in the middle of a tense or argumentative moment can make a big difference.
What often happens when a person feels threatened or tense is that he or she breathes more shallowly and quickly or even holds the breath. As a result, the entire physiological system becomes tighter, adrenaline races and there is a greater chance that the person will react instead of respond to whatever it going on.
The reaction is often to fight, flee or freeze. These are life-saving reactions in certain situations, but they are never conducive to connecting communication.
Remind yourself to breathe and to slow and deepen your breathing at all times– especially when you and your partner are in conflict or there is yelling.
#4: Expect to be respected and heard.
Expectations are powerful. We expect that the sun will rise and then set each day. We expect that our cars will transport us from one place to another.
And, over time, we develop expectations about ourselves and our partner.
You might have an expectation that your mate will yell and scream at you when you make a mistake or somehow disappoint him or her. You may expect that your partner will either ignore or fail to understand what you are trying to say.
Expectations are neither good nor bad, but they do have a strong influence on how we react to situations that come up.
If you’re about to talk with your partner about an difficult issue and he or she has a history of yelling at you, it’s likely that you’ll approach this conversations expecting to be yelled at or for a fight to ensue.
There may be a long history to support your expectations or perhaps a few stand-out memories have caused you to believe that your partner will shout at you or fail to understand you.
Be wise and aware, but also be sure you are responding to what’s going on in the present moment instead of reacting from the past and your expectations.
#5: Create agreements and set boundaries.
When the two of you are calm, request that he or she come up with some agreements with you about how you will communicate with one another.
The key to creating agreements that will really bring improvement is to make sure you both feel free to be honest and realistic as you make them. An ultimatum is NOT an agreement. Once you have found words for an agreement that you both are okay with, make sure you each have the same understanding of it.
There are times when setting a boundary is also called for. If your partner refuses to create (or follow) agreements with you, it might be time for you to make clear what you will and will not allow.
This requires you to affirm to yourself the kind of respect and interaction that you want in your relationship and then to stand behind that.
Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches and authors who help couples communicate, connect and create the passionate relationships they desire. They have written these e-books and programs: Magic Relationship Words, Relationship Trust Turnaround, No More Jealousy and Stop Talking on Eggshells, among many others.