I have listened for over 30 years to couples fighting in couples therapy. This includes dating couples, newlyweds and couples that have been conflicting for 50 years, still trying to understand each other and relate to each other. Why so much conflict between people who Â truly love each other – or used to?
While it is obviously complicated, most unresolved conflicts remain unresolved because people use logic only to solve the issue rather than understanding that it is emotions- not just logic- that determine our behavior, get us so upset at each other and motivate us to change. To influence behavior , motivation(emotions) has to come first, then information (logic).
In my experience, many peopke do not care what you know until they know that you care! AÂ person has to be OPEN to listening to what you are saying, or your words will fall on deaf ears.Â
Having understanding of this concept can make you very bright……that is, it will give you high emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence and how will it help your relationship?
Emotional intelligenceÂ (EI), as used here, Â is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, andÂ understandÂ the emotions of your partner and how you should respond to elicit cooperativeness instead of rebellion from yourÂ partner. Â It is a crucial skill to have in relationships because, in my experience, it is nearly impossible to solve anÂ emotionallyÂ based argument with logic alone without dealing with the emotions Â lurking beneath.
As proof this, remember the 1996 movie, “The Break-up” starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn? In the “wash the dishes” scene, Jennifer’s character (Brooke) asks Vince’s cahracter (Gary) to help her wash the Â dishes after a dinner party. He resists. She insists. He relents but with an attiitude and says “all right, I’ll help you with the dishes” to which Jennifer gets angry because of his attitude. Gary then says, What’s wrong? I told you I’d help you with the dishes” Brooke then says: “I want you to want to help me with the dishes.”
Gary, like many partners, had no clue as to what was happening. So, he replied: “Who (in their right mind) would want to do dishes” ?
And on it goes. Neither could understand the other or why the other was so upset. Neither could understand why the other was so uncooperative. Both initiated in each other patterns of responding in their brains (neural circuits) which were pretty much beyond their control at the time they were occurring.
The problem escalated because neither could respond effectively to their partner at a time when the proper response would have de-activated the whole thing.Â
Emotional intelligence is a set of skills to elicit cooperativeness from your partner- Â at a time when your partner is being the most uncooperative. It is a set of skills to influence your partner’ s level of cooperativeness through your responses to their behavior rather than responding on automatic pilot as you may have done in the past.
This is not easy to do because we are wired (in our brains) to respond in certain ways to other people, including our partners. Too, when we are upset with our partner, we usually think that the solution to the problem is for THEM to change their behavior. Â However, those with emotional intelligence skills understand that you can also get your partner to change sometimes by modifying how YOU respond to what they do. This may haveÂ immediateÂ impact on them and on the argument. In fact, it may stop the argument dead in its tracks. It may also impact how yourÂ partnerÂ behaves in the future.
In our example, if Gary had hugged Brooke andÂ acknowledgedÂ her for all her work in preparing the meal, can you imagine there may have been a different outcome? If Brooke had responded to Gary’s refusal in a less hostile way, would that have made a difference? Maybe. The odds certainly would have improved.
Successful couples sometimes experiment and try different ways of responding to each other until they find a way to “fine-tune” their communication and learn to interact with each other to elicit cooperativeness instead of defiance, rebellion, or passive-aggression.
Being mindfulness of the affect that your response is going to have on your partner is another skill of emotional intelligence that should be practiced daily- but only by those who want a more peaceful and less conflictual relationship!
Emotional intelligence skills are central to our approach to both anger management and couples therapy. Two of the most important emotional intelligence skill that we teach are empathy and social awareness. To learn more, we suggest:angrcoach or angecoachonline.com