Portland Marriage Counseling: Cut Out “I’m Right, You’re Wrong”

September 3, 2014 by

Think back to the last argument you had with your partner. Do you remember what the argument was actually about, or were you more focused on proving that you were right and your partner was wrong?

If you think of your arguments in terms of wins and losses, you’re falling prey to a type of cognitive distortion called black-and-white, or polarized, thinking. When you get into this mindset during an argument, you start to believe that your viewpoint is right and your partner’s viewpoint is wrong, and there can be no middle ground. This is an incredibly limiting perspective, and it’s almost impossible to reach any type of compromise when you think this way (for people who engage in black-and-white thinking, a compromise is a “loss” rather than a “win”).

To make matters even worse, black-and-white thinking can damage the trust between you and your partner. When you say that you’re right and your partner is wrong in an argument, you’re essentially saying that your partner’s way of thinking isn’t valid. You’re failing to fully respect your partner and their right to have an opinion that is different from your own. Your polarized thinking can have long-term negative effects on your relationship, if left unchecked.

Stopping Polarized Thinking

So if you’ve noticed yourself getting into a lot of “I’m right, you’re wrong” arguments, what can you do to change? Try following these simple steps to break the habit.

  1. Catch yourself in the act. The next time you get into an argument with your partner, pay attention to the words you’re using and the way you’re framing the argument.
  2. Remind yourself that even if you don’t agree with your partner’s way of thinking, their perspective is still valid.
  3. Ask your partner to explain why they disagree with you. Be an active listener.
  4. After your partner is done talking, say, “Let me make sure I understand” and restate what they told you. If your partner says that your summary isn’t quite right, ask for clarification.
  5. Explain your own perspective while your partner listens. When you both take turns hearing the other one out, you’ll be better able to reach a compromise or at least acknowledge the validity of each other’s thinking.

Changing the very way you think isn’t an easy feat, but it’s incredibly valuable—and essential to healthy relationships—to cut out toxic cognitive distortions. If you’re looking for more help developing a more open perspective and communicating with your partner, consider making an appointment with Portland marriage counseling.