Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

20 Things a Husband Could Say to Defuse an Argument with His Wife

If, like me, you are striving to grow in grace as a godly husband then you will be helped by more counsel from Lou Priolo’s helpful book, The Complete Husband: A Practical Guide to Biblical Husbanding. Priolo writes: “Listed below are some transition sentences that may help you when you’re attempting to resolve conflicts with your wife. The list may be personalized according to the need of the moment (Eph 4:29).”

  1. “I really appreciate your concern about this.”
  2. “Thank you for being interested in this problem.”
  3. “I’m glad you are concerned about this.”
  4. “Am I hearing you correctly?”
  5. “Am I hearing you right? Is this what you are saying?”
  6. “Would you repeat that please?”
  7. “Could you repeat that in a different way?”
  8. “I see this is important to you; therefore, it is to me.”
  9. “Let me think about that for a minute.”
  10. “Thank you for taking time to share this with me.”
  11. “Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do to improve in this area?”
  12. “Did I hear you say it upsets you when I ______________. Thank you for telling me.”
  13. “Are you saying that you want me to discuss these kinds of issues with you before I make a decision?” (Be thankful!)
  14. “How could I do (have done) that differently?”
  15. “What, exactly, is it you see that I’m doing or saying wrong?”
  16. “I wasn’t clearly seeing that.”
  17. “Thank you for bringing that to my attention.”
  18. “I’m glad you pointed that out to me.”
  19. “When did that happen? I wasn’t aware of that.” (Be careful about the use of this statement; be sure that it is true before you use it!)
  20. “I see that’s important to you, so I’ll make it a point to be more aware of it in the future.”

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

*Note Lou Priolo is an author, speaker, and biblical counselor at Eastwood Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, AL.  If you would like to read Lou’s writing, visit him at this link:  www.loupriolobiblicalcounseling.com

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21 Comments

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  2. Paul, I have to be honest with you. These are the sorts of phrases that should be used by a service rep when dealing with an unhappy customer. They are not things that a husband should say to the love of his life. The majority sound quite condescending (granted, without context).

    Although I disagree with you here, I like your blog. Thanks for your work.

    • I have to agree with Fred’s comment above. As a (former) customer service agent and trainer, most of these are customer services lines meant to be delivered calmly to de-escalate and clarify a situation. Many, if not most, of these would need to be delivered *very* carefully, since a woman could easily feel like her husband sees her akin to an irate customer to be managed, rather than a wife.

      I noticed that the word “love” — and indeed any expression of personal affection — was missing here. I know that in my marriage a primary underlying reason why things get contentious is when one or the other of us doubts or forgets that each one loves the other. It’s simply a habit of briefly stopping to reconnect our hearts before re-engaging in the arguments. When we set aside the “argument” to re-establish the love basis and commitment to love, then even the “argument” goes smoothly after that. Entering into “customer service manager mode” would be complete counter-productive.

      • Thanks, Phil and Fred. Not ever being a salesman these thoughts never came to mind. I really appreciate your perspective. There is much more to be said on this subject. Maybe a future post…:)

        • At the same time, consider what you are saying(Phil/Fred): should a customer demand higher respect and attention and investment than your own wife? What would be your suggestion of a gentle answer? Customer service clerks use these gentle answers because they turn the conversation around and help the recipient focus on the issue and not be carried away by anger and emotions. If these phrases were said with sincerity and understanding, they would transform any conversation. I hope you can look beyond your biases and attempt to approach disagreements with self control and love. If you already know how to do that, then take this opportunity to share what you say and not criticize wisdom and biblical precepts.

          • Sean, I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned sincerity, understanding, self control, and love. If that fruit is on display then the words should flow freely and honestly and if we say something on the list above then so be it. If it’s not on display then we shouldn’t say anything. We should get ourselves where we need to be and then address the problem or disagreement or whatever it is we’re talking about.

            My concern is simply that the list above sounds like something overheard from a customer service workshop. They’re canned responses. And, in my opinion, canned responses and sincerity do not generally go together. In the end, I am all for wisdom and biblical precepts. It is just my opinion that the responses above are not a part of either.

            Lastly, you say, ” I hope you can look beyond your biases and attempt to approach disagreements with self control and love.” Me too, brother. Me too.

  3. These are probably the last things I want to say when my wife and I are in an argument.

    Which is probably why I should say them.

    Really great advice, thank you.

    Nick

  4. I don’t know if you intended this article to be funny or not, but it totally cracked me up! I am printing a copy of this for my husband . . . he already asks a lot of these questions when we have conflict, but, I have to say, it doesn’t always help! But, no, seriously, we all need to be more gracious and genuine in Christ!

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  6. Paul, I do appreciate the earnestness with which you posted the above. However, while reading along I couldn’t help feel you were humoring us with these ideas, the HAL 9000 (from Space Odyssey) comes to mind and my wife wouldn’t appreciate robotic responses to her important questions :) I know for certain that if I were to try these it would get nasty very quickly.

  7. Although the intent of providing these responses is admirable and the Bible verse at the end is definitely apt, I have to agree with the sales rep comments regarding this particular list. May I suggest simply saying, “I don’t want to fight with you. I love you.” Something my husband says (or texts) when I’m upset in general (but not necessarily with him) that never fails to touch me is, “What can I do to help?” and I’ve found it has a similar effect when I say it to others.

  8. Thanks, Joan, and others for your comments. I’ve just started composing a follow-up post on questions that a husband should ask himself while in an argument with his wife. Stay tuned…

  9. As a professional who interacts with clients daily, I’m bookmarking this helpful list for future reference.
    As a wife, I’d be disturbed if my husband pulled out these rather distant responses in the midst of my communicating a true concern or problem. Thankfully, my husband is already a great listener. :)
    The closest any of these listed replies come to being helpful are the variations of “So you feel _________________ because _______________________.”
    This kind of response helps me to know when I’ve adequately communicated my feelings and assures me that my husband has truly listened.

  10. These are helpful statements/questions but they are more effective when a different list of question precedes them.
    How about “Things a husband should ask himself when he has an argument with his wife.”

    Let’s not forget that the coin has two sides…Perhaps the word “husband” should be replaced with “spouse”?

    Looking forward to see what may come of this!

    • Yes! Thanks, Eliza. That is the title of the follow-up post I am working on. Stay tuned for Episode 2…:)

  11. Pingback: 10 Pleasant Sentences That Can Defuse a Conflict | The Apollos Project

  12. I appreciate this list. I think the sentiments behind the phrases are extremely helpful, particularly for those to whom active listening does not come easily (my husband, whom I dearly love, is one of those, and I think he would acknowledge this regarding himself). Oftentimes when I am upset with him in the midst of a conversation, it is because it seems he has not acknowledged the importance of something to me, has made assumptions about me/my viewpoint that he did not ask to be clarified, etc. I work hard to overcome my instinct to react, but I believe some phrases like these would be helpful tools for him. I, too, was in customer service, and I recognize these types of phrases as well. I think they’re great ideas for “being kind to one another” and for husbands to live with wives in an understanding way (1Pet3:7).

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  14. Be gentle and not harsh. That’s what I learnt.
    Gentle in words and actions.

    Words are just words. Attitude of gentleness is important.