Communication in Relationships – Part 3 of 3

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Video transcript by Youtube: Hello my name is Keith Cross. I’m the owner and clinical director of the Prescott Relationship Center. We’re finishing up our series on communication so we did part one and sort of why it is that we communicate the way we do in especially important romantic relationships and then we did a section on what that kind of looks like when we’re trying to communicate unfortunately not totally knowing or understanding why it is that we communicate the way that we do so today is about what do we do otherwise so I’m going to go ahead and shift over to our PowerPoint so we can go through that great so yes so why what can we actually do to change how we’re communicating all right so like I said now that we know and I do hope that you’ve watched the first two sections of this of this series they are important and it’s only going to bring you sorry III hate to call sort of surface level or superficial change to the way that you’re communicating if you jump just to this one without really having a full understanding of what it is that that’s actually going on so hopefully by this time you will know why it is that you communicate the way that you do if not the links are below for the first two videos but then yeah what are we talking about today or what can we actually do to change it and what we often tell clients early on in the counseling process given that we all have these tendencies towards a way that we’re engaging or communicating with our partners that that unfortunately in many ways unintentionally ends up reinforcing that negative spiral that we get into so the first thing we often tell our clients is just start by doing something different if you know for the for the most part that when you’re trying to engage with your partner or if you’re trying not to engage do something different stick with it or don’t um or don’t push so if in other ways in other words if you tend to withdraw share your feelings and talk engage take that risk go there and just try oftentimes withdraw as I had mentioned in the previous videos that it’s often terrifying to hope and pray that that they’re gonna that they’re gonna they’re gonna be actually able to share something and not feel either criticized in in in some ways or maybe their feelings aren’t validated so they pull back they pull away they don’t share so doing something different if you tend to withdraw is to stick with it engage stay with it if you tend to pursue this is time that you can sit back you can share with your partner hey what you what you have to say is important and I want to hear what you have to say I’m gonna really do my best to sit back and listen so that’s just the first of many things we’re going to talk about here but that’s an important first step it is important to remember that it doesn’t do any good to talk it doesn’t many good to share if you’re worried about getting criticized ignored or rejected so it is okay to share hey you know I really want to talk or I really want to run away or I’m really having a hard time not interrupting whatever it might be it’s okay to share that concern and to say hey what you have to say or what we’re trying to resolve here is important to me and I’m gonna do my best to try and push back against what I typically tend to do in our argument so share that part share with your partner that hey what um what I tend to do is understandably is not working for us and I want to do something different for us so I’m gonna I’m gonna try my best I might not be perfect what we often say is progress not perfection this is about is not about you trying something different and expecting it to be perfect expecting that you’re not going to interrupt expecting that you’re not going to sort of zone out or literally walk away but every conversation you have every minute of every conversation that you’re not repeating that old pattern is progress and every time you can progress a little bit further towards doing something different and not engaging in that downward spiral you’re getting you’re getting closer and closer to where you really want to be and to getting the closeness the connection the communication that you’ve been longing for so progress not perfection remind yourself of that change is not always easy and giving up our defenses of big risk and leaves us vulnerable to hurt not only do we need to risk doing things differently ourselves we need to have patience and support for our loved ones who are making an equally different difficult effort so what I’m saying here is that that often times our defenses are either withdrawing either mentally emotionally physically or pushing like we talked about if you tend to pursue those are can be defined as defenses and we need to think about how we need to be mindful of how difficult it is and how big of a risk it really is when you pull that pull that aside and say hey I’m not going to do this and think about this let’s just say for the withdrawing partner if they’re used to saying fine I’m done whatever and ending the conversation for them to stick with that conversation in hopes that the conversation doesn’t go downhill in hopes that the conversation can be helpful and productive then then then they have to sit there and potential take some criticism potentially takes some pushing from their partner who might not be either as ready or willing yet to challenge themselves to do things differently so it is a risk for that withdraw to then stay in that conversation and hope and pray that it doesn’t go