Can the way that you raise a complaint predict the outcome of your relationship?

Gottman found that by observing the first three minutes of a conflict conversation, he could predict not only how the rest of the conversation would go, but also how the relationship would go 6 years down the road…with high accuracy!

He found that couples who approach conflict gently by explaining how they are feeling about a situation, rather than by bringing up a flaw in the other person’s character had a much better chance of success.

For example, saying something like ” I’m frustrated because the bills aren’t paid” works out better for the couple than saying something like “You’re so lazy, why haven’t you paid the bills yet?”

Being specific about the problem that you want changed is also key in conflict. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your partner to know what to do differently in the future.

For example saying “You need to be more responsible” is vague and unsurprisingly ineffective because it doesn’t give your partner much direction. However saying something like “It would be so helpful for me if you could pay the bills by the end of the week”. This is a much easier for your partner to change as it is clear and direct.

You may not be able to completely avoid conflict in your relationship (as even the strongest relationships have conflict) but you can control how you approach the conflict. This is important because you don’t want to keep repeating the same negative approach asĀ  Gottman has shown that this can have a devastating impact on the relationship.

So remember to gently talk about the situation as opposed to a flaw in your partner and to be specific.