Tricia and Dave shared with me about a fight they had. Tricia was upset when she had a distressing argument with her brother. Dave could see that Tricia was bothered, but rather than inquire, he said, “What’s wrong with you?” Tricia felt criticized and a fight ensued.
I had them redo their interaction so the previous escalation would become a conversation. In the session, instead of saying, “What’s wrong with you?” Dave said, “What’s going on?” Rather than feeling criticized, Tricia felt that Dave was interested in what was upsetting her. Instead of getting defensive, she shared her conversation with her brother and Dave proceeded to listen and support her as she shared her story.
Even though Dave changed just a few words, it made a significant difference in how their interaction unfolded. The initial critical statement created conflict; the corrected statement created connection.