Uncategorized

Maybe I’m Distorting Something Here, But…

Everyone makes mistakes in perception.  Sometimes, I think you mean to blame me, when you think you’re just stating a fact.  Maybe I distort the degree to which I am being blamed.  Especially if my history includes being a victim of physical, sexual or emotional abuse; it’s very possible that my nervous system is trained to perceive and exaggerate threats early, to try to avoid those threats.  So, I may quickly, or easily, distort the degree of the threat.  First perceptions are most often based on fear.  Without having a quick willingness to see a threat coming, we would not have survived as a species.  It’s O.K. that my first thought is fear based, as long as I don’t immediately act on it.  In most of the couples I deal with this manifests in conflicts that start over an over-reaction to a mild angry/frustrated tone of voice.

 

The other night at my men’s domestic violence group, several men identified feeling angry most of the day. They

Maybe she needs something from me- Translation

Learn to translate an irritated response INTO a request for understanding, validation or help.

described a high level of irritability and a general high sensitivity to becoming disturbed. This would not have to relate to their partners, necessarily. It could be a disappointment at work, where an expectation was not met. It could be on the road, with feeling victimized by another driver.   The image to the right helps illustrate the idea of what I call, ‘THE TRANSLATION.’  This is when you see an angry spouse, but decide to translate the angry energy into it’s alternate form of neediness or vulnerability that cannot be owned or expressed at the time by the spouse.  This skill of translating observed hostility or withdrawal, in your mind, into an awareness of the needs or vulnerability of your partner; is a tremendously healing skill!

By the way, the heading of this section, ‘Maybe I’m distorting something here, but…. I’m feeling…” is a fantastic set of ‘First Words’ to use when you want to express difficult feelings with your partner. If these are your first words, you are indicating that you’re willing to be wrong in some perception or conclusion. It also, eliminates mind-reading violations.

I like to use a scale of 1-10 of anger, with 1 being equal to being very mildly upset and a 10 being raging angry hostility.  I’ll ask a group member, how angry was she on a scale of 1-10?  Usually, the man says a 7 or 8; but he is describing a time late in the argument.  Often, his partner was simply expressing a mild irritation at a level 2 or 3 on this anger scale.  THEN, it was the group member’s RESPONSE of defensiveness & irritation to this mild expression, that escalated the argument to a much higher level.   If a person with a history of abuse hears a level 2 or 3 frustrated expression by their spouse, that person will tend to exaggerate the degree of threat.  That’s why I ask my men in the violence group to say this mantra in their head when they hear their partner’s expression of irritation, anger, or frustration.

 

It’s O.K. if my partner is mildly upset with me.  I need not react to a level 2 or 3!

Next week I’m going to give you a link to the Respect Agreement.  The respect agreement spells out exactly what to do when either partner feels disrespected by the other.  It is a specific structure that works!  There are references to several other techniques that I write about in the blog.  So, if you don’t recognize a technique, just look it up in the red search field of the sidebar.

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Early Fall Los Angeles Couples Weekend Workshop

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is HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Timing

Bad Timing For 2 Reasons

The very worst time to talk about an issue is in the midst of an incident involving that issue.

Issues consist of things like: cleanliness, promptness, deception, withdrawal, child rearing differences, sexual issues, anger issues, caring, not feeling you’re of primary significance, responsibility, compassion, tone of voice, forgetfulness… and the list goes on.

So, let’s say you have a big issue with your partner being late often.  When is it that you find yourself talking to your partner about this problem you have with him, or her?  If you’re like most people you have that talk at just the time that your partner is late.  There are two problems with the timing of that discussion.

  1. You are very upset and agitated and your expression will not get through to your partner.
  2. Your partner is either feeling guilty or angry and agitated and won’t be able to take in your concerns.

There is a smart way to talk about how you feel when your partner frustrates you in these incidents involving the offending behaviors and issues listed above.  When couples argue, what they are really often arguing about is, ‘Who has the floor?’  “My point of view, thoughts and feelings.”   “No… My thoughts, feeling and point of view.”  No one is listening to the other.  No one feels heard.  So, if there was a way to absolutely know who has the floor, why then we wouldn’t be raising our voice or interrupting each other.  There is a method and agreement which leads to significantly less interrupting and loud aggressive voices.  People yell often, because they do not feel heard.  Of course, sometimes it’s because they feel threatened and overwhelmed.  But, sticking to the simple rules of the ‘Listening Exchange’ will certainly help you talk about subjects that previously seemed unapproachable.

Rule #1- Do not immediately launch into a rant about the behavior in the midst of the incident.  If you have a regular weekly Couples Time on the same day of the week every week, you can bring up the incident at a time when you are not agitated and triggered.  There are some guidelines that I recommend to use.

Get the free download of the Listening Exchange method combined with the Couples Time agreement HERE.

You get these images in the download of the EXACT CONCRETE AND SIMPLE rules for how to talk about difficult subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of loud angry voice

It’s Just A Level Two… Let It Go!

I find myself repeating this phrase with the men I work with the phrase,

‘Learn to accept a level two or three expression of irritation & anger from your partner.’

 

A handy scale to use in communication skills training is the 1 – 10 scale of anger.  A ten is the energy of volcanic violent rage and a one is the energy of expressing a mild irritation.  A one might be, “It bothered me when you ____ .”  A ten on this scale might be, “You f*%^%ng A^*#$; I’m going to ____ you up.”

A Level 3 Irritated Expression

 

So many minor disturbances turn into full-on high conflicts with high energy anger, defensiveness, and intimidation.  All because one partner was mildly disturbed by something said or done by the other partner; and the accused partner felt compelled to comment, defend and fight back.  All because of a level two comment by the partner.  This should not happen.  Please, allow level two or three degrees of energy of disturbance from your partner!!

 

Gee Marc, that’s great advice but you left out the part where we have control over how reactive we get when we hear our partner’s angry, irritated & disturbed ‘tone of voice’; even at a level three.

 

O.K. let’s try out a few techniques:

  • The Pic– of the elephant on the chair, scared of a mouse.  It’s just some energy of your partner’s irritation.
  • Mindfulness–  As you get skilled in mindfulness, you learn to let go of disturbing thoughts, feelings and sensations.
  • The Mantra– Say in your head, “It’s O.K. if my partner is mildly upset with me.”
  • Another Mantra– No matter what you’re hearing in your self-talk, say these words in your head, “I love you.”  It matters not whether the phrase is directed toward your partner or toward yourself.  These are extremely powerful words.  It may seem too simple or trite to say these words to yourself.  But, if you experiment with saying these words to yourself when hearing mild disturbance from your partner; notice that it might just work fine to keep you resilient and calm.

 

 

When Will My Partner Start Taking Responsibility For Conflicts?

blame_sign_800_wht_5812This is a question that comes up often with the men and women that come to me with relationship conflict. Each partner is waiting for the other to acknowledge that they did something that hurt him or her.

It’s hard for me to be the first one in an argument to admit how I contributed to the problem. For instance, it’s easy for me to say,  “I wouldn’t have said or done __X__ if you didn’t say __Y__.”

Blaming is the way most 4 year olds deal with being caught ‘red-handed’ in some bad behavior. Many adults do not fare better.Blaming
The key is for me to admit what I did first!

Do not ask your partner to own his or her part in communication conflicts until AFTER you’ve communicated YOUR part.

Key_hands_anim_300_clr_10132
New Rules:
1) I’m willing to speak first about what part I played in a problem we just had.

2) I’ll avoid defending and explaining myself.

3) It’s O.K. if I’ve upset my partner.

Here is a sample of statements I invite you to make out loud to your partner tonight. Do not explain yourself, make excuses, or blame. Just say the words that you can agree with, from my statements. Notice what happens in your body, your mind, and your heart after you make one or more of these statements to your partner. This is Real POWER.  

Check the statements that may apply to YOU. There is no writing about the other in this exercise. This exercise does not allow you to talk about your partner’s behavior. The statements below are long form examples of what you might say to your partner BEFORE you try to get your partner to hear out, or understand your point of view. You may edit the statements below, if you like.

___ You have rarely heard me say, “I made a mistake.” That could make you feel as if I’m totally blaming you. I will try to tell you when I know I’ve made a mistake.

___ I can be very judgmental and act like a parent, or a boss, with you sometimes. That might make you think that I think I’m better than you. That’s not right, and I want to change that, without blaming you.

___ I have trouble saying that I’ve done something that hurt you. It makes sense you could think that I don’t care about you. I will be more sensitive to how I may have hurt you in the future.

___ My withdrawal from you emotionally is sometimes driven by wanting to hurt you. But, often my withdrawal is because I feel flooded, overwhelmed, confused and simply do not know how to express myself, or to deal with you. I can see how upset you get when I do that. I’m going to try to learn how to not withdraw from you.

___ Sometimes, I say I’m going to do something and I end up not doing it. I’ve said I would change something about my behavior and I didn’t follow through with what I said. I can understand how you might come to distrust my promises to change and feel resentful. It’s O.K. if you still feel distrustful now. In the future I’m going to work harder to do what I say and to say what I mean.

 

Would you like to hear your partner say some of these things?  I thought so 🙂  
The best way to hear your partner ‘own his or her part of the problem’; is for YOU to do it first!

Get the .pdf of this full exercise, from my Couples Weekend Seminar
upcoming book, with 17 statements HERE.

This 20 minute exercise WILL be an emotional experience for all couples who do it.
For most couples, it will be a connecting & healing experience.

For some people, it will simply be information about the capacities of each partner’s ability to take some responsibility for problems in their relationship.