south likewise for the pursuer let’s just say this person says beckon says okay I’m gonna do my best progress not perfection right I’m going to do my best to not push to not criticize and I really want to validate your feelings they sit back they say okay I’m gonna listen and then the next thing they know that withdrawing partner is still turned off is still turned away is still not engaging then they’re sitting there sort of okay well what do I do now so it is a risk and I would encourage you in in many ways I encourage my couples don’t wait oftentimes and other defenses I’m gonna wait for my partner to do something different I’m not really the one who has the problem or withdrawing is better than pursuing or I’m pursuing because we need to talk and that’s more healthy than withdrawing and unless my partner does something that I’m not doing anything I would encourage you to think about what you want to do and doing something different not keeping a scorecard or anything but doing something different for the relationship do it for the relationship not for your partner for the relationship and hopefully you can sit in that place and expect and hope and intend for this conversation it might not be the first or second or even fifth conversation but you need to stick with and do something differently take that risk and share that concern share that fear share that frustration even that hey I’m really trying to do something different here and I know that this is the way we’ve done things for a long time I really wanted I really want to break that habit of ours so just know that it’s a risk no that it’s about progress not perfection and give yourself some compassion when you don’t do things perfectly and have some compassion for the other person because often times it’s difficult for pursuers to understand what that’s like to be able to draw and vice versa so when you decide to talk do whatever you can to in your power to accept and validate validate validate there’s a reason that is in there three times the other person and appreciate his or her efforts if you let’s just say tend to withdraw and you notice that your partner is sitting back you notice that you’re pursuing partner is not pushing you notice you’re pursuing partners not criticizing great time you get more betting you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar this is the time to validate the – well certainly to acknowledge their effort to do something differently and it doesn’t hurt to just throw in there hey I know that this is difficult for you I know that that this is not how you typically communicate and I want you to know that what I’m experiencing right now is far more helpful and I feel more comforted or more supported or I feel more encouraged to speak up and share luck again if you if you’re the withdraw and certainly you know if you’re the pursuer and you’re noticing your partner is engaging and they’re not running away good time to validate hey I know this is hard for you I know that you usually like to just to just leave the conversation where wherever it is and stop the conversation in whatever way you can because it’s difficult and sometimes not the way that I’m engaging makes it hard to engage and I want you to know that that I can tell that you’re trying I can tell that you’re engaging I can tell that you’re really wanting to do things differently and I appreciate that nothing is more powerful than to hear from your partner wow that must be frustrating or if I were in your shoes I’d be so angry or simply how sad validation can also be conveyed without words by holding your partner’s and looking him/her in the eyes and being there just to listen there’s actually quite a bit of data on the power of physical touch if you are engaging in a difficult conversation and you know that it’s maybe going to be a little more sensitive than normal one of you can reach out one of you can put your hands on the other person’s shoulder I actually hold hands maybe if you’re sitting next to each other having your hand on that person’s knee in some way but all too often leaking into problem-solving mode we assume that our partner is saying I’m concerned or I’m worried or I’ve got this issue and I need I need you to solve the problem for me in particular many men fall into this trap where they feel the need to give suggestions and in many cases the partners are really wanting and needing meaning just the time knowing that you care knowing that you’re there just to listen knowing that knowing that that that they’re feeling heard by you is oftentimes healing enough so if you’re unsure especially if you’re unsure it is okay to ask there’s nothing wrong with saying what do you need right now with no preconceptions about the answer because although oftentimes if we are problem solvers and I fall into that myself sometimes I’m asking that because I’m hoping that my wife in this case is gonna say well what should I do and in all too many cases she says you know what I just needed to get it off my chest and you know what you know you know my coworker my boss my friend whoever it might be is just you’re attaining mean it was just good to get it off my off my off my chest or getting that out of my hair and had I gone into some sort of problem-solving III don’t know some golden solution to her problem it would have likely invalidated her in many ways so if you are problem solver do what you can not to it is really a you okay to quote-unquote just listen with your heart with every bit of love and care for the relationship that you have so if you’re with Gerard do what you can to engage in