Relationships can be sticky sometimes. Even with your spouse, you may not see eye-to-eye on everything. But what to do when you have a disagreement about something? You can avoid having a fight in favor of figuring out your differences and coming to a new and deeper understanding of your spouse or partner. Try empathy.
Empathy is one of the most important communication skills you can practice in any relationship. Empathy is a way to look at a situation from the other person’s perspective. But when you’re having a disagreement, sometimes that can be challenging.
Developed by Japanese school children and explained in the book, Looking Out Looking In by Ron Adler and Neil Towne, the Pillow Method is a unique perspective-taking and empathy-building exercise to try if you’re having a disagreement. Using the Pillow Method will help you to see your spouse’s point of view and likely avoid a heated argument.
There are five steps to achieving empathy using the Pillow Method:
Step 1: “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Consider that you are right and your spouse is wrong. This is the perspective we usually take, so it’s the obvious first step.
Step 2: “You’re right, I’m wrong.” Now take the opposite presumption. Presume you’re wrong and your spouse is right in this situation. Your goal is to find a way to understand how your spouse could behave in a way that you disagree with.
Step 3: “Both right, both wrong.” Find the commonalities and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of each position.
Step 4: “The issue isn’t as important as it seems.” Try not to get so wrapped up in a disagreement that over time will fade. This, too shall pass, so be aware of that and release some of the tension.
Step 5: “There is truth in all four perspectives.” Each of the above perspectives has its own truth. Once you look at a situation from each of these perspectives, you may not come to a point of agreement, but you will understand each other better. When you can understand your spouse better, often you can tolerate the position which will lead to an improvement in the communication climate in your relationship.
By following these simple steps you can avoid a heated argument, and end up feeling closer to your spouse. As you and your spouse practice this Pillow Method, over time you will enjoy the benefits of a stronger marriage.