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Get notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Tone Of Voice

I Can Change How Reactive I Am To My Partner’s Tone Of Voice

Couples argue about:
  • cleanliness
  • punctuality
  • not feeling significant
  • not feeling cared about
  • not feeling respected or acknowledged
  • sex & intimacy
  • child-rearing
  • fairness
  • in-laws
  • responsibilities & chores
  • & other subjects

 

Partners have legitimate differences in the areas.  But, it is ‘THE WAY YOU’RE TALKING’ and the tone of your voice that really gets under people’s skin.   You might think your partner was talking to a child, or an employee from his or her tone of voice.  Or, you are completely unaware of how your voice and your face can intimidate your partner.  In my anger management group for men I’ve asked them to repeat after me,
I am a man who can broadcast rejection, contempt & disrespect; without even knowing it.
Then, when my partner reacts to that, I look over at her and think to myself,
“Why is she wanting to start a fight with me?
That’s their honest experience!  They are sincere when they dismiss their partner’s reference to their voice.  They just do not consider sweeping their side of street to see ‘what part they played’ in the conflict.  In this case, the part their tone of voice played in why a partner became upset.
If you find yourself being told periodically by others that they are offended by your tone of voice, you will benefit by taking this seriously.  You may simply make an effort and by dint of will you might successfully eliminate most of those instances of being disrespectful.  The people that I see in my office for anger management have not been able to change their verbal and non-verbal controlling behaviors.  They are unaware of the part their tone of voice plays in the dance of conflict.  Most of them come in to therapy for a relationship issue, and it evolves into an exploration of the individual client’s inability to be aware of their own behaviors, and how that affects the relationship.  A tone of voice can convey disgust, disrespect, contempt, rejection, dismissal or indifference.  These disconnecting moments have a lot to do with why there is a lack of intimacy, sex and fun in a relationship!
Some people cannot tolerate listening and responding to comments about their tone of voice… at all.  They become argumentative and oppositional.  It is common for men in our group to take 3-6 months before beginning to see their part in the conflicts they have with others.  Usually, because it feels black and white to them.  It seems that if they accept any responsibility, then they are accepting all the responsibility for the problems.  So they continue to blame their partner.  It takes a while for these men to learn to partialize.  This is the quality of seeing that two people play a part in couples’ problems.  To be able to partialize responsibility means that each partner is able to see their part in how a conflict began, or got worse.
I make two points in this blog post-
  • One- You can learn to improve the way you express feeling offended in a more respectful way.
  • Two-  You can allow people to comment on your tone of voice, without punishing
    them.
Be curious about what your voice made your partner think and feel about him/herself, about you, and about the relationship.
If you, or your partner, feel disrespected that fact is not debatable. 
Say, your partner tells you that you had an edge of contempt or intimidation in your voice.  You might respond with comments such as, “You shouldn’t think… ”  Or, “You’re wrong about the meaning of my voice… ”  Or, “That’s your problem.  You have issues from your family, or your ex.”   Saying these things are more demonstrations of your controlling, insensitive nature and is a continuation of the disrespect.  If you were the one feeling disrespected, would you tolerate someone telling you that you could not express your experience because you were judged wrong or crazy?  I think not.

In late summer I will be planning a couples weekend seminar.  It’s less than $200 a day per person and is an extremely efficient way to possibly avoid ongoing expensive marriage counseling.  The workshop is educational in nature.  Men like the ‘rules & tools’ quality of the class, and women just love that there’s more respectful communication happening.  FIND THE PERIOD to those unnecessary arguments that don’t seem to end; and don’t end well.  The skills and agreements are a proven path to finding the period to conflicts.

See Video Testimonials

Click ‘Learn More’ button or HERE to get notified of this late summer Los Angeles seminar/class.

Future Great Relationship Marriage

You Have More POWER Than You Know
To Create A Better Relationship Or Marriage

Can you start one new habit of hugging your partner three times a day?  These will be ‘belly hugs’ that are done so that your two bellies are touching for more than 10 seconds.  Initiate a belly hug whenever the two of you are separated for several hours.  Do it when you wake up, when you come home and when you go to bed.  That’s also a good time to say, “I love you!”

Power comes to those who can be relied upon to be consistently responsible and compassionate.  Developing daily habits that demonstrate these two traits are a sure path to have a relationship to grow old within.  Be the change you want to see.  In small conflicts, go ahead and own what you did that hurt the other.  State a corrective action you’ll take.  Make amends.  Maybe you don’t even try to make your case for why you did what you did.   These are some of the small daily changes you can make that will predict a loving future with your partner.

Daily Habits = Beautiful Future

Daily Habits = Beautiful Future

One way you have power is to say what you want immediately after expressing your feelings about an incident.  If you’d like an apology ask for it.  If you want future actions from your partner…. ask for it.  If you want an appreciation of what your experience is ask for acknowledgement of what your experience was… or is.  Not agreement… acknowledgment!   Power is using your first words to admit to what you said or did; to acknowledge your partner’s thoughts and feelings; and to make amends, which include ‘what I’ll do in the future about this.’   Then, you can pivot to saying what you want from your partner.

Habits can be tricky, since we learn them early in life.  We watched our family, our culture and learn from our partners how to handle conflict.  The worst habit which destroys many relationships and marriages is to become defensive whenever there is a problem.  Or, whenever people point out how you may have hurt or offended them.  This habit will have you explaining, interrupting and most destructively, NOT LISTENING at just the time, that 10 seconds of listening would perhaps solve the problem.  At least the 10 seconds of listening would not make it worse.  Defending, explaining and seeking to become understood before seeking to understand your partner will most definitely make it worse.

 

Safety, Compassion & Trust

Safety, Compassion & Trust

How do you NOT defend yourself?  Especially, when you know that it’s just a misunderstanding.  You know, when you think that it’s more efficient to interrupt your partner to inform him, or her, of your insight and explanation.  Ask yourself how that interrupting habit is working for you.

Training and pre-planning your first words will help you have the best responses to your partner; when your lizard brain is telling you otherwise.  My blog on ‘First Words’ last month shows you the format for hitting just the right notes in less than 10 seconds to put your partner’s mind to ease that you’ve heard their concern and are connecting to the solution.  It’s all about ‘Sweeping My Side Of The Street First’ , which is from my July blog.

Try just a couple of the complimentary tools available on my blog and see if you might begin to feel more powerful and more compassionate and more responsible!

Those of you interested in learning about my next Summer of 2018 Power & Compassion weekend workshop go

See Video Testimonials

See Video Testimonials

here.

 

arguments couples my part of it

What Did I Do To Make Things Worse?

Round Up My Usual Suspects’ Of
My Disrespectful Behavior

Have you ever walked away from an argument with your partner, just scratching your head wondering, “I don’t even know why my partner was soooo upset with me.”  Not to worry.  You simply look in your wallet and purse and find your ‘Round Up My Usual Suspects’ card.  On this card you, and your partner, have checked off the likely suspects of your disrespectful behaviors.  

download solution for arguing

Get free graphic now.

 

Get the graphic above for free here.

 

 

 

UsualSuspectsPic

Which behavior of mine is suspect?

For most people, just reviewing the front and back of the card, with two or three of those boxes checked, is enough to have your amends ready when you reconnect with your partner again.  You’ve pre-checked those behaviors that are most likely to be the problem; at least on your side of the fence.  Your partner can be given a yellow highlighter and he, or she, will highlight the one main behavior that is most annoying.    

 

Conflicts are so often simply reruns of the same problem.  For instance, interrupting, raising your voice, talking like a parent or a boss,  getting defensive, dismissing or minimizing feelings, deception or not doing what you said you’d do.  Most people are repeat offenders of just one, or a few, of these behaviors.  It’s really helpful for you to acknowledge your awareness of your part in the conflict in your FIRST WORDS when you reconnect.

 

The My Suspects card is extremely useful as a guide to what your FIRST WORDS will be, in response to your upset, hurt, or angry partner’s loud tone of voice.  There’s nothing wrong with explaining or defending your point of view when your partner is upset with you.  EXCEPT, when your first words are explanatory, defensive, or avoidant of the issue your partner is trying to tell you about.

 

Just ask yourself what you’d want to hear from your partner, when you tell him, or her, about something that bothers you.  Let’s say you noticed that your partner was interrupting you too quickly or too often, and it was beginning to bother you.  When you say this, how would you feel if the first 5 or 6 sentences in response to your expression was explanatory and defensive.  Or, would you rather that your partner’s first words were, “I’ve probably been interrupting you too much.”?

 

When your partner explains, defends, minimizes, blames, denies, or avoids the issue you bring up; it makes you reasonably believe that there will be no change in the future.   So in the future, make your FIRST WORDS, in response to your upset partner sound like it came from the Round Up My Usual Suspects card.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

VulnerabilityToHostilityClean2015 Our pride and our psychological defenses prevent us from speaking about what we are really feeling and thinking.  People get scared or hurt and adrenaline surges throughout your body in milliseconds.   Strategies of fight or flight are unconsciously set into motion without thinking. The  behaviors in the red listed on the right side of the figure are the behaviors of fight or flight..

Because adrenaline makes us defensive the first words often spoken are hostile, controlling, punishing, blaming,defensively explaining, judging, resentful, withdrawn or dishonest things are said.  Withdrawing and dishonest behaviors are ‘flight’ behaviors.  Judging and resentful words are ‘distancing’ and thus fleeing behaviors also.

People just don’t easily share their more vulnerable feelings of need, desire, fear or pain.

Download the graphic above HERE.


Explaining is also a defensive behavior, when done before addressing the other person’s disturbance or needs.  How often have you been frustrated because someone you are expressing something important, keeps defending and explaining?  But, they still haven’t said, “What they did, How it affected you, & What they’ll do about it.”

This is just St. Francis of Assisi’s wonderful concept,

Seek first to understand others, before seeking to be understood.

