Sunday, October 23, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #82-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything-Part 3

Why is it so hard to maintain an attitude of caring when you are speaking with or listening to your partner about concerns in your relationship?
You start out with good intentions but as your partner speaks, you can't help but get angry and interrupt or talk over him/her to point out the error of what he/she is saying.

Let's take a look at the factors which make it so challenging to listen or speak with love.

1) The very nature of the conversation, no matter how well it is stated, will be experienced as a criticism of your behavior or the way you think. This will in turn stir up the reptilian part of your brain which will send adrenaline into your system to help protect you from what is now being perceived as a significant threat.
2) What your partner expresses makes no sense to you and it is hard to see it from her/his perspective.
3) You are already stressed out from work, the children or finances and this is pushing you over the edge.
4) You haven't felt very connected or loved lately by your spouse, so why should you stretch yourself to act caringly and listen to him/her.
5) Your partner does the same thing of which you are being accused.
6) You recently pointed out some of your concerns and they were ignored or the changes you requested weren't made.
7) You have raised this issue 100 times before and you are already annoyed that you have to bring it up again.
8) Your partner's body image is already indicating an unwillingness to take you seriously.

If you have any additional factors which impact upon you and would like to add, please e-mail them to me at and i will try to address them in my next post

Next week: How to meet these challenges and overcome them

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #81-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything-Part 2

So what does a good attitude for the speaker sound like?

John Gottman, the foremost researcher on marriage in our country, called his approach to initiating a conversation about concerns in the relationship: "the soft start up".
Unfortunately, many people think that this means that you speak softly when you are expressing yourself. While it certainly helps to moderate your voice, the most important aspect of a successful conversation is again "the attitude" with which you approach your partner.

If you are already angry and on the edge of exploding because you have discussed the problem 100 times before without any success, it would be helpful to take some time by yourself to calm down. What do you want to accomplish? If it is to express anger and frustration, you will most likely not find a sympathetic ear. If it is to help your partner to understand why you are distressed about certain behaviors or interactions, than consider the following:

1) Remember before starting that this is the person that you love most of the time.
2) Can you start by giving the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps, despite your best efforts, there are reasons that your partner has not been able to respond to previous requests which either he/she or you do not fully understand.
3) If you do not want your partner to respond as an adversary, don't act like one. Keep the importance of the relationship foremost in your mind. This means that you may not get a resolution of your concerns immediately or that a compromise may be necessary.
4) If you want to be heard, it is best to ask for that before you start by requesting that your partner not respond or interrupt you; but take a few hours or a day to think about what you have said before getting back to you.
5) Communicate your willingness to be a good listener when your partner is ready to share with you about the topic you have raised.

Next Week-Why it is so hard to maintain a good attitude despite our best intentions

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #80-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything

While I believe there are better ways to speak to one's partner than most of us utilize, the most important element in a successful "Conversation" is not the "psychologically correct" words, but rather your attitude.

Are you communicating anger, distrust, contempt even though you may be saying the right words or not yelling? Are you disgusted or feeling hopeless with your efforts to reach your spouse? Are you not really listening? Are you already formulating your answer or some form of defense to what your partner is sharing as he/she is still speaking? What does your body language say? Eyes rolling? Glazing over? Arms crossed? Not making eye contact?

Attitude is Everything.

So what does a good attitude for the listener look like?

When your partner is sharing, you make him/her the most important person(you put your own thoughts and feelings to the background while you listen). You want to know and understand what is of concern to the one you love. Why is she/he feeling a certain way? What can you do to help improve the situation? You want to ackowledge that your partner's experience is valid even though you may not understand it or agree with it. You want to just listen if that is what is being asked. If a response is being requested, you want to think before you talk and take time to consider your partner's point of view and not make a knee-jerk defensive comment. Your goal is to create a space in the relationship in which your partner ends up feeling you care and are trying to consider his/her concerns.

How do you know if you have been a successful listener?

Your partner tells you that she/he feels listened to and understood. This does not mean you agree with everything shared but you are not dismissing her/his point of view or negating her/his experience of your relationship.

Next Week: Good Attitude on the part of the speaker