How To Empathize Before Responding In Conflict, From Experts

If you’ve ever found yourself getting defensive with a partner, this might sound all too familiar: Your partner has a problem with something you did, and before you consider how they’re feeling, your first knee-jerk reaction is to defend yourself.

But according to licensed couples’ counselor Jessa Zimmerman, M.A., CST, while we all have a certain capacity and drive to defend ourselves, this kind of reaction can wind up spelling more trouble for your relationship.

As she previously told mindbodygreen, instead of jumping to your own defense, “Listen to what they’re saying, and make sure that you understand it, from their perspective,” adding not to stop “until you can get in their shoes and see it from their worldview.”

And the key, of course, is to do this before you start constructing your response, she explains, with a goal to truly understand why they’re upset. “That doesn’t mean you agree with them, but you can see the situation through their eyes. Then you can proceed to communicate how you see it,” she adds.

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