Of course, we prefer that this would be the sequence of how others deal with our upsets.  The sequence in which the other first engages our thoughts, feelings and needs.  Since that’s what we would prefer then perhaps we can train ourselves to more quickly see what our vulnerable feelings are.  Then, we’ll want to wait until we’ve addressed the other person’s needs, before expressing our thoughts, feelings and needs.  That subject will be in my earlier blog post called, “Sweeping My Side Of The Street – What’s My Part In This Conflict?”

August 22nd One Day Training

L.A. Weekend Seminar

There is an exercise for couples that has brought tears to both men and women. I invite you to do the 20 minute exercise in the link above, to get a real sense of what it means to be a responsible and compassion partner.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Get notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Ubiquity of Oppositional Defiant behaviors

I Do What I Want!

 

Defying rules and restrictions placed upon us by others is in our DNA.  One problem with having a reflex to avoid or defy rules is that we begin to have trouble following through with the rules that WE SET FOR OURSELVES!  

 

 

 

If I cannot surrender my will to others, especially my partner or family, then I cannot surrender my will and do difficult tasks that I tell myself that I want to do!

 

Common Ways We ‘Should’ On Ourselves

I should be more considerate

I need to lose weight

I need to stop arguing and defending

I just have to stop being so critical

I shouldn’t show my thoughts and feelings

 

None of these behaviors is likely to change when it feels like I am following orders, norms, or the rules of my partner or society.  Until there is a conversion of these ideals of behavior away from taking orders from others into a desire to do, or not do, disturbing behaviors; they are not likely to change.  How do you get

Couples Weekend Seminar

When you or your partner is agitated, it may be impossible to carry on a respectful conversation.

It may be impossible to take turns speaking and listening to each other.

One reason you are still in a room arguing with someone…. is because YOU are still in the room... arguing with someone.
It’s not unusual that small conflicts become raging arguments because neither partner is listening.

 

In most high conflict argument no method, no mantra and no philosophy will make partners calm down and listen to each other.  That’s why some couples need to come from the same page literally.  They will get through these high conflicts in fine shape, if they’ve made a very specific agreement with each other.  The agreement is a simple one paragraph commitment.  In my workshop next weekend each partner makes 5 agreements and learns 2 skills.
Here is the text of the ‘Time Out Agreement’ which is read out loud to each other:

The Time Out agreement below covers all of these obstacles. If one partner continually ignores the agreement he, or she, made; then that partner is ‘out of their own control’ and needs to seek individual or group treatment.

Stop Any Argument In 6 Seconds- The Time Out Agreement

Say the next paragraphs out loud to each other while making eye contact 3 to 5 times with partner. For the partner listening to the agreement, please do not read along while your partner is reading out loud. Watch your partner’s face to be available for the eye contact.

(Say partner’s name) if you say the phrase, “I need a Time Out.” and you say when you are coming back, I will stop talking and let you leave the room. We will talk later about the issue when you return. I trust that as you’re leaving, you will say how long before you return to talk with me. This is a no matter what agreement for me. No matter what, I am committed to your emotional safety. No matter what, I will let you leave the room without verbal or physical interference. I know this agreement may be the most important measuring stick for whether we can change as a couple.

********************************************************************

When the partner who leaves returns, generally within one hour, each partner’s first words, when they speak, shall include three sentences that demonstrates these three elements:

  1. owning my part of the conflict we just had;
  2. acknowledging how that affected your partner;
  3. and, amends/action that may include ‘I’m sorry.” And, saying what action I’ll take.

 

For example,

“That’s right I interrupted you and raised my voice.
It makes sense you’d think I don’t care about your needs. I’m sorry. I’ll listen to you now.”

The agreement is simple to make, but difficult to implement.  After all, there is adrenaline flowing and people are agitated and don’t want to rein in their impulsive selves.  The weekend workshop coming up January 20th – 21st makes sure that each partner gets a thorough understanding of the many reasons that interfere with success.  Success is measured by the ability of one partner leaving the room, and coming back to connect with his or her partner later.

Go HERE to sign in for the email registration form as there is space for two more couples.

               Why Some Apologies Don’t Work

 

Catch yourself the moment you start thinking about saying the word, ‘BUT…’  after saying, “I’m sorry.”   If you say anything after apologizing starting with the word ‘but…’ you might as well sh*t your pants, because you’ve now made it worse.  My apologies to those offended by asterisks.  I really want you to make a bad association with saying, “I’m sorry, but… ”

 

It’s a reflex for many people to explain why they did something that hurt someone.  What follows the ‘but’ is either blaming, an excuse, or some other reason that eliminates personal responsibility for having hurt another person.  It reveals an inability to be seen in any way as responsible, wrong, bad, mean, or inappropriate.  I don’t know what’s happened in these people’s childhoods, but my guess is that mistakes were punished very severely.  Some people who cannot simply apologize are modeling what one, or both, parents did with each other.  How did your parents respond when someone in the family said, “Ouch!”?

 

Make sure that when you say you are sorry that you shut up and zip your lip after saying the word.  Remember ‘No BUTS!’  Especially, if you’ve not yet stated what part you played in a conflict.  See the post “What’s my part in this?”

To apologize does not always mean that you are responsible, or that you meant to harm your partner.  If you want your partner to listen to your experience of a conflict, then start with saying you’re sorry.  And, don’t justify, rationalize, minimize, or deny your offering of empathy by saying, ‘but…’    You don’t want to be doing an extra load of laundry now do you?

 

Our Brain’s Limbic System

Reasons People Say & Do
Things They Regret Later

Our brains are designed to help us survive as a species.  Without our limbic system we would not have the extra energy to defend ourselves by fighting attackers, or running to evade them.   This extra energy for the body in time of threat is known as the ‘Fight Or Flight’ response.

 

The limbic system of your brain is the source of all of your emotions and can give you the strength to lift a car in an emergency.  It can also exaggerate a simple argument and energize you to say you are ending the relationship with your partner.

 

 Often when a partner says things like, “We’re just not a match.”  Or, “I can’t handle this anymore.”  Or, any comments that indicate that you are not committed and implying that you may not stay in the relationship.

 

I call this ‘Abandoning Language.’  In most instances of using ‘abandoning language’ the partner saying it, takes it back within 24 hours.  Some will not even really address that they just hinted that they will end the relationship, and they just go back to a less agitated state and do not bring up that they threatened the relationship.
The use of abandoning language, in which one or both partners threaten their withdrawal of commitment to the relationship, only leads to a relationship that does end, or one that is just a rollercoaster of tension and stress.
There are two things to remember about abandoning language.
  1. Do not EVER talk about or hint about ending a relationship in a moment of anger, fear, or frustration.  This is a ‘no matter what commitment’ to make with yourself.  At the same level of high commitment as you’ve made to yourself that you do not drive through red lights on the road; do not use abandoning language.
  2. If you do use language that implies that you are leaving the relationship, know that you can recover from the consequences.  But, only if you’ve demonstrated that you’ve learned something from the experience.

Think before you speak.  Of course, it is O.K. to have a serious conversation with your partner saying you are thinking about an ending.  But, when statements hinting at endings are made in moments of anger and fear those statements are not followed through.  People saying that are more likely referring to wanting to end this ridiculous or tedious argument; not ending the relationship.  Much more on that later, but for now simply make a solid commitment to yourself, that you do not imply the ending of your relationship in moments of anger and high emotional intensity.  How long would you stay and work for a boss who talked about firing you?

 

Just like a recovering alcoholic can slip in sobriety, you may slip in using abandoning language.  If a slip does occur, it’s really important that the person get back on track as quickly as possible.  So, if you do end up blurting out, “I can’t stand this any more!” or threatening to leave the relationship; please do a ‘First Pants’ statement as soon as possible.

First Pants statement is 3 sentences:
a) What’s true about my behavior, or what’s my part in this problem?

b)  Acknowledge your partner’s feelings i.e.. “I see you’re upset.”

c)  Amends/Action-  Say you’re sorry and say what actions you’ll take so that you’re not doing this in the future.

Go HERE for more about taking time outs.

 

Orient Thoughts Toward Radical Acceptance & Compassion

Even In Conflict, We Can
Orient Our Next Thoughts 

When you find yourself in a ‘hot conflict’ with your partner your ‘First Thoughts’ are defensive in nature.
Adrenaline is a hormone the body releases to prepare for ‘fighting or fleeing.’  We feel defensive because adrenaline flows when when we feel threatened.

 

Typical ‘First Thoughts’ in conflict:
  • I didn’t do it?
  • What’s wrong with him/her?
  • Why is this such a big deal?
  • If s/he would only listen to me.
  • S/he doesn’t care about me.
  • You’re not letting me talk.
  • Let me out of here!
Typical first feelings in conflict are fear, anger, irritation, powerlessness, or numbness.

Having strong feelings makes it hard to think straight.  We’ often speak from a reflexive defensiveness.  Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote above says it most simply.  We can select our thoughts and it is a power we can cultivate… with practice

In this week’s blogpost I offer three ways to shift defensive thinking toward connecting, responsible and compassionate thinking.

First-   Let it be O.K. that your first thoughts have elements of anger, fear, or hurt.  Whatever the feelings they are there for reasons of survival.  Observe the feeling, and the thought that goes with it.  Witness it like you would watch a video.  You are affected by it, but you are not it.  Notice the sensations in your body that accompany the initial thoughts and feelings.  Notice the sensations of perhaps a hot face, or tense stomach.  Log it.  Note it.  Accept that you have whatever thoughts or feelings for the first two seconds.

 

Second-  After acknowledging your feelings of anger, fear or defensiveness.  Bring your attention to what your partner wants you to understand.  Ask yourself what is true about what your partner is upset about.  Be interested in what it is.  Be curious.  Engage it.  Acknowledge whatever is being said.  Acknowledge what is true.

