I've been writing a series on conflict in relationships for a bit and wanted to take today to look more closely at the role of judgment in conflicts. All too often when couples are stuck in a conflict stalemate judgment is playing a role.
So learning to change the role of judgment can shift conflict patterns in significant ways. Here's how to do it:
LEARN TO IDENTIFY JUDGMENTS
Before we can shift judgments role in our relationships we have to get confident at identifying when judgment is present. You can use the following conversation flags to notice judgment is present:
- Right/Wrong & Good/Bad - Narrows the focus of the conversation to defend against judgment
- Should - Should implies right/wrong or good/bad and often results from unsolicited advice
- Enough/Not Enough - Measuring and evaluating are a great examples of judgment
- Always/Never - Often indicate we're coming from a place of judgment
- Comparison - is a form of evaluation that forces us to leave the present moment to think about other people or situations
It is often easier to start implementing non-judgment practices within than with others. Start by noticing your own experience without judgment. Just describe how things feel, taste, smell, or sound.
Notice your body's experiences without trying to change or critique what's happening. Just describe and experience it as is.
SORTING JUDGMENTS IN NEUTRAL MOMENTS
Before applying non-judgment in heated exchanges, use neutral situations to build your skills. Notice your thoughts that evaluate, compare, measure or critique and start shifting them to observation.
"This pizza is really good. The crust is perfect" (good and perfect are judgments) becomes "This pizza is hot, salty, and cheesy. The crust is crispy. It reminds me of slumber parties in my childhood. I want another piece."
"The floor here is really gross. Do they ever clean?" (gross is a judgment, their cleaning practice is interpretation) becomes "The floor is sticky. I can see drip marks and lint on it."
SAVOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Part of building patterns of non-judgment is learning to observe without interpretation even in non-conflictual situations. Notice and describe your partner judgment-free in joyful and peaceful situations is just as important to cultivating new conflict skills as focusing on more challenging moments.
Try describing what your partner is doing during even mundane moments (cooking, folding laundry, sleeping, or reading). Commit yourself to observing instead of evaluating (right/wrong, good/bad) and when your reactions arise notice them but refocus back on observing your partner.
You can also begin a practice of mindful listening. Instead of planning your response or observing only your reactions, stay fully present with your partner's process while they talk.
Listen for deeper understanding focusing only on your partner's thoughts, feelings, and desires. If you notice your attention shift to yourself, the future, or the past, try to draw your attention back to simply hearing what's being said.
DESCRIBE IN HEAT
Once you've built up the practices above, start applying description instead of judgment when you notice anger or judgment between you and your partner.
"You're suck a jerk. You always cut me off. I hate the way you interrupt me!" becomes "I wasn't finished talking. I want to finish what I was saying."
"Stop yelling. I hate when you lose control like this." becomes "I hear you raising your voice and I feel myself shutting down."
CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS
Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts? Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:
Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships. Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook. Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").
Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples. Totally free. Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here.
Call me for a free consult. Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last. I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach. Let's talk.
Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.
Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease. She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow.