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The Beatles and Football Fairness

September 24, 2011

The Beatles got it right. “Try to see it my way…we can work it out …” Perspective taking is the first step on the way to working out your differences.  This week I interrupted a contentious argument a couple was having in my office,  by throwing the husband a foam football. “You’re getting nowhere, so let’s play a game,” I directed. “Here are the rules: When you’re in possession of  the football, it’s your turn to speak. Make your point briefly. Then pass the football to your wife, who will tell you what she understood. If she didn’t quite “get”  it, you can restate your side. Then it’s her turn to speak, and you’ll repeat the process. This won’t necessarily solve your argument, but it will stop the competitive and adversarial play to win, where neither of you feels loved enough to be understood.”

First and ten: He restated his point. I stopped him at sentence four, and told him to pass the football (Rule #1: Be Brief).

Second & ten: She began to interpret what he said. I stopped her and reminded her that Rule #2 : Simply Restate…don’t add your own spin.

Third & ten: She paraphrased him, and he told her that she’d gotten it. First Down.

Great…Now repeat the process. He threw the football a little too hard and long, she fumbled, and I threw a flag on the play. “Play nice,” I admonished him.

They were getting the hang of it. He surprised his wife after she stated her side, by sincerely saying, ” I understand your context now. I didn’t understand before. I get it.” First Down!

The rules of Football Fairness:

1. Briefly state your point (then pass the ball).

2. Paraphrase to indicate you’ve understood. Pass back.

3. If you got it right, now it’s your turn to say your side.

After you get the hang of the basics of taking turns with perspective taking, add these nuances:

4. Acknowledge and imagine your partner’s perspective.

5. Give him/her the benefit of the doubt. Negative expectations lead to bad feelings and bad outcomes.

6. Own up to your share of the problem, because the score is rarely 100-0.

7. Make a commitment to the action steps you will make to rebuild trust.

It’s football season–make the most of improving your game. For more fairness tips, turn to an excerpt from my book, Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage.

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