>We both need to be right!

Is being right the most important thing?

There is a sister version of this, which is known as, “If you’re right, then I must be wrong.” And the extended version, “I am always right.”

The pattern in this relationship generally consists of both partners insisting that their viewpoint is the “right” one, and should be adhered to/followed. Words like ‘stubborn’ and ‘bull-headed’ come to mind with this pattern. Have you thought this about your partner? Have you yourself been called these names?

In this kind of dynamic, very often neither partner is actually listening to what’s being said. You’re too busy making up your own argument in your head. Because You. Are. Right. This prevents you from understanding your partner’s point, as well as entrenching you in your position; the result is a dead end. Stalemate. And you wonder why you never feel understood at the end of an argument?! (or why you sleep alone?)

Okay – here’s a simple technique to pull you out of this pattern. Approach your partner at a relatively peaceful time, and let them know that you have something to discuss; tell them that you want to make sure that you really hear them as well as possible. Tell them that a brilliant therapist you know suggested the following technique, and give it a try!

Speaker-Listener Technique:

  • Decide which one of you is going to be the ‘Speaker’ and which will be the ‘Listener’.
  • As the Speaker, make BRIEF, clear statements and pause after each one. Keep the statements manageable, so that the Listener doesn’t get overwhelmed with too much information. (i.e. “Sometimes I feel pressure to socialize with your friends on the weekend, and we haven’t seen my friends in a long time”) Be kind – remember that you will have to be the Listener later in the discussion! At the pause, indicate to the Listener that you are ready for their feedback.
  • As feedback, the Listener paraphrases (not word for word) what the Speaker has said and then asks, “Did I get that right?” (The time for the Listener to respond comes later. Right now you are just listening as actively as possible.)
  • The Speaker will tell the Listener if they got it right, in which case you continue with your next statement, or if they didn’t get it right, the Speaker kindly repeats or rephrases what they just said. If you become frustrated as the Speaker, note that feeling to your Listener. Don’t blame them, just reflect the feeling back to them.
  • When you have said what you needed to say as the Speaker, switch roles and let the Listener become the Speaker to respond to the information you have just given them.


  • As the Speaker, try to use “I statements” – take responsibility for your feelings.
  • As the Listener, try to listen with an open mind – don’t just memorize what the Speaker said, let them know how you are hearing it. If there is too much information, it’s okay to ask the Speaker to shorten what they’ve said. Try saying “That was a lot of information, and I really want to understand – would you (please) break that down for me?”

This technique ensures that your energy is really focused on listening to each other, and at least processing what the other has said. Hopefully, as we listen better, we understand the value of both viewpoints!

Next Week: Unmasking Sarcasm



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