| February 6, 2013

How many times have you stubbornly sat on your butt, refusing to budge while your mate calls for you from another room? 

You can hear her yell, “Do you know where…” But the rest? Nothing.  “I can’t hear you,” you yell back. After a few incomprehensible yells back and forth, she is at the door to the computer room yelling, “The salt, darn it!  The salt! Couldn’t you get off your behind to see what I wanted?  You know I’m in the middle of cooking dinner!”

OK, maybe your wife could have walked over to you right from the start and eliminated the cause of the bickering.  But she didn’t.  In that first moment of hearing her yell, you had a choice: You could either focus on what she could have done (walked over to you) or focus on what you could do to change the situation (go to her).

READ: How to Fight Right — and Win

We’re all a little stubborn sometimes. And it’s that attitude of sticking to our position that harms a relationship because it makes our spouse feel like he/she is not heard and his/her opinion doesn’t count.  Try these four opportunities for rejecting stubbornness, or, if your mate is the stubborn one, use these strategies to coach him/her off the stubborn cliff.

Opportunity #1: Discover the Power of “Maybe”

The next time you’re about to say, “No, you’re wrong,” stop yourself and think about whether there is any chance that your mate could have a valid point of view. If there is, then replace your “no” with a “maybe,” Not only does “maybe” show you’re open to options, it also opens up the door to mutual respect. 

If it’s your mate who’s eager to shut down the conversation, don’t get angry, get smart.  Say, “I can tell that you are sure I am wrong, but does it really hurt anyone if I use one minute to explain my point of view?  Isn’t is possible that maybe I have something valuable to add?”

READ: 10 Things Happy Couples Talk About

Opportunity #2: Scrap the Competition

Do you think you’re smarter than your mate?  Do you look for opportunities to prove your superiority?  Why? Of course you are better than him/her at some things.  But you’re never going to better than your mate or anyone else at everything.  If you’re busy looking for opportunities to show up your mate, then you’ll be blind to chances to show off your mate and learn from his/her strengths.  On the other hand, if your mate is one-upping you, just lay it out there, tactfully.  “When you say it like that, it’s as if you want me to feel dumb.  Am I misinterpreting you?”

Opportunity #3: Make Something Temporary

When the winds of stubbornness surround you and it feels like torture to agree to an idea that’s not your own, make it temporary, not permanent.  Say that you will try this other way and test it out, as long as you still have the chance to reconsider.  On the other hand, if your mate is the one refusing a good idea, offer up the temporary try-out option.

READ: 6 Unexpected Reasons to Go to Couples Therapy

Opportunity #4: Replace “You Should Have” With “I Can”

Yes, she should have replaced the toilet paper roll, but she didn’t.  Rather than stubbornly argue about what your mate should have done, focus on yourself and what you can do in the present to make the situation better.  When you choose to think about what can be done instead of what should have been done, your openness will lead you to a better outcome: a solution, and no fight.  In turn, if your mate wants to argue about the past, point out that while you understand that a mistake was made, you would rather focus on the future and come up with a plan together to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Ending the habit of digging in your heels and helping your partner do the same, will broaden your conversations, build respect and appreciation and allow you to see new qualities and strengths in your mate.