First, don’t make it worse…

 In Blog, Effective Dialogue

(Time to read: ~2 minutes; original published Feb 2011)

John and I had a particularly challenging time last week – getting ready to go out of town.

We each have different approaches (strategies) for doing this, so it’s easy for misunderstandings to occur.

For example, when it’s “obvious” to me that John “should” do something, and it’s “obvious” to John that he “should” do something else.

Or it’s “obvious” to John that I “should” do something, and that’s not obvious to me, or I think I “should” do something else.

I wouldn’t want our interchanges at such times to be taken as ideal examples of NVC in action – we both recognize we would like to live NVC more fully in such moments.

And as the day wore on, I really appreciated the various times we each demonstrated this first principle of NVC in arguments: “First, don’t make it worse…”

What “Not Making It Worse” Can Look Like

A misunderstanding would arise, and one or the other of us would respond with an angry, irritated or frustrated tone and/or words – and in some way, the other person would not add fuel to the flames of conflict.

Sometimes the “not making it worse” was just being silent – not responding “in kind”.

Sometimes “not making it worse” was simply doing what the other person wanted done – again, often without words. Or if words were spoken, they were in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.

Sometimes “not making it worse” involved asking what the other person wanted done – again, in a matter-of-fact tone.

I find it hard work – sometimes VERY hard work – to make the choice not to respond in kind.  And I like the end result.

Benefits – and Options

Things that are simply momentary irritations remain that way, rather than having repercussions that last for days or even months.

And the neat thing about “first, don’t make it worse…” is that I can do it at any point in an argument. Each time the other person says something I have the choice to not make it worse in this moment – not to dig the pit of conflict and ill-feeling even deeper.

And whenever I make that choice, I know that I’m making it a little bit easier to get back into harmonious connection with the other person.

Celebrate Your “Not Making It Worse” Choices

Are there any recent or significant moments when you’ve made the choice “not to make things worse”?

I invite you to celebrate your contribution in those moments – and I celebrate with you!


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