discussion with your partner if or when you feel like running away whether it be physically or emotionally really do what you can to muster whatever strength you can to stay with your partner and it is okay to tell your partner how your how your how your maybe wanting to run away how your maybe wanting unsure about engaging you’re not sure if this is gonna go over so well and that you want to try and do something differently and maybe even not just stick with it but actually engage say I really like to run away right now I’m scared or I’m not sure how this is gonna go here but I know this is important for us to talk about so I’ll try my best it’s okay to say just that it helps set the mood for your partner and let that that person know that that this is really a challenge for you and that you really care about you care about the relationship enough that you’re gonna give it a go remember the pursuer needs to know that you have a pulse they feel like they’re pulling teeth to get you to talk the less you talk the more they pursue so talk to them and you’ll likely see that they will feel less need to pursue this is the hardest thing for with drawers to understand is if I engage more somehow some way it’s going to escalate make things worse whatever it might be now granted depending on what you’re saying it might but in many cases pursuers are often pursuing because they want they don’t know how else to get you to engage they oftentimes feel less important or unimportant to you because you maybe are withdrawing and don’t get me wrong if you’re withdraw in many cases you’re withdrawing because you care about the relationship you’re withdrawing because conflict equals negative bad interaction in the or less satisfaction in the relationship understood and at the same time that can feel very different on the pursuers side so just be mindful of that as you as you forward if your pursuer do what you can talk about mustering this from the tips of your toes don’t criticize or belittle your partner his or her feelings remember how difficult it is for you to stop pursuing and think about that when you are in conflict so think about yeah how hard it is for that would draw to and think about how hard it is for you to not to not engage to not speak up to not share your side of things and know that it’s equally as difficult for that withdrawing partner to engage okay if endure when you belittle his or her feelings you’re belittling the person it is very difficult to separate that for any of us really if somebody is not feeling supported or accepted for their feelings oftentimes it feels like it’s them as a whole not just that that one isolated feeling or experience when you feel like criticizing or blaming stop stop stop this is exactly the thing your partner expects and exactly the thing that will get them to clam up again so if you want your withdrawing partner to talk you have to listen and really listen to them oftentimes we can we can be up in our heads and going um you know 800 miles a minute making all kinds of conclusions about what our partner is saying and in many cases that’s what we have to turn off and just be in that zone just be listening for what our partner is really wanting or needing or sharing without any judgment and just again use using the two years that God gave us rather than the one mouth we should be listening twice as much as we talk you want to talk and you feel like criticizing say I have something I’d like to talk with you about I really like your feedback I know it’s not easy for you when I do this but I’ll try not to blame or criticize you because I want to hear what you have to say and I know blaming will turn you off you can use those exact words if you want to again it’s putting it out there as it’s expressing a level of vulnerability and sharing with your partner what you’re really wanting to try and do differently it is okay if your partner is talking to you and you don’t understand what he or she is saying tell them ask for Claire vacation simply say honey sweetie schmoopsie-poo I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying it’s important to both of us that I understand what you’re talking about can you help me a little bit asking for help shows you care often times we get worked up and we respond and we get reactive about topics that come up what our partner is saying because what we talk about is the message sent isn’t always the message received and oftentimes a little bit of clarification can help them the receiver get what the message is that’s being sent so it is okay to ask for clarification don’t worry about asking try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes imagine what it would feel like for him and her and validate that experience it does take energy it does take in some ways sort of becoming sort of a mini researcher but taking yourself out of that marital fishbowl if you will and looking at your partner’s experience without all of the relationship energy that is understandably there in the moment and I can tell you when you can get to that place it’s not an if it’s a when and it does again it does take time and energy and directed focus on tuning out all the judgments and the criticisms in the moment and being able to validate that person saying you know what I think if I were in your shoes and I did that to me I’d probably feel the same way I don’t like that I did that or I wish I wasn’t I didn’t react that way but I gotta say I you know I think you’re right I think you’re right in many cases if we can just take that step back we can see and understand what our partner is experiencing