Very often, when people come in for couples counseling, this is one of the first things that they say. Sometimes, it isn’t about communication at all, but when the problem is, remember communication isn’t magic. Everyone can do it! When you see someone do a dangerous trick on TV, they follow it up with, “Don’t try this at home!” Well, DO try this at home.
Think about communication as “the process of exchanging information”. It can always be improved.
Here are 5 basic principles:
- In all relationships (family, work, love), communication never stops. It is always there, so don’t bother to fight it. Instead, pay attention and get good at it. You are always sending and/or receiving information.
- Communication can be verbal (messages sent through words). Communication can be nonverbal (messages sent by actions or inactions).
- When you have a negative message to send, it is best to send it consciously and verbally rather than carelessly and nonverbally. Communicating with words allows further, useful discussion.
- Communication can be simple and overt (“I am going to feed the dog”) or it can be more complicated (“I am going to feed the dog” accompanied by frown, groan, slamming the dog food on the counter, or announced when you in the middle of an argument).
- Communication is always edited and that is okay. No one says everything that is on their mind and that’s just fine – it is civilized.
- Poor communication is not a personality problem (usually) or character flaw. If you work at communication, you will get good at it.
Pay attention to these 5 ideas and see if it helps. Let me know what you learn.
Many of these ideas came from a 1987 pamphlet prepared by Richard B. Stuart and Barbara Jacobson. It just proves that helpful, basic ideas are still worth remembering.
Here’s an idea I’ve been playing with this week (weak ha, no pun intended). We behave differently when we feel weak than we do when we feel strong. For example, when we feel weak, we may believe that we have to stay in a hateful job; when we feel strong, we believe that we can find a job in which we will flourish. Here is another example; some people remain involved in relationships they would leave if they felt strong, but continue to stay involved because they feel weak. Last example; sillier, but common; do you eat differently when you feel weak than when you feel strong? I do. I eat healthier when I feel strong.
So, this is what I am thinking. When we feel strong, we behave in ways that are courageous, disciplined or forward looking. When we feel weak, we are stuck, less optimistic, and think only in the moment. As a result, we don’t act in our own long term interests.
Most of the determination of feeling weak or strong is in our heads. What if we asked ourselves, “What would I do if I felt strong? If I felt confident?” and listen to the answer. I’m not foolish. I know that there are times when we are all in weak positions and have to stay put, suck it up, or wait. I’m talking about the rest of the time. We could ask, “What would the strong version of me do?” even if we can’t follow through at that moment – we
get a glimpse into the life that we might be able to create.
If you try this, please let me know what happens.
Subvert, weaken, derail, sabotage – these are all synonyms for the concept of “undermine”. Here’s a great example to illustrate all of these terms:order cialis
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Daughter, displaying a handful of photos: “Look at these wonderful pictures of my boyfriend and me on vacation!” The pictures show the happy couple playing in the surf, eating meals, and taking in the sights. “Don’t we look great together?” she asks her mother.
Mother: “You look happy to be with him.”
You couldn’t find a more perfect illustration of undermining someone’s faith in a relationship. Why deflate her happiness, weaken her self confidence, derail the relationship? It is irrelevant who had the more loving gaze. Why would the mother undermine her daughter’s pleasure in this relationship? Let’s assume that mom is not mean or sadistic; she loves her daughter and wants her to be happy. Maybe mom is scared, maybe she has little faith in lasting relationships, maybe she really doesn’t want her daughter to grow up and leave home, maybe she sees everything through a negative lens. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What we do know is that certain types of comments undermine people’s confidence.
Don’t think that this is somehow an exclusive mother/daughter thing. We can undermine ourselves; we don’t always need help from others. We can make ourselves feel bad and I believe that many of these subversions come from fear –
fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being foolish.
The most common reason to use texts and emails is to express affection for a partner. This shows that the media can act as a positive force in many relationships. It is likely that technology has increased the ease with which affection can be expressed, with individuals being able to covertly text a quick “I luv U :)!” during an office meeting or call while doing the weekly shopping. Although face-to-face expressions of affection are certainly necessary, it appears that people can add to these positive communications by using the media to continue to express affection.
The other uses of text messages to
one’s partner are to discuss serious issues and to either to apologize or to broach a potentially confrontational subject. Occasionally, people use mean texts to hurt their partner, but they are probably already good at negative communication whether it is face-to-face or using new media.
I’ve certainly wondered what impact texting and email has had on relationships so I did some investigating. Recently, I found a bunch of studies that have researched this topic so I will report the gist of the findings without going into great detail about methodology. I have included researchers’ names if you want to look them up.
1. The use of Facebook is associated with increased jealousy in relationships (Muise, 2009)
2. Cell phones have become the most safe online viagra common and easiest way to connect with others. (Green, 2003)
3. Adolescents and emerging adults (20s) love cell phones and texting. Why? Because non-face-to-face communication gave them the option of talking to multiple people at once, to leave large gaps in the conversation, to conceal truth, and to immediately clarify misunderstandings (Madell, 2007)
4. Adolescents and 20 somethings know that texting leads to misunderstandings but they still believe that it gives them more time to figure out what they want to say.
5. Texting (as opposed to face to face) is especially vulnerable to misunderstandings because tone of voice and facial cues. The nonverbals are important aspects of interpersonal communication that help enhance the clarity of messages and this is missing in texts.
6. Many couples believe that texting has improved their relationships because it allows them to remain in constant contact with one another, especially when apart.(Pettigrew, 2009)
7. Some scholars have found that the sheer amount of overall couple communication alone was significantly correlated to relationship satisfaction, especially for women. (Rehman, 2007).
8. Young people use email, texting and cell phones more often to communicate with their partner than older individuals (except for 17–25 year olds who use fewer e-mails to communicate with their partner than all other age groups).
9. In a study of 1000+ subjects (average age = 32 years), the most common reason to use email, text messages and cell phones was to
1. express affection (75%)
2. discuss serious issues (25%)
3. apologize (12%).
10. Individuals who were in relationships for less than 1 year were less likely to use the media to discuss a serious issue with their partner, but more likely to use the media to hurt their partner, broach a potentially confrontational subject with their partner, and apologize to their partner for something than those who had been in a relationship for a year or more.
This post is NOT about my book – it isn’t even about writing. (I admit, I loved writing my books and I love writing about writing my books) Writing the last chapter is about new and developing relationships. “Writing the last chapter” refers to the urge to let your mind rush far into the future when you would be much better off remaining firmly in the present.
For example, here is a fictional example to make my point: Chelsea meets Matt on Friday and they hit it off, exchange of phone numbers, and both head home with high hopes. Matt calls the next day and says, “Sunday, I have to go to my niece’s birthday party in the burbs but I might be back in the evening – if I don’t run into friends. If I get back, maybe we could do something.”
Chelsea wakes up on Sunday and waits for his call. Noon brings no call. Still silence at mid-day. Chelsea goes from disappointed (understandable but premature) to hurt, and then she begins to feel badly about herself, convinced that, “He doesn’t like me.” This is not a crazy progression or an unusual one. Chelsea was excited (that’s good) and hoped Matt would call (also good). The problem occurred when Chelsea wrote the last chapter before the other chapters had been penned. Let’s go back and look at the dangerous progression – excited à hopeful à disappointed à hurt à feeling negatively about herself – all for no reason. She had no further information so filled in the silence with a negative imagination.
She would have been much better off making plans, going about her day, not making assumptions and staying in the present. She would have felt stronger and far better about herself. She would not have wasted her Sunday. Whether Matt called on Monday (and Chelsea felt foolish) or he never called, she was writing chapters prematurely. Call it “live in the moment”, “stay in the present”, “pay attention to now” or “don’t waste your time and energy” but it is a good attitude to practice.
If you are an early career clinician, a professor who teaches interviewing skills, or a clinical supervisor, you will find my newest book, “What Do I Say? The Therapist’s Guide To Answering Client’s Questions” (with C. Waehler, published by John Wiley, 2011) a practical, useful addition to your library. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=what+do+i+say+edelstein
Sure, relationships are serious business but the incredible weight that some of us heap on these partnerships could sink a battleship.
I am fatigued hearing about people’s outrageous expectations of themselves and their partners. (Note: sometimes people expect too little, not too much) these days, it seems like it is no longer enough to be a lover, friend and partner. Now, men and women are looking for soul mates – magical people who will completely, immediately and painlessly understand their deepest being. Whoever coined that term deserves to be locked up in a room for a year listening Med over 450 casinospel inklusive Slotspel, Bordsspel, Poker, Roulette och spelautomater online online , som kan spelas med var gratis casinomjukvara eller vart flashcasino som inte kraver nedladdning. to the ridiculous expectations and painful disappointments that result from such an unworkable concept. It puts unnecessary weight on any relationship. The higher the expectations and stranger the assumptions, the more difficult it is to change, discuss or negotiate. Conversations become so serious that they are threatening. We could all benefit from lightening up on our relationships.
I like the term rebound. It has the feel of an automatic bounce which aptly describes rebound relationships. Ricochet, recoil, return, spring back. One thesaurus defines rebound as, “The act of flying back after collision.” for our puposes, collision refers to the prior relationship as it crashed and burned.
Have you noticed that no one calls their next relationship a “rebound” until it fizzles under the weight of impossible expectations and assumptions? During the time when the new and glorious relationship is in the discovery phase, the story is something like, “I learned from my break up. I knew what I was looking for. I am not going to make the same mistake.” That’s true – it is now time for new mistakes. After the rebound stops bouncing and falls flat, the story changes, “Oh yeah, sure that was just (the word ‘just’ diminishes the importance) a rebound.”
But let’s be honest here. Rebound relationships are needed – they are healing, they fix up some of the hurts from the prior collision. They are wonderful band aids. When a relationship falls apart, it rarely falls peacefully and quietly. Break ups are marked by pain, hurt, diminished self-esteem, serious questions about yourself, your ability to be a good partner, and loud recriminations. You find yourself soul searching to figure out what went wrong. Before or after you have finished blaming your partner, you also ask, “What’s wrong with me?” You need solace and nothing, (except maybe chocolate and ice cream with raspberries) is better than reassurance in the form of another person who is different from your former love and who thinks that you are wonderful.
Generally, rebound partners, whether they are permanent or temporary, possess all the traits that you have been starving for – all the attributes that your prior love (or your prior relationship) did not have. That is a lot of the appeal. Enjoy it! Feel desirable, loveable, smart, kind, helpful, or whatever you have been missing. Don’t even label it although I just did. You will learn a lot. You will find some ways of being, feeling, and thinking that you missed so take it all in and say thank you.