 

Third-  You’ve now established a right to express yourself.  Since you’ve engaged your partner’s issue first he or she will be more likely to be open to hearing your experience.  Now there’s less need for you to speak with an edge, and there’s more receptiveness to your message.

 

Seek first to understand others before seeking understanding for yourself.

Seek first to comfort others before seeing comfort for yourself.

 

Click HERE to download my writing on ‘Sweeping My Side Of The Street.’

Your partner hasn’t been available for making love for over a month, which is a long time in your relationship.  You make an assumption.  The assumption is represented by the animal you see in the drawing to the left.  It feels very clear to you that she is mad at you, or judging you, or maybe even preparing to end the relationship.  Based on this assumption your behavior changes toward your partner.

 

You start behaving differently with your partner, because it hurts when you feel rejected.  You are a little more distant and avoidant because you feel less connected with your partner.  All these behaviors are driven by the thoughts you have about your assumption that your partner is purposefully withholding physical affection.   Another two months passes with these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors continuing.  Could you be wrong about your assumption?  Can you question your perception?

 

Take a look again at the picture above.  Perhaps you see a duck?  Perhaps you see a rabbit?  Can you look at the drawing for a little while allowing it to be a duck; then continue looking at it as a rabbit.  Is it a rabbit, or is it a duck?  Is there ‘ONE’ answer to that question?  When you see the rabbit, it is difficult to also simultaneously see the duck.  When you see your partner as intentionally withholding affect, it’s difficult to simultaneously entertain other ways of interpreting the behavior of your partner.  Mistakes in perception can be unnecessarily enduing.

 

One solution to avoiding mistakes in perception is to speak and express your concerns directly and respectfully.     Another approach to avoiding mistakes is to be constantly vigilant to your judgments and assumptions.  Vigilant does not mean fearfully assuming you are making mistakes.  It can mean that whenever you have thoughts of attacking or feeling attacked, that you let a mantra enter your thoughts.  That mantra can be ‘Is there another way to look at this?’

Stalking behavior can include:

■ Threatening (verbally, in writing or by any other
means of communication) to harm or kill the victim or the victim’s family, friends or pets

■ Repeatedly following the victim to his/her home, job,
gym, school or other places

■ Repeatedly calling the victim at home or at work

■      Repeatedly   sending the victim unwanted letters, faxes, e-mails, text messages or voice mails

  • Sending the victim unwanted gifts or items, including
    menacing things such as dead flowers, torn-up photos,
    disfigured dolls or dead animals
  • Repeatedly waiting outside the victim’s home or
    workplace for no legitimate reason
  • Showing up uninvited at places or events where the
    victim is present
  • Vandalizing or breaking into the victim’s car, home or
    other property
  • Stealing the victim’s mail or monitorfng the victim’s
    voice mail ore-mail messages
  • Utilizing online information sources or electronic
    devices such as GPS (Global Positioning System)
    equipment to track or monitor the victim’s activities
  • Posting harassing information about the victim on the
    Internet, in chat rooms or other public places
  • Save all e-mails, voice mails or other evidence of
    harassment. Keep any cards, letters, notes, gifts or items
    the stalker leaves for you.
  • ■ Keep a detailed record of all calls, contacts, threats
    and incidents involving the stalker. Document the names
    of any witnesses to these incidents. Write down the times,
    dates, locations and specifics of each incident.

    • Tell trusted family members, neighbors, friends and
      co-workers if you are being stalked so they can be on
      the lookout for the stalker and know not to give out any
      information about you or your whereabouts if contacted by
      the stalker.
    • Screen telephone calls with an answering machine
      or obtain caller ID and call blocking from your telephone
      service provider. Only answer calls if you recognize the
      caller’s name or number and wish to speak with him/her.
    • Protect your address and personal information. If
      necessary, obtain a post office box to receive your mail.

    Be cautious when using Internet social networking sites
    and chat rooms. Change your e-mail address and any
    passwords the stalker might know.

    • if the stalker has a key to your residence, change your
      locks, add extra deadbolts or get an alarm system to secure
      your home.
    ■            Vary your driving routes and routines if possible to
    avoid being followed.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY
DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S

Victim-Witness
assistance program
1-800-380-3811

http://da.lacounty.gov/vwap

 

Victims of violence or threats of violence with police reports on file may be eligible to receive compensation for
qualifying losses and expenses related to the crime such as loss of wages and relocation, medical and counseling
expenses.  Staff members are available to assist victims in several languages.

The District Attorney’s Stalking and Threat Assessment Team has a specially assigned victim services, representative to assist with referrals and questions related

Peace Over Violence Stalking Hotline
1-877-633-0044

los Angeles County Superior Court
{for restraining orders)

213-974-5587 or 213-974-5588


The District Attorney’s Victim-Witness Assistance
Program is available in courthouses and police stations
throughout the county to assist crime victims who suffered
injury or were threatened with injury. Victim services
representatives provide assistance and resources to help
keep victims safe and counseling referrals to address the
trauma of stalking victimization.

In addition to helping victims obtain restitution,
victim services representatives provide crisis-intervention
services and necessary referrals to crime victims and
their families; assist in securing protective orders; guide
crime victims through the court process; help arrange
emergency shelter, food and clothing; and assist in
filing for compensation through the California Victim
Compensation Program.

 

■ Call 911 if you believe you are in immediate danger, or,
if possible, go directly to a safe place such as a police or fire
station, if someone is following you, don’t go home alone.
Go to a public place and get help.

■ Report the crime to police as soon as you believe you
are being stalked.

  • Get a restraining order. It’s free, and there are people
    to help you with the process. Call the Los Angeles County
    Superior Court at 213-974-5587 or 213-974-5588. Carry a
    copy of your restraining order with you at all times.

Contact a hotline, such as those listed in this
pamphlet, and seek advice.

Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-978-3600

Couples Communication Conflict Recovery

When you know better you do better!

I wrote this post at Marriage.com when they asked me to keep it close to 50 words.  It’s a quick cheat sheet summary of some important principles of finding connection when you’re feeling so separate.

Seven Principles To Avoid ‘Unnecessary Conflict’

  1. Make the Time Out agreement (view & download here) & return within an hour.  When couples are upset and full of adrenaline, there is NO WAY for responsibility and empathy to occur.  Take the Time Out to get the adrenaline out of your blood.
  2. When you return from a time out to reconnect,  please be the first to say, “I’m sorry.”  Be the first to say what you did that contributed to the conflict.  Your ‘first words’ describe what you said or did that made it worse.
  3. Seek first to understand your partner,  before seeking understanding for yourself.   This 800 year old principle, first said by St. Francis of Assisi, is the best advice for relationships that I’ve ever come across.  In a time of conflict, just give your partner the first 3-5 minutes of uninterrupted time, to fully talk about what he or she wants to express.  Nine out of ten arguments will not develop into a flare-up fight, if just one person did this first.
  4. Orient towards compassion, rather than correctness.
  5. Seek help if you cannot control your emotions or behavior.
  6. Get better at accepting ‘not getting your way.’  some people have such trouble accepting that their will is defied, may become so rigid that there are almost zero times that the partners’ needs are met.  Perhaps, not even seen or recognized!  Get better by practicing.  When you know better, you do better.
  7. Always remember you love your partner.Be Well!
    Marc
Compassion For Suffering

Compassion For Suffering

Is Your Shame A Mask For Compassion?

Think of a moment that you realize that you’ve emotionally hurt someone you care about.  Visualize a moment and visualize a memory that makes you feel ashamed.  Use the Shame–>Compassion translation ideas presented below to free yourself of unnecessary shame.  As an example, I’ll use the time I ‘egged a house’ when I was about 9 years old.  I must have been an angry young lad to throw eggs on someone’s house that I did not know.  Until recently, if I thought of this memory I would think things like this to myself:

  • What a jerk I am.
  • What’s wrong with me?
  • I have to pay to repair this.
  • I’m a bad person.
  • I’m in big trouble.

I would also have a bad feeling about myself in the pit of my stomach and chest.  In the past I would minimize, deny, blame or avoid the consequences of my behavior.  In a strictly fear-based method of changing my behavior in the future this can work to get me to shape up as a person.  So shame is, indeed, a useful emotion to feel.  It can guide me to avoid repeating behaviors like that.

If I take the route of compassion for the family that lived in the house, I might have learned a larger lesson about the consequences of my choices and behaviors.  I could have empathy and compassion for the people in the house who have to wonder who is hostile toward them in the neighborhood.  I could consider the feelings of the person who cleaned up the eggs, or who paid to have it done.  If I could feel the sadness, or fear, or rage, or shock of the family that lived there before I threw the eggs at the house; perhaps I would not have done it.  Since it’s already in the past I cannot dwell or wish it were different.  Until recently, when I remember the incident it just made me feel bad about myself.  Now I experience the memory through the lens of empathy and compassion; and I don’t have to go the shame route of making myself a bad person.

Do I have a choice to feel shame vs. compassion?
Both are bad thoughts, feelings & sensations for me.
I’d just prefer to feel compassion.

I do this conversion through an active initiation of compassion for those I’ve harmed.  I include myself in that group also.  When I feel empathy for the harm I’ve caused others and myself my heart is more open.  My chest is warm.  I feel a desire to help those who suffer, so my experience of reliving the memory is now different.  The self-hating excesses of shaming myself are beginning to be replaced by more reparative and nurturing impulses and thoughts.  For instance, I might think about the family issues, parenting and culture that shaped young Marc; such that at 9 years old he threw those eggs.  That can be a sad exercise; but more rewarding in that it’s an empathic connection that may initiate care-taking rather than punishment.

