I Hate You; I Love You
"What the heck? One day you are my "Everything", and the next day I want to sell you at our daughter’s lemonade stand! Why is it so difficult to communicate? Why is it so hard for me to deal with all the opinions you throw around? Why don’t you care about how I feel and what’s up with your need to control me?”, said one of my clients to her husband this week.
Well, I was watching the news this morning, and Matt Lauer summed it up based on what he gathered from the psychologist he was interviewing. The answer was--start by diagnosing where you are NOW in your relationship! If two people care, then they can use communication skills and tools to repair the relationship or make it stronger.
OK, this is true, but the problem is that people have no clue how to diagnoses where they are now in their relationship. They go around in circles, up and down and back to the same old drama and so quickly conclude, “I want a divorce.”
Back to the Basics - What Did We Learn in Kindergarten?
The toughest things are usually quite simple. All we need to know is what we learned in kindergarten, right? So back to the basics we go. I hear my dad’s resounding and very credible voice, “You can’t solve a problem until you know what the problem is!” But, most of us don’t know that the problem is--which is that people talk to process rather than to report? Wow, that’s a problem. Studies show that while a person is talking, they are processing their thoughts at the same time the words are coming out of their mouth.
How many times do you jump to say how you feel while you are trying to figure out how you feel because you are processing your thoughts AS the words are pouring out of your mouth, out of order, and Oops, you say something you soon regret.
Fixing It, Instead of Listening - Putting Our Foot In Our Mouth
This type of communication is called “putting our foot in your mouth.” For example, Tommy thinks Lisa is just telling him how she feels, but she goes on and on and rambles all over the place. He has a hard time following her train of thought and so desperately wants to help her fix her problems; but, just as he sees an opening to offer a solution, she quickly jumps to another problem before he can address the one she was just referring to.
Within just a few minutes she has covered three topics, geez. Well if Tom only knew that Lisa had no clue how she felt and was just talking it out, to herself. Her unlcear ramblings was her way of processing her thoughts and trying to make sense of her feelings. If he understood, he could just say, “Uh, huh” and let her decipher her feelings, instead of expecting her to report them to him!
The fact that people talk to process rather than to report seems counter intuitive, but is a normal process with most people. By knowing this, we can take a different approach to our partners, and see them in an endearing way, as we realize they are just trying to figure out how they feel. Initiating reflective listening and validating one’s feelings can help the person talking clarify what they are saying while feeling supported, and acknowledged.
By understanding this communication ritual, we can determine that our partner is usually just talking to process their thoughts and feelings rather than to report them, and if we can engage in reflective listening and validation, we will become an anchor for them in the process. So, how do we do it? Let me share a few self-reflective questions to ask yourself the next time you have a conversation.
These questions will help you relate and communicate better! It will help you listen better and understand more about what makes your partner great. It is vital that we learn to listen and understand how to speak appropriately, including accepting each other’s differences.
Questions to consider:
1. Is my partner processing their thoughts (talking to themselves) or reporting right now?
2. At this moment does my partner need a solution or just to be heard?
3. Am I present in the conversation or am I distracted?
4. What is my partner really saying underneath all the zig zagging?
Make sure to slow down, think of what your intent is in the communication. Sometimes you have to zig while she/he zags. Soon you will zig together, and there can be more zagging later. Pause, listen, feel, and when you speak, hear your words in your mind first, then with the information gleaned from these pondering questions, you will know exactly where to focus your conversation.
Make sure to take what you hear from your partner seriously. If two people care about the relationship, then these questions will catapult you to the next level of understanding, and it can be a rewarding and positive experience.
Dr. Darlene Braden holds a Ph.D in human behavior. She brings to her consulting clients a breadth of knowledge and practical experience. She draws from a wide variety of personal empowerment tools ranging all the way from Eastern philosophy to modern, tangible techniques. Please visit Dr. Darlene on her website, whatstopsyou.com
Try her FREE personal assessment tool here: http://balance.whatstopsyou.