use phrases like if I were in your shoes I feel sad too or I can see why you’re angry I’d be angry if someone did that to me avoid phrases like it would be it’ll be ok this will get better unfortunately this invalidates the person’s experience by the way what I’m sort of getting to here in this slide is about the difference between sympathy and empathy and if you look up there’s a video online by Brené Brown called sympathy versus empathy there might be some other if you just google Brené Brown sympathy versus empathy it’ll come up and what it is it’s a sort of a comic strip that runs along at the same time as a TED talk that she’s doing that is just brilliant and she really gets into how important it is to be with that person in that person’s space versus sort of talking down being sympathetic towards them and you’ll be fine sort of an approach so if you have three minutes to watch that video we show it in our relationship retreats all the time because it’s that good and again it does help us get a sense of what the difference is between sympathy and empathy as I said before don’t try and solve the problem off and we just need a caring ear to listen to us if you don’t feel like your partner really truly heard or and when I mean really I mean really heard what you’re trying to say it’s okay to say I’m not sure I can vade my point can I try again or this is really important that I convey my feelings accurately can I clarify something again we’re trying to get that the disconnection between message sent a message received minimize so that hopefully the message can be accurately heard remember if you say you don’t understand what I’m trying to say you might get a defensive reaction I shouldn’t say you might you’ll likely get a defensive reaction so try to use I messages instead if you notice in both of these fix examples up here I’m not sure I conveyed my point you’re not saying you don’t get it this is really important to me that I convey my feelings can I clarify something again you’re not saying you’re not listening you’re not getting it you’re deficient effective in some way is essentially the underlying message so own it and just say hey can I clarify can I move forward can I give you some more different term for me other things you can do to help the conversation look at your partner when he or she is talking this tells your partner that you are really listening there’s these things that researchers call mirror neurons and they’re engaged most fully when we are making direct eye contact so there is there is power in looking and focusing on your partner as I said before touching your partner put your hand on his or her shoulder hold their hand or just touch their knee this also touch your partner that you really care even if you are arguing it is okay in those tense times to stay engaged there’s a researcher John Gottman who’s done tons of research on this and he and his team have found I think it’s within the first eight to ten seconds of a conversation they can tell if it’s if it’s likely to result in a positive outcome or negative outcome in there they’re accurate it’s well over eighty percent of the time in that in the first few seconds of a conversation because oftentimes when the conversation begins and the people are turned away when they’re not making eye contact with or not when they’re not having any physical contact that just sets up a conversation of that likely results in adversarial conversation or attacking or defensive miss so look at each other touch each other some way shape or form to show you care whatever you do acknowledge when your partner tries to risk to do something different I’ve mentioned this a couple of times and hopefully that helps to show you how important it is tell your partner I can really I can see that this is really difficult for you to do and I appreciate that you trust me enough to take that risk again you’re taking that that that pursuer who is choosing not to be critical or judgmental that would draw or who’s choosing not to run away that is a big risk and we need to acknowledge it again you’re going to get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar so the compliments are going to get you further than the criticisms remember that you don’t always have to disagree you don’t always have to agree in fact you can agree to disagree to that same researcher John Gottman found that even couples who have been in happy marriages for years decades on top of that still have problems that may never get fixed that is okay what he says in that same research however is what’s critical between those couples who stayed married long term and happy versus those who didn’t both of them had these perpetual problems that never really truly fully got fixed in the relationship but what separated those couples who stayed together was they continued to discuss them they didn’t just resolve to lower their standards in the relationship or just harbor resentment they continued to converse about it that’s important so continue to talk even if it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fixed so that is a lot of information and I understand that’s a lot to sort of digest and I hope it was helpful all of what I talked about is a part of that the process that we go through in the couples counseling here at the breast care relationship center and if you have any questions feel free to give me a holler we’ll have plenty more videos well we’ll have plenty more we have plenty of other resources on the website feel free to review those again let us know if you have any questions and thank you for watching.