Communication is one of the most common issues reported by couples who present for counseling or are experiencing relationship issues. While many people do a great job learning and developing their communication skills in times of tension, they have a tendency to forget to uses great new skills. In moments of calmness people have time to think and make conscious decisions and efforts to do what is in the best interest of their relationships. When people are upset, the tendency then is to turn to what they know and are comfortable with. Very often that is off-the-cuff speech and actions that at too often more intent on inflicting hurt or retaliating. At the very least, these methods are intended to have the speaker be heard, or make a point, not giving much attention to hearing the other person and nurturing/repairing the relationship.
Still, it’s hard to blame the individual since most of the development of communication skills is focused around everyday conversation and not as much on communicating in tense situations.
Use soft tones- When conversations get tense that tension is often reflected in voice tones- They get dryer, and may be elevated- Even if your partner gets to that point make a conscious effort to speak calmly. Your calmer tone encourages your partner to come back down. When one person raises their voice the tendency of the other person is to do the same, thus leading to a test of the wills. When one person intentionally keeps calm it takes some time and greater effort but it can have the same impact of causing the other person to lower their voice.
Stay in close proximity and maintain eye contact (that’s provided that it is safe to do so and they are not throwing and hitting things). When you speak with a partner no matter how tough the situation, continue to remind yourself that this is a person you love- this helps you be able to see them positively even when you are angry at them. When you look into their eyes as you speak, you want to relay that caring- Your words will say that yes you mean business but the gentle way you look at them will remind them that despite the situation you still care. Again, provided that it is safe, use soothing touches. Gentle touches such as touching or holding the person’s hand, softly touching their arm- if you know your partner’s personal weak spot- a place they like to be touched- not in a sexual way, use that.
Acknowledge the person and the issues. Allow the person to speak, and actually listen to them. Validate what they have to say. Not everything needs an explanation, and you don’t have to agree with them to acknowledging what someone has to say. It’s ok to let your partner know that you hear them. When a person feels heard, they are more amenable to a lot of. They will be more apt to listen to you or be more open to working something out.
Use carefully selected words to state your piece or make your point. Employ the use of I The word you can often have an accusatory tone that quickly sends people into defense mode. When you start a sentence the other party quickly gets the message that they are about to be blamed or held responsible for something. The normal reaction to that feeling is to mount a defense –This is not my fault or This is why this happened-. While this is happening, the person pretty much stops listening to the speaker When you need to address your partner’s actions or words, use I Statements “I feel______ when you_______. It would help me more if you______.” That way you are not accusing them but simply acknowledging your own issues with something.
Accept responsibility for your own parts in issue and be willing to verbalize it. A disagreement involves at least two people. While one person may have been the primary agitator it is very likely that other parties involved also played a part. Be willing to take responsibility for the role you played in the issue and more importantly be prepared to make amends for and rectify your contribution to the issue. This reassures your partner that you are going to be a part of the solution as well. It says that you are in to fix the issue, not just pass blame.
Doing these 5 simple things will help you communicate more effectively during times of tension and increase your chances of actually resolving disagreements. Remember, when two people are yelling no one is listening, and if there is no listener there is no communication and nothing can get resolved. Your relationship with your partner is one of the most important relationships in your life. It is also one of the most fragile. Maintaining and protecting it takes conscious thought and action.
Many couples spend much of their adulthood together and then later find themselves separated. This frequently happens because couples get caught up in life and don’t notice that they are growing apart over the years. The proverbial 7 year itch is something that happens several times of the course of a relationship (every 7 to 10 years). This is the amount of time it takes for the minor changes and growth that happens in the individual every day to become notable changes and the reasons couples find themselves at odds.
One of the primary issues that couples encounter after a long time in relationships is a disconnect. When people get together they generally meet specific needs for each other. As these needs are met and people grow, there is a need for a sort of renewal of their agreement or purpose. Most times people see these changes but don’t quite acknowledge or recognize them. The couple continues operating as the couple who met instead of who they are or have grown into. Individuals continue to grow and evolve to the point where a major change can be noticed over a period of 7-10 years. If as they are growing they are not making continuous efforts to stay in emotional touch with each other they can find themselves one day so different they don’t recognize this partner. As the couple’s life changes (like when children come in or they go through crises or changes in careers) there are also adaptations that each makes to accommodate those and that is another place where they may change in different directions. If a constant effort is not being made to continue to make the changes match they are at risk.
