1. Assume that they have your child’s best interest at heart. That way, you’ll see them as someone on the same side rather than as an enemy. 
  2. Try to see things from their perspective. Not only will that help you find a compromise, but it will increase the likelihood that they will see things from your perspective.
  3. When you explain your perspective, don’t blame them for doing things differently from how you would. Doing so will only make them immediately defensive and unwilling to hear you or focus on solutions.


Here’s what this looks like:


Brian and Stephanie are discussing an earlier incident between Stephanie and their son Andrew. Brian is trying to tell Stephanie that she was being unnecessarily hard on Andrew. At first, she is only defensive but when Brian changes how he’s talking to her, the conversation goes more smoothly. 

Brian: Steph, you didn’t have to yell at Andrew like that.
Stephanie: Are you serious? Did you hear the way he was talking to me?
Brian: Still, you’re the adult…
Stephanie: So it’s OK for HIM to be disrespectful? 
Brian realizes he’s getting nowhere with Stephanie. He akes a deep breath and focuses on calming himself down. He knows that Stephanie is in Yuck and he needs to help her feel safe, not attacked.
Brian: You know what? I can hear that you are trying to do what’s best for Andrew… To raise him to be respectful.
Stephanie: Exactly.
Brian: And I’m sure it’s upsetting when he is rude to you.
Stephanie: Yes! You get upset when he’s rude to you too!
Brian: You’re right. I do. I’ve definitely gotten frustrated with him before too. 
Stephanie (starting to calm down since she feels like Brian is actually hearing her): OK. So that’s why I got so upset.
Brian: OK. I get that. And I agree that we need to teach Andrew to be more respectful.
Stephanie. Good.
Brian: Can I ask you something though? I mean, you’re with him a lot so you’ll probably know the answer to this.
Stephanie: What?
Brian (making his tone curious instead of accusatory): DOES it help when you yell at him? Does it make him more respectful the next time?
Stephanie (quietly, willing to admit she’s wrong since she feels that it’s a safe space): Probably not.
Brian (still demonstrating that he’s on the same team): OK. So we want him to be more respectful. What do you think we should do?
Stephanie: I don’t know. I just know I get so upset when he talks to me like that. I do so much for him!
Brian: Yeah. You do. (Pauses.) Would it be OK if I offer a suggestion?
Stephanie: Sure.
Brian: What if you both talk about how you can handle your big reactions? And practice together trying to be more respectful when you’re upset?
Stephanie: That probably would help. I know he gets his temper from me.
Brian: Eh… and some from me too. 
Stephanie: So maybe we can all work on this together.
Brian: That sounds like a good idea.


Your spouse is only defending themselves and not open to other ideas

What it may mean: When someone is defensive, it means they are in Yuck and their brain is focused on protecting themselves.
What you can say to yourself:
“If they are so defensive, they’re not going to be open to solutions. I either need to make them feel more safe now… or I can try to make some deposits into our relationship and bring this up later.”
What you can say to them:
“It doesn’t seem to me like now’s the best time to talk about this. Let’s do it later.” 
​(Note: Your tone here will make all the difference. If they sense that you are on their side, their Yuck will reduce. If they sense that you are against them, their Yuck will increase.)