All mystical traditions of the major religions say some version of, “Treat others as you would yourself.”  What if the reason for this is because WE ARE OTHERS!  If this is the case, then injuries we cause are injuries to ourselves.  To feel compassion rather than shame is a natural outgrowth of manifesting this thought.

The Shame—->Compassion conversion depends on this mantra,

It’s O.K. if I’ve hurt someone & I’d want to know about it to repair it.

Shame Masks Compassion

Shame Masks Compassion

I don’t want to put others or myself through stressful emotions.  In a future, I’m informed through empathy, more powerfully than with shame, to avoid adding unnecessary stress to others, or myself.  Whereas I feel bad sensations connected to shame, I also feel some discomfort connecting empathically with myself or others’ reactions to my decisions and behavior.  But, I’d much rather feel the discomfort of my being disturbed through empathy.  The results are more positive!

 Compassion is more powerful than shame as a change agent.

Let’s return to your memory of an event when you harmed someone.  Spend a moment thinking about what the other person thought about you, about him/herself, or about life.  Connect with this person’s bad experience so you may do a proper amends, if the opportunity presents itself.  It simply feels better to connect more fully with the effects of my behavior as a compassionate experiencing, rather than a negative self-shaming and blaming one.  Not only does it feel better, but it works to help repair the damage.


Loving Couples Still Have Arguments

October 8th & 9th
is my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop
See video testimonials of real couples.

relationship communication skills

Los Angeles Relationship Communication Workshop

Fun, skill building seminar.

Fun, Entertaining Day Of Learning Skills

Classroom educational style. No sharing required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 When your partner is upset with you, do you notice that if your first words are explanatory, or defensive, that he or she seems to get more upset?  The phrase, “That’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” absolutely describes what happens when defending and explaining yourself are your first words used to calm your partner.

The more you explain, the more trouble you seem to be in with your partner.  The more you say your point of view, the more angry your partner seems to become.

Just think of how you respond to someone you are upset with when that person immediately begins explaining and defending the behavior.  It does not calm you.  In fact, it usually makes you more mad.

Explaining and defending your behavior
ACTUALLY MAKES THINGS WORSE!

arrows_spinning_chase_300_wht_9838The strategy you’re using is actually making things worse!  In medicine they call it an ‘iatragenic effect.’   When the attempts of the doctor to heal actually become the source of a new symptom or illness.  For instance, you go to the doctor for a pimple.  She prescribes a medication that then causes you to break out in a rash.    There was no bad intention.  The doctor did not mean to cause more symptoms, but nonetheless is responsible for having done so.  The more you use the method, the more problems you get.

When your partner is upset with you, and you’ve got adrenaline pumping through your body, and you are angry, hurt, scared or confused; the first response most people think of is a self-centered one.  That is the view of the situation that I see.  Not the view of the situation as my partner may see it.  Well, at that precise time the partner is trying to get his, or her, thoughts and feelings across.  If I interrupt that effort by bringing in my experience and point of view and my thoughts and my feelings; then the dialogue necessarily becomes a conflict.  My view or your view.

It is your first response, and your FIRST WORDS, that will show your partner what is most important to you.

Are you more interested in defending your good name than

in dealing with how you have affected your partner?

            Do my first words convey that:

          A) My highest priority is defending myself.  Or do my first words show that-

         B) I care about how my partner feels and how I affected him or her.    

As long as I think that defending and explaining myself is the solution for conflicts that I get into with my partner I am ensuring that the conflict will continue.  If I insist that you understand me before I’ve given you the experience of feeling understood by me; then I will continue to find myself at odds with my partner.  St. Francis to the rescue!  “Seek first to understand others, before seeking understanding for self.   Seek first to comfort others before seeking comfort for self.”  This means addressing the concerns of your partneras if they were true.’    The truth is simply that your partner thinks and feels these things.   So, it is true by definition…. that is what your partner thought and felt.  This does not define or convict you of anything.  Listening all the way through and trying to see what you can agree with and have some empathy for the partner’s experience is going to allow your partner to calm down and eventually hear out your experience, thoughts and feelings.

There will be some readers that will insist that the OTHER partner starts this process first.  Those readers are waiting for their partners statements of apologies, empathy, responsibility and amends.  The attitude seems to be, “You first!”  For these folks I can only reference Ghandi when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Or another saying that goes, “If change is to happen, let it begin with me.”  To these people that are still waiting I ask, “Do you want a fuller, compassionate and responsible dialogue with your partner over a contentious issue to happen sooner…. or later?”

If you do decide that you want to be instrumental in calming your partner during conflicts then you are ready to learn the 3 Step technique of addressing three things before you talk about your point of view.  It’s all about the sequencing and the order with which you respond to someone who is upset with you.   The RealHope Couples Course uses a metaphor to help remember to do a few things before you try to do another thing.  It just works better that way.

 

For the best exercise for couples I’ve ever created, try doing this exercise tonight!

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Get notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

by going  HERE.

forkinroadgirl

 

Three Reasons To
Stop Defending Yourself 
Your partner says something that offends you, and you are positive that he or she is just completely wrong, inappropriate or lying.  You have a choice about how your respond that gives you 10 times the power of defending yourself.
But, how do you NOT defend yourself?  Especially, when you know that it’s just a misunderstanding.  Perhaps you  hink that it’s more efficient to interrupt your partner to inform him, or her, of your insight and explanation.  Ask yourself how that interrupting habit is working for you.
Three reasons you will see yourself as a fool if you defend first:
  1. You don’t get what you want.  Things usually get worse.
  2. Explaining/Defending first makes the other think you don’t care.
  3. You can always explain or defend yourself after you’ve listened and connected with your partner for 4 or 5 minutes.  Your point of view loses it’s power, if you’ve interrupted.
What is your actual experience with interrupting to explain or defend yourself?
How does it make you feel when you are interrupted before you finish?
If you could say 3 sentences in 8 seconds, after you listen all the way through,
that soothed your partner, would you want to see yourself using it?
breakingup

Even the worst scenarios can…

 

The worst habit which destroys many relationships and marriages is to become defensive whenever there is a problem.  Or, whenever people point out how you may have hurt or offended them.  This habit will have you explaining, interrupting and most destructively, not listening.  Sometime, if you only listened another 10 seconds of longer, it would perhaps solve the problem.  At least it doesn’t make it worse.
 Defending, explaining and seeking to become understood before seeking to understand your partner will most definitely make it worse.
...be restored to trust & love.

…be restored to trust & love.

Training and pre-planning your first words will help you have the best responses to your partner; when your lizard brain is telling you otherwise.

Loving Couples Argue Too,
but, they have something others do not….
Habits & skills that help them navigate conflict
My blog on ‘First Words’  last month shows you the format for hitting just the right notes in less than 10 seconds to put your partner’s mind to ease that you’ve heard their concern and are connecting to the solution.
Try just a couple of the complimentary tools available on my blog and see if you might begin to feel more powerful and more compassionate and more responsible!
People act aggressively or withdraw because

they don’t know what else to do. 
When you know better, you do better!
Power & Compassion Couples 
Communication Workshop
 HERE for more info.
See video testimonials.
        Frustrated couples get better and
           good couples become GREAT! 

                Seminars   –   Therapy

Marc Sadoff, LCSW

Marc Sadoff, LCSW

Relationship Coaching

                    310 – 444-1951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

relationship bad vicious cycle pattern

Pursuer Avoider Pattern

When someone moves toward you and you feel threatened, the natural instinct is to run or hide.   If you are the partner in pursuit of emotionally important information from your partner and your partner moves away, avoids or distances you can become more agitated in your pursuit.

The more he runs away or withdraws the more intense and agitated the pursuer becomes.  The more intense the pursuit the more withdrawn and distancing the Avoider becomes.

arrows_spinning_chase_300_wht_9838

Pursuing Causes Distancing Which Causes More Pursuing, Which Causes More Avoiding etc., etc.

This is commonly called a vicious circle.  The more you do one thing, the more you get of the thing that makes you do that something.  The harder you try, the farther away your goal becomes.  This is often the nature of attempts to manage or control other people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

This continues until someone blows up!  Usually by saying or doing something so outrageous and often disrespectful.  This can either catapult the argument into something much, much worse; or it can end the pursuit.  Unfortunately, it can also end the relationship.

Our brains and our nervous system have seen fit to hard wire our emotional experience such that if we see our prey escaping, we think we need to run harder.  Similarly if we ARE the prey, our brain tells us to get away from the threat even more if the threat is getting closer.  There’s not a lot we can do about our brain’s hard wiring.  However, we can train ourselves to modify this pattern.

The best way to change the cycle is to see what part you play in the pattern.  If you are the ‘Pursuer’ then back off in the intensity of your pursuit.  Acknowledge that you’ve perhaps been agitated or intense.  Let your partner know that they have time or space to think about things.  If you are the ‘Avoider’ consider answering more directly the questions and concerns of the pursuer.  Or, simply say, “I feel flooded and overwhelmed, and just need some time to think about this.  I’ll get back to you with some thoughts by noon today.”  It is imperative that you actually do come back at noon and have some substantial thoughts.  Or, you lose your credibility.  If you lose your credibility, then your partner will not let you leave the room the next time you say, “I just need some time.”  And, your partner would be justified.

Another way to break the vicious cycle is if we can change the MEANING OF THE CHASE and the MEANING OF THE DISTANCING.   This is known in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as ‘Reframing.’  When you change the meaning of pursuing and distancing/avoiding/withdrawal behaviors it is possible to reduce your experience of threat and danger.   If you knew that the partner pursuing you simply wanted to feel connected to you, you might feel differently.  Or, if you can reframe your perception of your partner distancing as seeing someone who is afraid or ashamed; you might feel differently about continuing the intensity of your pursuit

The best way of minimizing the sense of threat is to get positive experiences with turning toward your pursuer to become interested in what he or she wants.  Or to accumulate positive experiences of slowing down the energy of your pursuit to use some of the skills mentioned in my ‘Power & Compassion Couples Communication’ course.

