Sonya Thomas lcsw

Gottman Part 4 of 5 – The Soft Start Up

Here we are at post four in our Gottman series.  Today, let’s look at soft (rather than harsh) start-ups.  How one begins a conversation, requests a behavior change, expresses a grievance, or tries to influence one’s partner has a much better chance of a good outcome if the “start up” is soft vs. harsh.  In his research, Dr. Gottman discovered he could predict the likelihood of a divorce by observing just the first 3 minutes of a conflict discussion. The couples who divorced started their discussions with a great deal of negative emotion and displayed far fewer expressions of positivity than those who stayed together. Not only were they negative, but they were also critical.

So, what does a soft start up contain?  The Masters of Relationship “start up” their conversations with the below attributes:

  • They don’t blame.
  • They describe what is happening without judgement or evaluation.
  • They are polite and appreciative.
  • They don’t bring up stored up grievances or the “kitchen sink”.
  • They express how they feel using “I Statements”.

They also mind their tone and body language.  So what does this look like in action?  Imagine you want to have a conversation with your partner about money.  She is a spender and you are a saver.  Instead of starting the conversation harshly saying “You know, I just got the credit card bill today.  You so irresponsible with money.  We are going to go broke because of you . . . ” you might try this instead:

“I want to have a conversation about how much we spend and how much we save.  I just got the credit card bill, and I feel concerned.  I know you enjoy being able to treat yourself, and I want you to be able to do that.  I feel more comfortable if we also save some money.  Can we come up with a plan so that we both have something that works for us here?”

There is no guarantee that the outcome is going to be what you want it to be, but of the two, harsh vs. soft start up, which do you imagine has the best odds of getting to a win?

Until next time, peace.

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