How To Fight So Everybody Wins
He comes home flustered. "Honey, I'm late for a meeting and all my shirts are dirty!" Now, he believes he asked reasonably for a clean shirt. But she, hearing herself criticised, fires back, "If you'd fixed the washing machine like you promised, you'd have a cupboard full of clean shirts!" "I only asked for a shirt," he says. "You didn't ask, you complained!" she replies. Did he?
We complain, imagining we're asking reasonably that our partner change something we're upset about, then we're frustrated when it backfires. Why not adopt the Biblical principle, "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2 NKJV). You'll be amazed how much you'll get once you learn to ask, instead of assuming, demanding or complaining.
Therapist and author Bill O'Hanlon calls this 'turning your complaints into action requests'. Instead of telling your husband or wife what you don't like about their actions, ask graciously and clearly for what you'd like them to do. Be solution-focused, action-oriented, concrete and specific. Instead of, "John, we've got guests in thirty minutes and you're still watching TV!" try, "John, they'll be here soon. Would you mind bathing the children while I finish cooking?" No complaint, just a request. Instead of, "Nobody lifts a finger around here but me," try, "Sweetheart, I'm really exhausted, would you help me clear up the dishes?" Accept responsibility for turning your complaints into action requests, then make them concrete and specific. Saying "I need you to be considerate" is much too vague. Ask yourself, "If he or she were being considerate, what would they be doing?" Then kindly request that behaviour - and always show gratitude when you get it!