A couple who wants to survive their individual growth as a couple must realize and address the changes that are happening in them every day and make the necessary adjustment so that they continue to be the ideal partner for their more evolved and more mature partner.
It’s your life- Take control.
Dream Big… Live Bigger…
Men’s sense of self is more often tied to abilities. They tend to be more into what they can do. Whereas a woman can get a quick boost from a personal compliment, for a man, a compliment about a skill or talent is likely to lead to that same boost quicker. Please don’t mistake this to mean that men are not in tune with their inner selves, because many of them are. Many men have gone through the process of exploring the depth of their souls and come to appreciate who they are greatly. For those men, being able to see, appreciate and acknowledge that inner peace and confidence in him can go a long way. Of-course that would in most cases require knowing this person on deeper level and taking time to see those innermost qualities.
There are a few on the surface things that can help. Making a man feel needed is one that is often a sure fire way to get there. Unfortunately, today’s independent women have been chipping away at this little tool. You pay your own bills, can change your own tires or call AAA, and you will hire someone to mow the lawn on the house that you bought. Every now and again, though it would not be so bad to let him help with some of the “manly stuff”, like the car or something with the house. You know you could take care of it, but it’s nice to have him do it for you and he relieves you of the pressure or responsibility of having to handle it. One less thing to worry about.
This brings me to my next point. When a man does something for you, whether it is because you could not do it or because you allowed him to help, be appreciative. People want to help, but no one wants to feel unappreciated. No matter how little or how big the deed, it’s important that he knows that his efforts are appreciated. Otherwise he has no incentive to want to help again, and you will both be denying him the opportunity to step up and do more of these things that should make him feel great.
Rewards are great at any age. The last thing I asked of a man, was to come tighten the lug nuts after I changed a tire. Do you think after he came to do this in the middle of his workday that I planned something special for him? You better believe it! He needs to know that he is appreciated. Sincerely telling him is one way, but it’s also nice to do things for him as well. And this does not mean going all out. It could be as simple as a special dinner that is planned with his preferences in mind. This is simple enough that it could be done for a friend or your man.
Treating a man special is something that is too often overlooked but is such a great tool. Many men will say that this is not their “thing”, but a spa day is such a great gift. The massage, the facial, the mani/pedi can all be tailored for the manly man (in my immaturity – I still laugh at the clear polish on the nails though). In today’s tougher economic time, it may not be as easy to afford the day at the spa, but providing all the services for him at home may work just as well.
Game day preparations are also a big hit for the sports aficionado. Whether you get everything ready and leave after you get his boys to come over, or it’s a party for two (if you’re WATCHING the game too); when you plan it with him in mind he will feel it.
Taking him to the game is one that can work with your man or any other male in your life. A day about him, where he is picked up (you do the driving no matter how far) and you take care of everything until you drop him home. When you go through the trouble of making a day about someone, that says “I think you are important”, and it validates this person’s place in your life. He will also be thinking “I must really be important for someone to go through all the trouble of planning a day for me”, and that will have a positive impact on his views of self as well. Everyone wants to feel that they matter.
Looks are important too. Just as a woman likes to hear that she’s beautiful when she gets all dolled up, and man will enjoy that too. Men also put forth the effort to smell nice, so when he does smell nice that should also be complimented. Smiles, teeth, eyes and whatever else comes up are also good targets for compliments as well. The catch to making the most impact with a compliment is to lead with it. When a person compliments you first, there is that rule of politeness that you feel the need to return the compliment. No matter how genuine the returned compliment is, sometimes it can feel less than heartfelt or you run the risk of the person thinking that you were just returning their compliment. When you lead with a compliment, there is not as much wiggle room for the interpretation of your intent – It’s a compliment.
During the harder times, things get a little tricky. For instance, in these economic times when there are many men who are unemployed. If yours is one of them it’ll be hard on both of you. To start, you may need a book of affirmations (I’m only partly joking with this one). If your man is at that stage he may need you now more than ever, because when he doubts, he needs you to believe in him. He needs to know that you are behind him no matter what. These are the times for the SILENT sacrifices; when you have to pass on something you want, and not complain about it. This is when you don’t go to the concert and plan a nice romantic evening at home instead. It will be hard to work the extra hours and then come home to look over his new cover letter, but your devotion will motivate him to keep trying.
