Imagine you are leisurely walking through the woods thoroughly enjoying the perfect weather and the serenity of nature.
Then you are jolted into a salvo of fear – by an unmistakable sound.
The tail shaking of a rattlesnake.
Your emotional brain demands you freeze at this moment.
And you do.
You hold your breath, look around, and listen very very carefully.
Then you cautiously move away from the perceived direction of the rattle.
You (and 99% of the population) probably never considered how considerate the rattlesnake actually is. Unlike any other venomous snake it gives you a warning, which can keep you safe.
The rattle communicates, “Please tread carefully. I don't want anyone to get hurt. Everyone will be just fine if you don't provoke or threaten me. I would really appreciate it if you took another path.”
Of course, this reminds me of couples struggling to communicate. What if we gave our partner a warning when a disagreement starts to turn bad? “You are about to tread on me and someone could get hurt. Please take another path for this discussion. I don't want either of us to get hurt.”
But it takes more than a warning to get you and your partner on the right path.
Say to your partner who warned you, “Honey, what would make this a better discussion for you? How could I help make that discussion happen?”
The goal is to improve the process of how you talk about the disagreement, not to go straight for a solution.
Often you need to improve the way you talk about a disagreement or conflict before reaching a satisfying resolution.
Most fights and conflicts are two people trying to feel understood and acknowledged at the same time, and it rarely happens, especially in the middle of a fight.
Try taking turns. After the “rattler partner” warns to tread carefully, the other asks, “Honey, what would make this a better discussion for you? How could I help make that discussion happen?”
When the “rattler partner” feels understood then they ask the other the same questions, “Honey, what would make this a better discussion for you? How could I help make that discussion happen?”
When both partners feel understood the stage is set for much better communication.
About 25% of rattlesnake bites are dry, meaning no venom is injected. So sometimes rattlers are extra considerate.
Are you willing to be as considerate as a rattler? Maybe you could even have a little fun with it – get a baby rattle and use it as a warning when things heat up. If no rattle is handy, one could simply say, “I’m beginning to rattle.”
When discussions go south and the rattlesnake approach can’t save them, consider this audio and transcript called Soothing Moments: Rapid Relationship Repair.