 

When you know better, you do better!

Loving couples argue too!

October 8th & 9th- Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop info

is HERE.  

marriage improvement no divorce

Daily Habits = Beautiful Future

Los Angeles Relationship Communication Workshop

Fun, educational skill building

Couples Communication Conflict Recovery

Skills that help you get here!

Amazingly Simple Ways To Make
Your Relationship SOAR!

As a professional and a relationship coach, I’ve seen similar core themes and dynamics of communication conflict within couples.  These are broad descriptions that improve the communication and the emotional tone of your relationships.  The workshop course using much of the free .pdf’s offered on my site can accomplish great healing change in relationships.

               It works… if you work it.

Most of these skills can be found in the free downloadable .pdf’s found elsewhere in my website and blog.

1 Listening without interrupting, postpone defending myself and to reflect what I’ve heard. Take turns speaking and listening. Respect the rules of the Listening Exchange.
2 Diminish or cease blaming, criticizing and withdrawal behaviors. Use the Respect Agreement.
3 Learn to express vulnerable thoughts and feelings that are underneath harsh and critical ones. To speak in ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’ messages.
4 Being responsible for what I say or do and to acknowledge how that affects my partner. If I’ve been hurtful, then I make amends and try to be mindful of my mistake.
5 Asking directly for understanding of my experience and to make specific requests for changes.
6 Make a mutually binding agreement on HOW to leave the room for less than an hour, when arguing escalates with too much emotional intensity. And, have a method for how both partners reconnect by taking some responsibility for the problem and showing some empathy for the other partner’s experience.
7 Agreeing on a method of how to deal with moments when either partner feels hurt, dismissed, or disrespected.
8 Having a specific plan on what I will do if I cannot reasonably keep my agreements.

While it’s good to say what the goals are, it’s even better when a couple makes the exact same agreement with each other. When it comes to how to express and respond to anger, it’s helpful if both partners are working from the same script to find an ending to a conflict.

There’s nothing wrong with people being angry or frustrated. Being upset is a part of the emotional communication between intimate partners. People act aggressively or withdraw because they don’t know what else to do. There’s a line somewhere however, when that anger becomes hostile shaming, negativity, or avoidance, and withdrawal. When a couple learns where that line is, and what can be done about it, then it’s possible to decide to change.

                                                                      Common Questions 

  • What if there is addiction, abuse, or violence?
  • What if one partner doesn’t want to change?
  • What if there is mental illness or lying?
  • What if one partner never thinks he or she ever does anything wrong?

The Power And Compassion course provides a structure to move through problems like these. There is an agreement or skill directly related to each of the eight points made above. You can use the skills and agreements to express your concerns about any of the above questions to move the relationship along so you will have a better idea about what you want to do. Learn respectful ways to say, and to hear, and to dialogue about difficult emotions. Model for your partner how you would like your partner to respond and express painful thoughts and feelings.

When you know better, do better!

Download the full 6 page PDF of the ‘8 Ways To Make Your Relationship To Thrive’ here.  Get Article Relationship Communication Conflict

 

 

 

 

October 8th & 9th is the next

Los Angeles Relationship Communication Workshop


Couples Weekend Seminar in Los Angeles

              Los Angeles
Power & Compassion Couples 

Communication Workshop

More L.A. Seminar info HERE.

 When your partner is upset with you, do you notice that if your first words are explanatory, or defensive, that he or she seems to get more upset?  The phrase, “That’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” absolutely describes what happens when defending and explaining yourself are your first words used to calm your partner.

The more you explain, the more trouble you seem to be in with your partner.  The more you say your point of view, the more angry your partner seems to become.

Just think of how you respond to someone you are upset with when that person immediately begins explaining and defending the behavior.  It does not calm you.  In fact, it usually makes you more mad.

Explaining and defending your behavior
ACTUALLY MAKES THINGS WORSE!

arrows_spinning_chase_300_wht_9838The strategy you’re using is actually making things worse!  In medicine they call it an ‘iatragenic effect.’   When the attempts of the doctor to heal actually become the source of a new symptom or illness.  For instance, you go to the doctor for a pimple.  She prescribes a medication that then causes you to break out in a rash.    There was no bad intention.  The doctor did not mean to cause more symptoms, but nonetheless is responsible for having done so.  The more you use the method, the more problems you get.

When your partner is upset with you, and you’ve got adrenaline pumping through your body, and you are angry, hurt, scared or confused; the first response most people think of is a self-centered one.  That is the view of the situation that I see.  Not the view of the situation as my partner may see it.  Well, at that precise time the partner is trying to get his, or her, thoughts and feelings across.  If I interrupt that effort by bringing in my experience and point of view and my thoughts and my feelings; then the dialogue necessarily becomes a conflict.  My view or your view.

It is your first response, and your FIRST WORDS, that will show your partner what is most important to you.

Are you more interested in defending your good name than

in dealing with how you have affected your partner?

            Do my first words convey that:

          A) My highest priority is defending myself.  Or do my first words show that-

         B) I care about how my partner feels and how I affected him or her.    

As long as I think that defending and explaining myself is the solution for conflicts that I get into with my partner I am ensuring that the conflict will continue.  If I insist that you understand me before I’ve given you the experience of feeling understood by me; then I will continue to find myself at odds with my partner.  St. Francis to the rescue!  “Seek first to understand others, before seeking understanding for self.   Seek first to comfort others before seeking comfort for self.”  This means addressing the concerns of your partneras if they were true.’    The truth is simply that your partner thinks and feels these things.   So, it is true by definition…. that is what your partner thought and felt.  This does not define or convict you of anything.  Listening all the way through and trying to see what you can agree with and have some empathy for the partner’s experience is going to allow your partner to calm down and eventually hear out your experience, thoughts and feelings.

There will be some readers that will insist that the OTHER partner starts this process first.  Those readers are waiting for their partners statements of apologies, empathy, responsibility and amends.  The attitude seems to be, “You first!”  For these folks I can only reference Ghandi when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Or another saying that goes, “If change is to happen, let it begin with me.”  To these people that are still waiting I ask, “Do you want a fuller, compassionate and responsible dialogue with your partner over a contentious issue to happen sooner…. or later?”

If you do decide that you want to be instrumental in calming your partner during conflicts then you are ready to learn the 3 Step technique of addressing three things before you talk about your point of view.  It’s all about the sequencing and the order with which you respond to someone who is upset with you.   The RealHope Couples Course uses a metaphor to help remember to do a few things before you try to do another thing.  It just works better that way.

 

For the best exercise for couples I’ve ever created, try doing this exercise tonight!

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Be notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Maybe you're not coming off as you thought Misreading Emotions

This Ronald McDonald is convinced that he is giving this little girl the thrill of her life.  But, a quick read of her face tells another story.   One reason Ronald doesn’t see it, is because he is not looking at her.  Another reason could be that he is so involved in his job, that he’s not really trying to connect with her.

Yet another reason he doesn’t see it may be that he cannot read the fear in her face.  He may not be aware that he’s crossed a boundary.  That he did not respect the emotional signals the girl put out.  He thinks to himself, “Everyone loves Ronald McDonald?”

When a couple is arguing intensely, there are strong emotions being displayed.  Anger.  Fear.  Sadness.  Surprise.  Numbness.  Indifference & Withdrawal.  Even if fear is being displayed by a partner, some will persist in not acknowledging it.  Or, will insist that the fear is wrong.  Rather than that the boundary crossing behavior, which caused the fear, was wrong.  What if this little girl punched Ronald in the face?  Is that an understandable response to feeling disrespected?  Perhaps the girl is misreading the Ronald’s emotions as poorly as he is at reading her feelings.

I have an illustration (which can be downloaded) that helps some people better understand that feelings of hurt, anger, fear, sadness, or withdrawal can get mixed up and misunderstood.  Here it is:

Hurt people, hurt people

Aggression Can Be A Mask For Fear, Pain, or Powerlessness

 

Go HERE to download a larger version of this graphic.

 

The trick is to be humble enough to ‘NOT KNOW’ what others are feeling.  It’s respectful to ask someone what feelings he or she is experiencing.  Sometimes, what looks like anger is really shame.  Or, withdrawal turns out to be hurt.  When there is no confirmation from the one showing the emotion, then there is more room for misunderstanding.

 

So, ASK your partner what he or she is thinking and feeling.  Asking the question,

What does that make you think?

is a great question!  Just don’t immediately argue with what is said.  Remember, it’s O.K. if your partner is upset with you.  When you argue or withdraw whenever your partner is upset, then there is no normal mechanism to communicate and grow and thrive as a couple.  One partner thinks that the other is too angry and critical too often.  But, the source of that partner’s frustration may indeed be that the first partner NEVER accepts or acknowledges any comments that are interpreted as critical.  It’s pretty understandably frustrating to not be allowed to express your needs, feelings or thoughts to a partner.

Marc’s mission is helping frustrated couples get better and helping good couples become GREAT!

Next Los Angeles Workshops at RealHope.com

Two Hour Coaching with Marc

 

Responding To People Who Are Upset With You

Real Power Is Being First To Admit You Made A Mistake

 

Say These 3 things.... then, Say Your P.O.V.

Say These 3 things…. then, Say Your P.O.V.

When the idea of POWER is transformed into being response-able, you will find arguments are turned into healthy dialogue. Immediately take responsibility for your part in a conflict. This buys you credibility and the space to talk about what you want the other to understand about your perspective. After owning what’s true about your behavior, it opens up the ears of people who may be upset with you. When you explain yourself first, without owning your part, you ensure the other will continue to make the case against you.

