How great marriage teams turn dissension into discussion – using just 4 words by Peter Pearson

How great marriage teams turn dissension into discussion – using just 4 words

Face it. When you start living with someone, the opportunities to get on each other’s nerves are everywhere.

That’s why it’s so easy for somebody to say something that causes an explosion.

“You never put your dishes away.”

“You never pick up after yourself.”

“You’re never on time.”

“You never close the door.”

“You’re always interrupting.”

“You never take me anywhere.”

“You never help with the kids.”

“You’re really inconsiderate.”

“You got us lost again.”

Think about saying or hearing those salvos.

Could most couples resist taking the bait? Resist a defensive comeback or counter complaint?

It’s easy to imagine where these dialogues are headed.

But what if you could turn dissensions into discussions?

And do it with four words.

Here’s a simple four-word question that gets you back on track of being a strong team.

Because it takes teamwork to get both of you through the marriage journey in good shape.

It takes teamwork to bring out the best in each other.

If you say the four words with the right voice tone and facial expression you can avoid falling through the trap door into bruised feelings and cold shoulders.

The four words are, “What do you think?”

Now look at the list of complaints above and add these four magic words to each one.

For example, “You never put your dishes away, what do you think?”


“You never pick up after yourself, what do you think?”

When said with the right voice tone and facial expression you create a better discussion much of the time.

Could you imagine the whole family practicing these four words after expressing a complaint?

If you’re curious why this works, here are some things couples have said to me.

“It helps me step away and look back on the situation.”

“It seems my opinion could matter.”

“The criticism can’t be so bad if they want to know what I think.”

“To ask the question properly, I have to change my intonation.”

“Asking the question implies I am expressing an opinion and I might be wrong.”

“Asking the question is not the whole truth, it is only my experience.”

“Asking the question softens the attack and acknowledges another point of view could exist.”

“It helps us avoid the nasty corrosive effect of nagging or being nagged.”

It’s not easy to remember to do it in the heat of the moment. It takes practice. But it’s a really valuable trick. What’s happening is that asking the question forces you to move from the amygdala (lizard brain) to the prefrontal cortex where your better self is located. You start thinking instead of reacting from raw emotion.

The possibilities are endless for supporting better teamwork and better discussions. What do you think?


Peter Pearson

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