To solve problems in your marriageâ€”along with your other closest relationshipsâ€”first begin by stating your positive reason why you want to solve a specific issue. For example, in Ron and Pattyâ€™s case, something like the following could be said: "Honey, Iâ€™d like to talk to you about the issue we have about chores. I donâ€™t want to make you wrong. I just want to work out something that would be agreeable to both of us. Iâ€™d really like to avoid arguments and instead spend more time feeling intimate with each other. Would you be willing to talk about it so we could finally resolve this issue?"
When you tell people the ultimate positive reason why you want to solve a problem with them, theyâ€™ll tend to be receptive to listening to you.
After presenting your positive reason for talking to someone, donâ€™t fall into the trap of presenting your side of the issue. Instead, begin by asking him or her "the amazing problem solving question." The power of this question is that it gently directs people to think in ways that are helpful for solving the issue at hand. In addition, by asking the person youâ€™re dealing with to solve the problem, it prevents the two of you from bickering and establishes your sincerity in looking for a solution. The question is, "Considering my needs and desires with this issue, what do you propose might be a compromise that would work for both of us?"
There are three possibilities of what someone will do when asked this question. First, they may present a solution that you find agreeable. If they do, tell them how great of an idea it is, write the solution down on paper and keep your end of the bargain. If he or she says they donâ€™t have any ideas, or if their ideas are not acceptable to you, you can say, "Those are interesting suggestions you made. Would you be open to hearing some ideas I have that might work for both of us?" Since you let them go first, theyâ€™ll feel obliged now to listen to your suggestions. When proposing possible solutions, try to present at least a couple of specific ideas; that way theyâ€™ll see that youâ€™re not dead set on a specific solution, and it will create a better atmosphere for compromise.
If you or the person youâ€™re talking with fall back into the blame game, ask the problem-solving question again. Keep steering yourself back toward exploring solutions that are acceptable to the both of you. You might ask your spouse, "What is most important to you about [the issue at hand], or what most bothers you about the problem?" The more you understand each other, the more likely youâ€™ll be able to come up with agreements that truly work.