Disagreements are an inevitable part of any relationship. Whether it started with a careless comment or a major disappointment, we all have things that can push our buttons. But once the claws come out, there is one thing you should always say to minimize the damage.
The magic phrase? “The story I’m making up is…” Then, finish the sentence with your reason for getting angry in the first place. (Make sure to avoid these phrases that make any argument worse, too.)
According to research professor Brené Brown, whose TED Talk is one of the five most viewed of all time, these six words can resolve almost any conflict. Not only does the phrase allow you to own up to the part you played in the disagreement, but it also makes you vulnerable to the other person. As a result, they will be more likely to put their guard down, too.
While the occasional squabble is unavoidable, “the good news is that we can rewrite these stories,” Brown wrote in her book Rising Strong. “We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions.”
Of course, it’s not easy to find the right words to express what you are feeling. If you can’t figure out what to say in the heat of the moment, Brown suggests asking yourself three questions:
- What are the facts, and what are my assumptions?
- What do I need to know about the others involved?
- What am I really feeling? What part did I play?
Answering those questions can help you finish that simple, six-word phrase—and break up the bickering. When in doubt, you can also use these wise quotes to stop an argument in its tracks.