Relationship Fitness

S15: Ten Communication Topics E8: What’s Your Contribution

In “Relationship Workout for Men,” Season 15 Episode 8 titled “What’s Your Contribution,” Vince tackles the topic of personal accountability in conflicts within relationships. He asserts the importance of recognizing one’s own role in relationship issues, cautioning against the unproductive outcomes of blame and denial. Vince advocates for a conversation built on the premise that both partners likely contributed to the issue at hand, encouraging listeners to employ strategies like role reversal and adopting an impartial observer’s point of view to better understand each other’s perspectives. Through this episode, Vince guides listeners toward acknowledging their contributions to conflicts, a crucial step towards resolution and understanding, setting the stage for discussing desired changes in future interactions.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 15 Episode 8: What’s Your Contribution

In this episode, we explore “What to Talk About” Topic #8: How did you contribute to the issue?

Put quite simply, if one or both of you can’t accept any contribution to an issue, then you might as well stop right there. The conversation will go nowhere.

Either you’ll end up in an argument stalemate, as:

  • One person points the finger while the other gets into a denying, defensive monologue, or
  • You both stubbornly point the finger at each other.

Or one person will eventually give up and accept responsibility just to appease the other and move on. 

None of these outcomes moves the ball forward in exposing who did what on the path to discovering the more balanced third story. Instead, one or both people will probably exit the argument feeling worse about the other person and the relationship. 

Of course, neither of you is all good nor all bad, completely right nor completely wrong. Rather, we all make mistakes. Not to mention, misunderstandings and differences of opinion will exist in every relationship — yours included. 

Therefore, a strong communicator starts the conversation on the premise that both people probably contributed something. Both of your stories have value, even if you don’t necessarily agree with each other. The goal of communication at this point is to gain a deeper understanding of the issue by discovering who contributed what.

Talking about ownership is discussed in much more detail in Season 9. However, for simplicity, here are two very useful tools a strong communicator can use to spot contribution:

1.     Role reversal. “What would she say I’m contributing?” By seeing the situation from her vantage point, you’re better able to understand what you’re doing to feed the issue. Feel free to ask her this question directly.

2.     Impartial observer’s point of view. Sit back and look at the situation from an impartial third person’s view. “What would a counselor or impartial friend say if he or she heard both stories?” You might even ask your partner to join you in this exploratory question. 

Going back to our example, he can acknowledge not having known that she doesn’t like surprises, and that he should not have assumed she would like any type of chocolate cake.

She, on the other hand, might acknowledge that he had positive intentions in throwing her the party, and that she may have overreacted to the whole situation driven by her Demons.

It’s amazing how much an argument can be diffused once both people simply own up to their own (often unintended) mistakes. Not only is getting here a mandatory step towards finding a mutually agreeable resolution, but it’s at this point that the rest of the conversation can become much simpler. After all, now you two can focus on discussing how you’d like things to be different going forward, and creatively uncovering the third story together.

And this provides our segue to discussing What to Talk About” Topic #9: How Would You Like Things to be Different? And this is the topic of our next episode.

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