Step 2: Escalating conflict
Dr. Gottman says that the most obvious indicator that a conversation is not going to go well is the way it begins.
Within the first three minutes, Dr. Gottman could predict how a 15-minute conflict conversation would end. His research concluded that 96% of the time a conversation ends negatively because it starts negatively.
When a conversation begins harshly, it invites a harsh reply:
- “You never make time for me. All you ever do is work. No wonder we have problems in our marriage!”
- “Solving how we parent our kids would help our marriage, but when I try to tell you about our kids’ routines and what’s important, you don’t do it. I even write out step-by-step instructions, but that doesn’t even work. I have no idea how to get through to you.”
While your frustration about a lack of responsiveness and teamwork is valid, beginning a conversation with blame, criticism, and sarcasm is a sure way to derail a productive conversation into a fight. When this happens, it can lead couples into nasty cycles of conflict if there is no repair.