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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.

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