 

For example, a wife says with irritation in her voice, “You said you would take the trash out this morning! It’s overflowing!” It’s easy for a guy to get plugged in to her irritation by giving reasons or excuses why it didn’t happen.   It’s hard to picture her saying, “Oh, all right then. It’s O.K.”. Explaining actually makes her more likely to keep making her point. Imagine her response though, if his first words in responding to her were:

“That’s right I didn’t do what I said.

I can understand why you’re upset.

I’ll get it right now.”

The word POWER denotes strength and a sense of not being easily wounded. The transformation of personal or business arguments takes place when we understand what real power looks and sounds like. For instance, you see a man at a store criticize his wife loudly in an angry manner. Does he look powerful? Or, do you think that he is weak somewhere in his character? Do you know people who often minimize, deny, or justify their behavior when you comment on what they’ve done? Do they look secure or insecure as they provide excuses for their behaviors and choices? Our ego, pride and insecurity gets in the way of being able to attend to the other person’s experience right away. Adrenaline then makes it difficult to take responsibility or have empathy for the other. We get so concerned about reflexively explaining our point of view that the argument keeps going and going.

It is defensiveness that broadcasts a lack of power. It can convey a bit of guilt also. Shakespeare knew it when he wrote, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

The Power Response sounds like this:

  1. Own what you said or did first.
  2. Acknowledge the other’s thoughts or feelings.
  3. Say what you’re going to do about it.

In over 30 years of my psychotherapy practice I’ve seen perhaps a thousand couples. Most of them had problems of unnecessary arguing.   I say unnecessary arguing because if either partner used this simple method there would more likely be a healthy dialogue. First, address the other person’s disturbance before attempting to get the other to hear your point of view. Those are simple words. Simple yes. Is this an easy thing to do in practice? Not really!

You may read these steps and say to your self, “Of course, that makes sense. I knew that.” Shortly after reading this you may be face to face with someone who is upset with you. It may be your husband, girlfriend, boss or work associate. The adrenaline courses through your veins and you will reflexively defend and explain your self. That’s when you’ll look for this issue of Whole Life and review the three steps. It works, if you work it.

 

download_buttonYou can get a great exercise for couples, that can bring healing and connection…. or not.  It’s free.  Take a look at it to see if you might try this in your relationship.
Or, go here for free download.

 

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.
Marc Sadoff, MSW, BCD

Are You Expressing Frustration Or Just Being An Ass?

Key relationship concepts:

  • “I don’t want to make you feel disrespected by me.”
  • “It is O.K. for you to tell me when I’m speaking in a disrespectful way to you.”
  • “It’s O.K. that my partner is upset with me.”
  • “Sometimes, I’m broadcasting hostility, contempt or aggression and I am unaware of it.
    Then, when my partner reacts to my tone of voice or my face, I 
    think to myself, ‘Why is my partner
        starting a fight?”

ExpressVsHurtMeterExpressing frustration and anger in relationships is healthy and necessary. Wouldn’t it be great if your partner responded positively each time you said something he or she did bothered you? One reason that people get a defensive response from partners, when expressing frustration, is that it was expressed in a shaming, blaming, harsh, or mean fashion. So, how do you find that line between speaking about your feelings and making your partner feel bad?

 

I work with a lot of men who have anger problems. Many of them think that they are expressing a legitimate anger or frustration with their partner. So, they are confused and upset that their partner objected, defended, or fought them. They sincerely and honestly believed that they were simply expressing their feelings. Now, it could be that their partners have a problem being able to hear requests or constructive criticism. I’ll cover that later. My job, is to help the men see what part they may be playing in why their relationships talks often turn into high conflict. So we look primarily at what we might be contributing to the problem of conflict.

 

There is a lot of resistance to being told that your ‘tone of voice’ has an edge of sounding bossy or parental. A tone of voice can convey hostility, rejection, blame, shame, and intimidation. In most cases, people seem to be unaware that their voice is projecting such a negative energy. However, if you are unaware that it sounds that way, you’ll have a hard time accepting that the shaming energy is present in your voice. It really doesn’t matter what you intended.

 

Let’s say someone tells you that you’re sounding like a parent or a boss. It could be that person’s filter and they may always have difficulty with corrections or others expressing frustrations with them. However, it’s best to sweep your side of the street first, and at least scan your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and words for hints of rejection and harsh criticism. It doesn’t matter what you intended. Be honest with yourself.

 

Are you willing to hear that your tone of voice sounded condescending or shaming?

 

Admit to yourself, and your partner that you are aware that you were harsh, or disrespectful, with you ‘tone of voice’ in some recent moment. And, simply apologize. This will earn you the credibility and trust you need when you want to say there was no harshness present. You see how this works? When you can acknowledge the times you ARE harsh, bossy, or parental, then you are trusted more when you want to declare that you had no such edge in your voice. But, this requires a long time of showing that you can admit it.

 

I posed the question about ‘finding the line between expressing feelings and being mean, or hurtful.

 

Here are three ways to know you’ve crossed the line into hurtful harsh expression:

 

  • You recall your tone of voice and realize that you were bossy or parental.
  • The person you’re talking with tells you that you’ve got an edge of hostility or judgment in your voice.
  • The person you’re talking with defends in a strongly emotional way, or withdraws from speaking.

 

Another reason you may be in high conflict often; is that you are with a partner who cannot tolerate hearing that he or she has disturbed you, in any way. A partner who is automatically, and reflexively, defensive about being told anything negative. Even, when it’s framed as a respectful request. The problem is that just about all the men I’ve worked with believe this about their partners. They think that their partners are too touchy, too sensitive, or too defensive. I’ve met some of their partners, and I might even agree with that assessment, in some cases. But, the only way to know if the extreme defensiveness is in the partner is to be masterful at sweeping my side of the street to make sure that it’s not me starting it. I may be initiating the ‘flight or flight’ energy first. I can begin by expressing my thoughts and feelings in a non-shaming manner that expresses my feelings. Not a style of expression that mainly shows my judgmental thoughts or rejecting, condemning feelings.

 

Whether you are a man or a woman I have a challenge for you. Ask your partner the following question.

Do feel it is safe to tell me that you feel disrespected by my tone of voice?

 

If your partner says, “Yes.” Then you are doing very well at this relationship communication game.

If your partner says, “No.” Then make the following statement to your partner.

 

In the future I’ll try to make it safer for you to tell
me when you feel disrespected by my tone of voice.

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Frustrating Relationships Get Better… And Good Relationships Become GREAT!

Keep It Simple Stupid

Fox & Cat Discuss Options Of Avoiding Hounds

Fox & Cat Discuss Options Of Avoiding Hounds

The Cat, the Fox, & the Hounds

Simple Is Better For Handling Relationship Conflict

The fox was bragging to the cat about how smart he is when it comes to evading the hounds that chase both of them. He said he has 7 plans for escaping them; and each plan has 3 or 4 sub-plans.

The cat was impressed, and said, “I have one simple plan. When I hear the sound of the hounds I just climb the nearest tree. The fox scoffed arrogantly. Just then, the sounds of the barking hounds could be heard in the distance. The cat executed his simple plan by finding and then jumping up the nearest tree. The fox became so confused trying to figure out which plan to use, that he was caught by them. The simple organizing principles for the cat enabled it to execute a plan, even when there was intense fear or confusion. The simplest solution when partners are in high conflict is to separate from one another. It’s a simple solution, but it is very hard to do without training, education, and practice.

Learn the organizing principles of handling conflict with confidence. There is an elegant simplicity and common sense behind the five agreements and the two skills. In the heat of any argument with your partner you will both appreciate the simplicity of the principles and techniques. The organizing principles of what couples learn in the seminar include safety, listening, and then expressing in that order. This simply means that emotional, mental, and physical safety is the highest priority, followed by listening to the partner’s concerns and finally expressing one’s thoughts and feelings and requests. No one should be listening or expressing when it is emotionally or mentally unsafe. And, the most respectful second step after establishing safety is to be the listener first. Finally, it’s time to express your thoughts and feelings.

         The same principle of the effectiveness of ‘The simpler, the better!’ philosophy holds true for relationship communication conflict.  Fear, anger, fight & flight are powerful influences when partners show irritation with each other.  That’s why the easiest plan to execute, when agitated, is the one that might actually get implemented!
There are five SIMPLE foundations of respectful behavior covered by the agreements in the Course:

There are five foundations of respectful behavior covered by the agreements in the Course:

  • I’ll listen to you until you feel done when you ask; and I’ll expect the same from you.
  • I’ll spend 20 minutes a week with you to listen to whatever you need me to understand.
  • I’ll let you leave the room, if you feel overwhelmed, flooded, scared, or angry.
  • I’ll let you define if you feel disrespected by my tone of voice, and I’ll stop when you ask.
  • And, I’ll get some professional help if I cannot reasonably follow my agreements with you.

Losing Control

One of the most important concepts of this program is recognizing that when we are physiologically aroused by our hurt, angry, fearful and defensive emotions we can get out of control and end up saying and doing things we don’t mean, yet cannot take back. When we feel defensive the body and mind can only focus on running or fighting. Some people might just call this ‘going nuts,’ or ‘losing it!’ The body produces a hormone called adrenaline, when it feels attacked, that has many effects on the body and the mind. When adrenaline is rushing throughout our bodies we become incapable of having a rational productive conversation. We are in ‘fight or flight’ mode.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
When adrenaline is in your bloodstream, it becomes extremely difficult to
care about what your partner is experiencing. The ‘fight or flight’ mode
stays active longer if one feeds the narrative (self-talk) that “I’m a victim.”
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Adrenaline and the fight or flight system is designed for physical survival. It gears not only the body but, the mind, for completely focusing on running or fighting. But, the fight or flight system kicks in with emotionally threatening situations as well. Picture yourself sitting quietly enjoying a television program and your partner enters the room with a stern face saying, “Honey, I’d like to talk with you about our relationship.” You know that sensation that starts in the pit of your stomach and expands until your breathing either stops or gets faster and then your heart starts racing like it’s going to beat out of your chest. Your mind becomes solely focused on preparing to defend yourself. That’s adrenaline! This is when people need to have the last word. Or, they need to defend, blame, run away, distract, deceive, or win. Once adrenaline is flowing there is not much room in your mind left for thinking about what other people may be thinking or feeling. There is no room for thinking about what role your behavior has played in the problem.

