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Lions Roar : July 2019
15 minutes several times a year. You can then use the perspective-taking skills you develop whenever conflict arises with your partner. First, think about a major disagree- ment you had with your partner in the past four months, and how much dis- tress it’s still causing you. Then, follow these steps: 1. Think about this disagreement with your partner from the perspective of a third party who wants the best for all involved, a person who sees things from a neutral point of view. How might this person think about the disagreement? How would he or she view your partner’s behaviors and perspective? How might he or she find the good that could come from it? (5 minutes) 2. Some people find it helpful to take this third-party perspective during their interactions with their romantic partner. However, almost everybody finds it chal- lenging to take this third-party perspec- tive at all times. In your relationship with your part- ner, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third-partner perspective, especially when you’re having a disagree- ment? What might help you overcome them? For example, if you find yourself getting caught up in the heat of the moment, it might help to pause and take a deep breath. (5 minutes) 3. Despite the obstacles to taking a third-party perspective, people can be successful in doing so. Over the next four months, try your best to take this outside perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements. How might you be most success- ful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next four months? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship? (5 minutes) Allow these reflections to inform your interactions with your partner over the coming months. Evidence that the Practice Works In a 2013 study by Finkel, Slotter, Luchies, Walton, and Gross, reported in Psychological Science, found that a brief intervention to support conflict reappraisal preserved marital quality over time. A group of heterosexual married couples practiced Gaining Perspective on an Argument every four months for a year. In the year before the experiment, they had reported a decline in marital quality—their sense of satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion, and commit- ment in their relationship had lessened. But as soon as they began practicing, that decline stopped, while declines con- tinued in a control group who didn’t do the practice. These benefits were partly accounted for by the reduced distress they felt around conflict. Why It Works When we do this practice, research sug- gests, we reduce the anger and distress that we’re feeling in our relationship. Rather than responding out of indigna- tion or pain, we can act from the desire to see our partners—and ourselves—be happy and connected. The result is less conflict, more mutual understanding and empathy, and a better relation- ship. Reflecting in advance about how to implement these strategies, and what obstacles we might encounter, makes us more likely to succeed. ♦ “Greater Good” is a collaboration between Lion’s Roar and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. You will find more than fifty science-based practices for a meaningful life at ggia.berkeley.edu. naturaldha rm afellowshipBUDDHISM E MBODIED LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 22 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE