Wednesday, August 31, 2011


1) Negativity and fear mongering - people corrall you to tell you their problems or to share how dire the situation in the world, in the weather, in life is.  They 'psych others out'.  They're doom sayers. They're soul suckers. They're a drain.  They 'steal the joy' from life.  There is no balance in their communicaton.  Some one told them they have a 'right' to feel this way and they believe communication is sharing their 'dark' feelings.  It's narcissistic self centred and 'unbalanced'.  In AA where everyone who comes in is missing their best friend, everyone is told that sharing (communication) involves "experience, strength, and hope".  I was shot, I didn't die. I hope I won't be shot again or that I'll learn from this experience.  (Period).  This is useful positive information.  In contrast "i feel bad about being dumped by my partner" 'ad infinitum" is 'nursing sorrow', 'sucking on the tit of despair', living in the past, self pitying, whining and snivelling.  I wear a t shirt sometimes which says "Thou Shalt Not Snivel".
2) Criticalness - anyone says anything and you feel that your job in life is to point out the flaws, to prick the ballon, to shoot down, to say the sky is falling, to rain on their parade.  Generally speaking if I suggest going for a pizza I don't need you to tell me what is wrong with pizza.  Alternatively, if you would like to go for Mexican and know a fine Mexican restaurant it would be helpful if you made that suggestion pointing out the pros and cons and thereby giving us two options to discuss.  Nothing is more painful than being around people who have nothing themselves to contribute but think their destructive criticism is 'contribution'.  They're stuck in the arrogant adolescent phase where a kid knows nothing but think they know everything and act superior and disdainful of everything becasue they're afraid and immature.
3) Self justifying - You use conversation to prove you are right or were right.  This is all about 'winning' and not about communicating.  When something goes wrong I don't need to know why you did the stupid things you did. That's still in the 'problem' . It's much better to get into the 'solution'. Later when something is solved it's possible to have a 'post mortem' and discuss what choices could have been made or how things could have been done better.  This is an agreed on discussion not something that one person repeatedly tries to bring to the fore as a form of "I was right, really" communication
4) Defensiveness - Defensiveness is all about 'avoiding blame' and 'avoiding responsibility'.  It implies the other is accusing when they may just be saying the car tire is flat. Going into 'I wasn't driving' isn't going to get the car tire fixed.  Some people are always 'blame seeking' and 'blaming' but the rest of the world just wants to know 'how the tire got flat', and 'whose going to fix it'., and 'when will the car being drivable again.  In some families who broke something defines who fixes something but the two don't need to be 'linked'. Accepting responsibility for an action or error can quickly move the discussion of 'problem solving' forward into who would best fix the error, the solution.  Obviously if the baby left her grenade in the driveway and it went off when the car drove in, the baby isn't going to be the one to fix the flat tire.  However knowing the baby did it can save concern about whether fixing the tire is the answer to the tire going flat.
5) Making a case - this is where an individual event is 'linked' to a collection of past events in an attempt to make a case against the other person by presenting a litany of evidence to prove you're right and they're wrong with the kind of authority a court room has. I relationships couples do well to stay in the day and not fall into the various traps that go with connecting past events to present, worst of all is 'selective memory' and 'hindsight' .
6) Cross complaining - One person says something they don't like about what another is doing and that person defensively comes back with a complaint about the complainer.  Eg.  Honey I can't hear the tv with you vacuuming.  Response: "How do you think I like it when you answer your cellphone when I'm talking to you.
7) Mind reading - people will insist that they know what you're thinking without you're saying or doing something. Worse they will have pouts or temper tantrums based on their own telepathic insights.  Checking it out is asking a person what they are thinking and respect is accepting that what they say is true for this time.
8) Talking over  - this is where one person speaks 'over' another person in an argument or debate. It's demonstrated daily in the House of Commons in Canada resulting in the need for a referee. Normal conversation can be much like a badminton  match with ideas passed about the table like birdies. When it's feeling like 'murder ball' it's time to slow down the discussion or have it at another time.  Whenever people have said they don't feel like they're being 'heard' I've pulled out a timer to ensure they have 'time' to share. Most often "I don't think I'm being heard' means 'you don't agree with me" in 'pc - bizarro speak' - political correctness is commonly blaming and shaming and criticizing language and verbal bullying wrapped up with a twisted bow.  Alternatively 'are you listening' is an insult and the 'I" statement , "I don't feel you're listening" takes the pressure off the receiving and raises the possibility that I may indeed be deaf.
7).  Selling versus conversing.  Often with couples one person has a 'sale' they want to make. They figure that if they get enough time they can wear their partner down and bring them round to the idea. Like a true salesman they say things like 'I just want an minute of your time", and "no this isn't really about whether I can borrow the car, or have a thousand dollars to go to Vegas or we should have a threesome with your sister'. These kinds of assaults and trojan horses are all nice and seductive but the 'cost' is hidden.  It's not really a conversation because there's really not a desire for the other person to participate but rather what is wanted is capitulation. The one person already has the 'solution' and they'rejust trying to sell you on their 'solution'
8)  Should statements - 'you should" is irritating since I'm a free agent and I don't generally like to be 'told' what to do unless I ask for your opinion or grant you that authority. Remember the 'princess' knows what everyone should do but can't take care of herself.  Sometimes too a person needs to be told ''who made you king and didn't tell me about it."
9) "You make me angry" is a very different statement from "I am angry'.  I am responsible for my emotions. Telling others they are the 'cause' of your own emotions is 'blaming' and can be used for any negative in my life.  However, it gives control to the other person and results in my not having any responsibility for my own 'emotional hygeine' or "anger management".  Emotions can arise in a relationship but a statment likes "I feel angry when you piss in the sink" is alot different from 'You make me angry'.  "What's wrong with pissing in the sink?" can be a far more useful conversation than why you never learned to control your temper tantrums and pouts like the rest of us kids when we were children.
10) Talking about others, gossiping.  Note that there are conversations that are very difficult and they're about you and me. They're the basis of in depth psychotherapy and often are the essence of both pillow talk and all out 'war of the roses' with china breaking and chain saws going through walls.  The whole 'triangle business' of communication is keeping the focus off 'us' and onto 'them' or 'it'.  It's worth while that I'll agree with you people shouldn't fart as a general statement but it will mean war if you tell me I can never fart again.  Similiarly you might think it's silly how long some women spend on their makeup but I'll be in deep doodoo if I say I think you spend too much time on your make up.  The movement from us standing together and talking about something out there (a common enemy, perhaps) to us talking about each other in the same way is prone to blood shed.  Neither kind of discussion is particularly uplifting though it's really too much fun talking about the neighbours to give it up in this life time.
Instead of mis communication, communication is more rewarding and positive, and 'constructive' rather than 'destructive' in most part.
Communication can be many positive things.  Dr. Paul O suggested that we should talk to our partners like a 'wife' or 'husband' or 'partner' but rather like a 'secret lover'.  If your 'tone' of communication was the same as the Biblical Song of Songs most couples would get along far better than when they each sound like Charleton Heston playing Moses or General Patton in WW II.
Listening involves the ability to give back to the person what they actually were saying.  "What I heard you saying," validates another person and ensures that both people are actually on the same page.
"What do you suggest instead?
"What would you like to do?" The difficulty with this generousness is that the other person who is usually sophisticated in this area comes back with 'whatever you want to do' then pouts the whole time they're with you at the dress sale or arms dealer.  If a person abdicates from  choosing then they should be a 'good sport' or vote earlier in the process and accept that their idea of a 'good time' might not be as 'good as they think it is'. Not everyone wants to do stamp collecting on Friday night.
Graciousness and good manners came about as a means to facilitate conversation.  Studying 'diplomats' is always informative.
I've run out of time talking about positive communication so hopefully will find time to address elsewhere. Typically it's easier to point out the 'fault's rather than getting a handle on what makes for  'good conversation' ,  'witty repartee', good communication, clarity, non judgementalness, patience, gentleness and all those other things which we really would do well to list as what we like so that as couples we can both strive for the same goals.

No comments: