In most relationships, at some point, there are disagreements. This is true for marriages and romantic relationships, friendships, siblings, parents, offspring, and work colleagues among others.
These disagreements are part of life and they don’t have to be a big deal. But they can become a huge problem if you and someone in your life keep having the same fight over and over.
Frustration ensues, leaving you both feeling hurt, unheard and raw. It can make you want to avoid the issue, leading to even more frustration and hurt, and the issue grows bigger and bigger.
Getting beyond groundhog day: How to keep talking over a problem without it sounding like a repeat!
So, if you are having the same argument over and over again with someone, how do you move beyond feeling like you are a record with a needle stuck in a groove?
When you have made your point repeatedly, and heard the other person’s point of view ad nauseam, it can feel futile to keep trying to discuss it. Dropping it might work if only that pesky problem would go away. But as issues rarely disappear (and if they seem to, sometimes resentment can linger, so it’s still not “put to bed”), you need to keep talking about them until you get some resolution.
What’s underneath the recurring fight?
The way to stop having the same fight over and over is by talking about what lies underneath your point of view. When you can speak about not just your feelings, but your hopes and dreams which underpin your perspective, the other person is more likely to make a connection to some or all of what you are saying.
When you give them a reasoning that is grounded in a dream, they are better able to see some of themselves in that – they also have dreams.
What do dreams have to do with a never-ending argument?
When I say dreams, I mean what it is that you are hoping for in the bigger picture. When the argument arises, how does it conflict with your life goals and values?
The perpetual fight about homework
For example, an argument about getting homework done is commonplace in many homes where adolescents live.
If you’re a parent, try going beyond “Why don’t you just do your homework?” to a deeper point where a hope comes in, such as “I really want you to have plenty of choices when you finish school and I worry that if you don’t do the work now, those choices won’t be there for you.”
Your child may connect to the love in those words, and also the idea of having choices. At least they are likely to stop and consider more than they might if they are just resisting the same old directive.
Your teen might respond with something along the lines of “I just want to have some time to chill. I need to relax straight after school. But I want choices too – it’s important to me. I just need to be able to do it on my schedule rather than yours.”
This response expresses a hope for greater independence about when the homework gets done rather than “Why do you have to be on my back all the time?” – a defensive response.
If you and your child can both talk of your dreams, you can begin to have more productive conversations about how homework can happen, when, how much, etc.
Fighting over and over again about money
Similarly, if you and your partner have the same fight over and over about money, you might frequently fight over how much is spent on what.
You might feel that it is important to have nice clothes, perhaps your partner thinks you can make do with what you already have.
By going a little deeper and examining the dreams underneath the perpetual argument, although you might never convince your partner that your own view is right (and vice versa), you can get to a point of greater understanding about one another’s position.
The spender might be able to talk about clothes providing self-confidence in their highly visible job, or a necessary part in striving for a promotion (dress for the job you want, right?). The saver might talk of a dream of a fantastic holiday or owning a home.
Stop having the same fight over and over and start communicating in a new way
When we can hear the values underlying the other person’s point of view, we can start to identify with aspects of that (if not all of it) and move toward a resolution, or a partial resolution.
This moves the dialogue away from the same old statements:
“I need new clothes for work.”
“Why can’t you stop spending money?”
…to a greater understanding and appreciation of the other’s position:
“I know you really want us to go on a big trip next year, so I have cut my spending down.”
“I realise you need new clothes for your job, but maybe we can negotiate a spend limit so that we are also saving for our holiday?”
Next time you feel frustrated by the same old argument on repeat, try speaking from your feelings and your dreams and see if that moves you forward toward resolution (or at least less frustration)!
Now, who wants to tell the leaders of the US and North Korea?
Having the same fight over and over? Consider counselling. Book an appointment with The Bondi Psychologist today.