When you disagree with your partner, you may discover that a lot of different emotions are rising to the surface and that you have trouble processing them. So what should you do in this situation? You certainly shouldn’t just bottle your emotions up, and you also shouldn’t take out your negative feelings on your significant other.

While thinking about this problem, I was reminded of an excellent concept developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project. The idea is for us to understand the 5 core concerns of negotiation, which are the things that make us feel certain emotions whenever we negotiate with our partners.

The 5 Core Concerns

Appreciation. This is a big one that I’ve talked about a lot in my blog. You and your partner won’t be receptive to the other person if you feel that your thoughts and emotions are being ignored or devalued. By being an active listener when your partner is talking, you can make your negotiation a positive experience.

Affiliation. Remember that you and your partner are in this relationship together, and it’s something that you both need to work on in order to keep it strong. Even when you’re arguing, remember that your partner is just that—a partner—rather than an adversary.

Autonomy. While it’s important that you work together, you and your partner also need to respect one another as individuals. Know that you both need to be able to make important choices, and respect your partner in their decisions.

Status. This concern is all about equality. If you feel inferior to your partner, or if your partner feels inferior to you, you’re not laying the groundwork for a successful relationship. Make sure that you and your partner treat each other as equals and recognize each other’s contributions to the relationship.

Role. When you’re negotiating, don’t fall into a “me vs. you” mindset. There’s no winner or loser in relationships, and you shouldn’t be keeping score. Rather, think about how you and your partner can collaborate to resolve something that’s been a problem.

Learning to negotiate in a healthy way is an important part of any relationship. The next time that you’re upset with your partner or are having an argument, make yourself step back and think about the 5 core concerns. Ask yourself if your needs are being met in each of those 5 areas, and if you think your partner’s needs are being met as well. If they’re not, then you and your partner should sit down and talk through those concerns.

Want to learn more about how to have healthy negotiations rather than just arguments? Schedule an appointment to talk with a Houston relationship counselor or sign up for an upcoming couples’ workshop.