It is true that actions do speak louder than words, but words can also be very powerful. As a therapist, when working with children who were aggressive and getting into fights, I remember teaching them this statement “hands are for helping, not for hurting”. They would memorize it and eventually we got to where they would say it either out loud or just think it when they were angry and wanted to hit someone. This technique took time but once mastered had a good success rate. Adults don’t get into the physical altercations as much but they can be hurtful with their words. Sometimes it is out of anger or just a purely unintentional slip, but once the words are out they cannot be put back in. The best measure is to place a filter between the thought and the verbalization.
Try this exercise that can be used with anyone in your life. When you get ready to say something take a moment to evaluate the potential impact of the words you are going to say. As you do this you will remind yourself “words are for helping, not for hurting”. If you find that the words you were ready to utter are not going to help the person, take a second to find a more positive response before you speak. Use words to empower him. If a man is down, the intent should always be to build him back up, not bring him further down. When a man is up, you can strive to help him get higher.
Five things you can do:
1. Tell him you believe in him.
2. Show and tell him that he is appreciated.
3. Acknowledge his successes.
4. Wish him well when he’s down, if you pray tell him you pray for him.
5. Remind him how great he is.
I’m just saying though…
Dream Big… Live Bigger…
Yesterday we celebrated Father’s day. As the day approached I heard quite a few people talking about it. How they celebrate, who they celebrate and things like that. I also heard a few people talking about how some deadbeats have a tendency to surface around that time… trying to get some acknowledgement… AS IF!!! (Yes I know how ditzy that sounds, but that’s what came to mind).
Now that it’s Monday, in most cases the celebration of dad is over. The focus will now shift back to those who are not around. This does not just stay with the fathers. We do that all around. We focus the ones not doing the right things and not the ones standing tall and holding it down. When is CNN going to do a special on the dad who goes to work and comes home to his children and their mother every day? The brothers who stay in school and get those degrees? All the fellas who do the dang thing. I guess they’re too busy celebrating the guys dropping the ball.
It is believed that people would not watch it if they did a special on people doing the right thing. Wow… Do we really enjoy feeding on negativity that much? Personally, I’m a bit annoyed that they think we have nothing better to do than watch other’s pain. Then again, the rating folks probably can’t even tell when I turn off my TV. But my issue though is how do we give props to the men who do their manly things?
I know some great guys, sons, brothers, dads, husbands, friends, boyfriends. Just amazing men! I know that I’m not the only one who knows these guys. We all know a few, but for whatever reason they don’t get enough credit. Instead of making a big deal out of the guy who was up all night with his sick child, we focus on the one who was not there. Instead of the guy who rubs our tummy when it hurts, we hear of the one who doesn’t call.
As a child psychotherapist, I and many others I know in the field work with parents and teachers to get them to encourage positive behaviors. Make a big deal when a child does something great and not so much at their bad behaviors. This encourages the ones who are already doing well and motivates those who aren’t doing well to make changes because they want the attention. As much as society jokes about these ball dropping guys being like children who knows?
I’m not saying it’s gonna suddenly make every guy want to change or anything like that, but I want us to make a big deal of the good guys. Facebook, I challenge you to make a big deal of the good guys.
Some of my tops… My brothers – Didier, Ben, Bill, Yve… My cousins – Can’t name them all – Grandpa was a busy guy. DAS, Uncles, friends and other relatives… I am surrounded by great guys… You are too…
To all of you guys I dedicate Heather Headley’s He Is …
I’m shouting a few of them… add yours in the comments. Shout ‘em out on Faccebook with your comments!!!
I’m just saying though…
Dream Big… Live Bigger…
I was at a career fair yesterday and met so many people. It was encouraging to see how many people were plugging away at trying to get that next gig. To these folks I must say Way To Go!!! There were many people there who had been through the mills with trying to make things happen. Today I’m shoutin’ out the Phenomenal Women who are out there holding things together. You are keeping the world moving even when there is a lot of pushing and pulling required of you. We are truly blessed even when things are not going the way we want them to.
My charge to each one of you today is to do something nice for someone else. Assert the power of your greatness. Make someone smile today. Give a compliment. If you know someone who is in the market for a job right now call them and give them some encouragement. It’s hard to be in the hunt in this market, but with the support of people around them, they can be positive another day. After that, say a special prayer of thanksgiving for yourself and others around you. If you are in the job market, I am proud of you for hanging in there. Even when you don’t know it I pray for you, and encourage you to continue doing the same.
Ladies, I dedicate your favorite India Arie song to you today… Play it out, because today it is your song.
I appreciate you all.
I’m just saying though…
Dream Big… Live Bigger…