Many couples who come to therapy often complain of “communication problems.” For example, she’ll complain that he gets mad too much and yells. Or he’ll complain she gives him the silent treatment too much. They agree that if they could only communicate better their marital problems would decrease.
As a therapist, there is one communication tip that I give all my couples in order to help them communicate better and stop arguing as much. My advice: “Avoid the Yabbit” (pronounced like rabbit). You’ll know you’re using this yabbit when you catch yourself saying the words, “yeah, but…”. Couples who use this yabbit often only perpetuate their arguments and even create hotter arguments.
How The Yabbit Got One Man In Hot Water
For example, a couple I saw about a year ago would always argue about his mother. “She just always has to meddle in our marriage, doesn’t she? Shouldn’t we be solving our own problems without your mother in the middle?” The wife would say. He would usually respond by saying something like “yeah, but sometimes it’s nice to have another point of view.”
Did you notice how he began his retaliation with “yeah, but…”
Using a yabbit is a mixed message and sends contradictory messages to your spouse. In essence you’re saying “Yeah, I agree with you, but no I don’t,” and your spouse has no idea which one to believe.
In the example of the clients who would always argue about his meddlesome mother, she would often wonder “yes you do agree she shouldn’t meddle, or do you disagree because you like to have her point of view?” When one spouse uses a yabbit, the other spouse has to use the context of the situation in order to determine what their spouse is trying to say. Usually, when couples argue it’s often heated and angry so in that context the spouse only hears the ‘but’ part of the “yeah, but…” They don’t hear the part where the spouse is trying to agree with them (the “yeah” part). And because they only hear the ‘but’ part (the disagreeing part), the argument continues going on and on and on…
How To Kill The Yabbit And Start Communicating
In order to help couples communicate better, it’s often useful for couples to obliviate the yabbit altogether. If you agree with your spouse on an issue, say “yes, and….” This avoids mixed messages and makes it unequivocal what you and your spouse agree on. That way you don’t spend your time arguing about something that you two actually fundamentally agree on. It also keeps you from nitpicking about what each other “really mean” or “are really trying to say.”
For example, the husband with the meddlesome mother eventually learned to say “yes, I agree with you that we should make our own decisions andI believe that we sometimes need an extra point of view to help resolve our arguments.”
When the wife heard this, she knew that it wasn’t simply that he wanted his mother involved in their marriage. This made her feel better because she felt like she was being heard by him and her input was not being overlooked in preference of his mothers’ advice.
In addition to using a ‘yes, and’ to clarify and not give mixed messages to your spouse, using a ‘yes, and’ also challenges you to identify to yourself what you really do or don’t agree with. For example, the husband with the meddlesome mother was able to see that he really did like his mother getting involved because he enjoyed having a third party. He thought for a long time that his mother had to be the one to get involved because that’s the only person who was getting involved and couldn’t think of anyone else who he would like to be involved. After challenging himself to use ‘yes, and’ he was able to see that he didn’t necessarily need his mother to be the one in the middle and that a qualified marriage counselor was probably more appropriate.
When couples use a ‘yes, and’ their arguments are likely to become more agreeable and less heated. The advantages of this are enormous. Think of an argument you had recently with your spouse. I’ll bet you can think of a time (or two) when either one of you used a Yabbit. Next time that argument comes up, say ‘yes, and’ then see where it goes. You might just surprise your spouse and I’ve never heard a spouse complain about being surprised.
This article was contributed by Aaron I Anderson, M.S. You can visit his website at www.themarriageandfamilyclinic.com.