Have you ever been in a fight with someone you love? We have all been there, and it is not pleasant. But when you look closely you see there are many layers of our communication. In the recording industry they call these layers "tracks" and breaking our communication into tracks can help us to see what is going on a little more clearly.
The first track is, of course, the actual words that are spoken. Taken without the other tracks, they are just words like - "I never really wanted to be with you" or "I always felt you were an idiot with no class or scruples" or "You are an arrogant and horrible person." But what do those words say to you?
You have to look at the other tracks if you want to communicate. In this case, you must look at the second track, where the emotional feelings of anger and hurt live. This "feeling" track is what gives the words more impact. Both regarding being hurtful, and in revealing the pain in the person speaking the words. This person is upset and angry. This person may want to change the entire relationship, that is possible, but more likely they have a particular need and want something from you.
If you can put your hurt and anger aside, you will be able to respond from a place of objectivity and care, which will allow you to react more efficiently. You might respond with "Is it true that you do not want to be with me?" And "What changes would you like me to make?" And "I am so sorry; I want to understand, I want to make this work." That is much better than "I never wanted to be with you either" or similar.
Understanding the feeling track will allow you to neutralize the negative direction of a conversation because you will be opening your heart to the other person. You will be caring about how they are feeling instead of stimulating your feeling track. Now you are setting the communication up for success, setting the tone for real compromise and resolution. This type of communication is more productive and works much better than emotional battling.
Successful Communication Tools
Putting aside your anger is hard, putting aside the desire to find right and wrong is hard, staying focused on the other person and helping them to get what they want is hard (especially when they are attacking you). Having tools can help, here are two that I use:
Take myself out of the equation - take a breath and pretend it is a friend telling me about somebody else and asking my advice - get objective and with an open heart - do not take it personally.
Picture the other person as a small child - I like to imagine an adorable toddler that is still learning how to deal with the world, a toddler that is cute and loves you dearly but has all these emotional impulses and does not know how to handle them - a toddler that I know is really looking to me for guidance and help and love.
The Greater Good
Learning to communicate better is our job. We do not have to hunt for food, find our water, fight off animals, discover new lands, learn to use fire, or any of the other things those who came before us had to overcome. No, that is no longer our job for the greater good. Our job is to evolve emotionally and become better at communicating with each other. Learning to communicate more effectively with those we are close to is critical to the survival of our species, which should be motivational because in addition to the direct benefits you will receive by becoming a better communicator, you will also be helping humanity evolve.