No venting, no understanding, let's talk about some strategies in this one... =)

OK, like so many other people I've read my fair share of books, blogs, forums and discussions and what I don't often come across is places where people present an issue or challenge or situation and others suggest real specific strategies to handle, adapt to or overcome the issue.  I'd like this topic to do that.  Let's have people present a situation that has happened or a behavior that they exhibit and  lets have others share some specific strategies or techniques that could create a different, more desirable outcome...sound good?

Here's my first one...

My biggest issue is the quickness with which I tend to turn a debate, discussion or criticism into an argument.  Whether or not this is for stimulation I'm not sure.  What are some ways that I can identify when I am nearing a breaking point, take that important step back and respond and continue into a productive conversation in a loving and caring way with my partner? 

I'll give an example situation:

It was beautiful outside so my girlfriend and I decided to go for a walk one evening at around 11:30 pm.  As we were walking there were several occasions where I was walking ahead of her.  After the third or fourth time that this had happened she stopped what she had been talking about and asked why I can't walk with her.

My reaction: I'm not trying to walk ahead of you, I'm taller and I naturally walk a bit faster so sometimes I can't help it.  

Her reaction: You need to be more aware of how fast you are walking because we are walking together and you walking ahead of me doesn't show me you're interested in doing that.

 From this point on we got in a fight about walking speed, respect, awareness, communication, height and it's relation to walking speed, the ability for taller people to comfortably walk slower than their normal pace, connection, caring and rudeness.  The only thing we didn't argue about was the middle-eastern peace process.

OK. So after the fact I realize that she wasn't angry or upset with me because I have longer legs and I walk faster, she was upset because me walking ahead of her made her feel unimportant.  She felt as if I wasn't making an effort to connect with her and stay aware of where she was and that I thus started walking too fast.  I don't think she was being mean or unreasonable and I understand how she felt.   The fact of the matter was that I was spacing out and not paying attention to where she was and I was walking ahead of her.  I wasn't doing it on purpose but I was still doing it.

This may seem like a silly topic and a argument that shouldn't be an argument and I agree.  How do I work to see her side and feelings in the very beginning?  What can I do each time to make sure I understand what the true issue is?  What systems can I put into place to help me remind myself understand what she is trying to communicate and then realize in the moment that this isn't a personal attack on me?

What are some specific techniques or strategies?  Anyone have any ideas?