Imagine this: you get home from work, and your spouse looks up at you from the kitchen table, clearly concerned. You demand simultaneously, “Where are the kids?” 

You both thought it was the other person’s turn to pick the kids up from soccer practice, which has the potential to spark a massive argument. Fortunately, if you follow a few rules for communicating effectively, you can avoid the fire.

One: use universal statements. Avoid phrases like “you always” or “you never” and use “I” statements instead. This will help you to communicate your feelings without blaming or accusing your partner. For example, instead of saying, “You never remember to pick up the kids,” say, “I feel like this has happened before, what can we do to prevent it from happening again?”

Two: stay on topic. Don’t bring other conflicts into the conversation. Now is not the time to discuss financial disagreements or housework. Focus on the problem at hand: agreeing on who is picking up the kids from soccer and when!

Three: show your partner respect. Even if you disagree, do your best to be courteous and patient with them during your conversation. Chances are, your partner will follow your lead and return this respectful behavior.

Follow these three rules the next time you and your partner have a disagreement (or forget to pick the kids up from soccer practice).