“Just the Facts, Ma’am” (or, Would You Rather be Right or be Happy?)

In the old television series (and later a movie) Dragnet, Detective Joe Friday was always demanding that witnesses cut through the fluff, feelings, and speculation in their statements and just “stick to the facts.”  

Do your conversations with your partner often turn into competitions over who has the most facts and data to support their point of view? Does it sometimes feel like an endless defending of your respective turfs and proving yourselves right? Sometimes in my own relationship conversations I am distracted from what is truly important, the feelings of the other person, and instead find myself keeping score of points made and defending my perspective.

To be successful in our communication and problem solving efforts with our partner we must show that we care about their feelings and understanding their point of view. We won’t always agree with their perspective, but as long as they sense that we are open to listening and seeking the best solution, whether theirs, ours, or something in between, the relationship trust and safety will continue to grow.

The next time you are tempted to argue with your partner or point out an errant fact, instead take a moment and listen more deeply, more empathetically. See if you can better understand why they might feel the way they do, and work to see the positive aspects of their perspective.  When your partner believes that you care about their feelings, they will be more open to your point of view.

If we are in the habit of fighting to be right and prove the other person wrong, we will do well to ask ourselves the question, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?”

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