Communication between partners should be frequent and direct. Some guidelines:

  • Address issues immediately
    You don't want to nitpick, but you also don't want to harbor grudges. When you think "He always..." or "He never...," you're already doing it.
  • Be specific
    Saying "You do X" closes the other person off. Rather than listening, he is thinking, "No, I don't." Focus on specific behaviors, says Robin Seigle, a mediator with San Diego's National Conflict Resolution Center. Try this: "If I were the customer, I would be upset." Not this: "You can't deal with people."
  • Listen. Repeat
    If you're forming your response as the other person is talking, you're not listening. A good strategy is to have one person describe his point of view, then have the listener repeat that view in his own words. If you don't want to do this formally, one person can respond with, "Let me see if I understand what you're saying: Your concern is..."
  • Find a solution together
    Don't go into a decision-making conversation already having chosen an ideal outcome. Brainstorm with your partner, and try to ignore whether the ultimate solution comes from you or your partner.
  • Keep trying
    If you're not getting anywhere, conflict-resolution specialists, business coaches, and even marriage counselors can help.