Under these biological and mental conditions, there’s little chance that you will be trying to understand what your partner’s experience would be like. In other words, adrenaline has now rendered you almost incapable of being responding in a constructive way. In the throes of an adrenaline rush, you are not very sensitive or empathic for your partner. You now have no sense of responsibility and little capacity for empathy; the two most important qualities needed for good conflict resolution. Do you think it’s a good idea to stay in the room when both partners are under the influence of an adrenaline surge? I’ve asked couples before, “Of the last ten times that the arguing became very intense, how many times did it work out great by staying in the room hashing it out?” The answer is usually one or none.

Most of my seminar attendees identify with the insanity of staying in the room, trying to get that last extra point made, even when it is so obvious that the argument is dangerous and no one is listening to the other. Many of them have been that couple, that continue to argue even when it is obvious that it will only get worse. They all agree that they wished there was a remote control button they could push that would guarantee them that they would stop arguing. Please surrender to the concept that there are times when you are out of control and must simply zip your lip and take a Time Out and leave the room. The problem seems to be that each person in a hot conflict is waiting for the partner to stop. The surrender I’m talking about is that I need to stop talking and leave the room. It’s me, who is the problem right now! My heart rate, my mouth, my words, my tone of voice and the look on my face; which is creating more conflict.

A good motto to follow is Let the changes begin with me. You and your partner will begin to trust each other more with every passing day. When your partner trusts that there is always an avenue for talking about his or her thoughts and feelings then there is never a need to interrupt, yell, or argue. When each partner trusts that if someone cannot stay in the room there is an agreement that allows that to happen.

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

There are agreements and skills couples can learn that can absolutely help their relationship thrive and grow.  Unfortunately, many couples seeking professional counseling are not taught these agreements and skills thoroughly BEFORE beginning longer term marriage therapy.

 

Is there an alternative to expensive professional marriage counseling out there? Learning how to communicate better

Learning Better Communication Is Enough Sometimes

Learning Better Communication Is Enough Sometimes

with each other costs far less than going to therapists. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” My experience with hundreds of couples demonstrates to me that simply making certain agreements and learning how to express and respond to anger constructively was enough to help make tremendous changes in so many of these couples.

 

MarcCUbrightNoShad

Marc Sadoff, LCSW & Communication Coach

How do you know when to see a therapist and when to go to a seminar, buy a book, or find a relationship coach? That’s a tricky question, because there are problems of relationship that most certainly deserve immediate help by a licensed professional. For instance, if there is physical, emotional or verbal violence occurring, then no class, seminar or home study course will likely be enough to address these problems. Also, when there is alcoholism, prescription or other drug abuse, sex addiction, gambling, or other addiction; then these are primary problems, that need to be addressed right away. It’s very important that you seek help from professionals who have been trained and are experienced in violence or addictions.

Now, for those of you that the issues above are not significantly present, let’s try to outline an approach to improving the communication and the emotional tone of your relationships. As a professional and a relationship coach, I’ve seen similar core themes and dynamics of communication conflict within couples. I’ve developed the Communicate With Power & Compassion Course that covers the skills and agreements below.

1 Listening without interrupting, postpone defending myself and to reflect what I’ve heard. Take turns speaking and listening. Respect the rules of the Listening Exchange.
2 Diminish or cease blaming, criticizing and withdrawal behaviors. Use the Respect Agreement.
3 Learn to express vulnerable thoughts and feelings that are underneath harsh and critical ones. To speak in ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’ messages.
4 Being responsible for what I say or do and to acknowledge how that affects my partner. If I’ve been hurtful, then I make amends and try to be mindful of my mistake.
5 Asking directly for understanding of my experience and to make specific requests for changes.
6 Make a mutually binding agreement on HOW to leave the room for less than an hour, when arguing escalates with too much emotional intensity. And, have a method for how both partners reconnect by taking some responsibility for the problem and showing some empathy for the other partner’s experience.
7 Agreeing on a method of how to deal with moments when either partner feels hurt, dismissed, or disrespected.
8 Having a specific plan on what I will do if I cannot reasonably keep my agreements.

While it’s good to say what the goals are, it’s even better when a couple makes the exact same agreement with each other. When it comes to how to express and respond to anger, it’s helpful if both partners are working from the same script to find an ending to a conflict.

There’s nothing wrong with people being angry or frustrated. Being upset is a part of the emotional communication between intimate partners. People act aggressively or withdraw because they don’t know what else to do. There’s a line somewhere however, when that anger becomes hostile shaming, negativity, or avoidance, and withdrawal. When a couple learns where that line is, and what can be done about it, then it’s possible to decide to change.

When you know better, do better!

Download the ‘8 Ways To Make Your Relationship To Thrive’ here.  Couples Communication Education

My Realhope.com website and blog contain some of these specific agreements and skills.  I’m happy to receive comments on any of my materials at Marc@RealHope.com

Los Angeles Weekend Workshop
‘Power & Compassion Couples Communication’
info  HERE.
Free Tips & Resources

Like us on Facebook
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These two agreements can bring structure back to your relationship communications!  As simple as it appears, these agreements can literally save a flailing relationship.

LE-Speaker copy

 

The card above outlines the rules of being a speaker.

 

LE-Listen

 

 

This card outlines the rules of being a listener.

Some couples will just make these agreements and will not need any further help. Most people need more education and training in using them. The practice examples and guidelines are in the seminar and book.

 

The most common reason couples begin raising their voices and getting more and more frustrated is because of not agreeing on ‘who has the floor.’ The floor means whose turn is it to talk. This means that they each think it’s O.K. to make their points even when their partner does not yet feel that the other has heard the point being made. So, they are arguing about ‘who has the floor.’

 

This mutual agreement that guarantees that both parties eventually get as much time as needed to have their partner listen and reflect. The partner may not agree, but has reflected the thoughts and feelings well enough to demonstrate an understanding. Sometimes mutual understanding has to be enough.

 

My guess is that 80% of high conflict arguing in couples would be completely eliminated if both partners could agree on a structure to express themselves fully. If there are no rules for how to have a discussion about a hot topic; then whichever party can raise their voice, ignore the other partners points and interrupt the other gets to put their views out there more. Unfortunately, that comes with a cost! One cost of these tactics is that the other partner is not open to listening fully to you. When a couples agrees on HOW to speak and listen for hot topics, then both partners get to have their experience understood in a real way.

The Listening Exchange

                             100% Guarantee Your Partner Listens Without Interrupting

 

Say the next paragraphs out loud to each other while making eye contact 3 to 5 times with partner. For the partner listening to the agreement, please do not read along while your partner is reading out loud. Watch your partner’s face to be available for the eye contact.

 

_(Insert partner’s name)                                             , if you say the phrase, “I’ll listen to you if you listen to me”, I will stop talking and follow the rules of the ‘Listening Exchange’ method. I’ll know that if you say, ‘Will you listen to me if I listen to you?’ that I can trust that my point of view will be heard in full by you, after I listen to you. I want to see myself honoring the guidelines of the Listening Exchange. That means I will give you the floor, not interrupt you, and try to paraphrase what you’ve said. If I am too hurt, scared or angry to listen; then I will be honest about it and declare a Time Out.

 

I commit to the goal of wanting to understand your viewpoint and accepting your thoughts and feelings as real and valid for you. I do not have to agree with your thoughts about why you think or feel as you do. I want to avoid telling you that your feelings are inappropriate or saying “you shouldn’t think or feel that way”. I will not try to get you to understand my point of view until after I’ve listened to you all the way through. If, as a Listener, I cannot stop interrupting or commenting, then I want to see myself admitting that I am the one out of control. If I am out of control then I want to see myself seeking further help.

********************************************************************

 

                                                               Couples Weekly Time

                                    Never go a week without an issue being talked about.

 

Say the next paragraphs out loud to each other while making eye contact 3 to 5 times with partner. For the partner listening to the agreement, please do not read along while your partner is reading out loud. Watch your partner’s face to be available for the eye contact.
(Insert partner’s name)                                                    , I have agreed to meet with you every        

   (e.g.,. Monday)                              at (e.g., 9 pm)                    o’clock to talk for 20 minutes using only the Listening Exchange. I will start with two compliments about you when I am the Speaker the first time. If I cannot make our scheduled Couples Time I will notify you promptly to reschedule another time as soon as possible. At other times throughout the week if you say, ’Can we talk about this at our Couples Time’, I will try to wait until then to talk about it. If I can’t then, I’ll ask for a Listening Exchange at some later time.”

 

*****************************************************************************

 

I recommend that you absolutely do this weekly Couples Time for at least 12 weeks. No matter what, for 12 weeks, you meet once for 20 minutes to speak and listen to one another. One reason is that you’ll have another 240 minutes of pure Listening Exchange time under your belt. This type of speaking and listening will rub off into your regular speaking and listening. The skill of speaking and listening respectfully and expressively will come through your every day communicating. Please commit to at least 12 weeks of rigid adherence to the Couples Time.

 

Anytime you do not feel your partner is listening to you, or that he or she is getting a little energetic, simply make the Listening Exchange request by saying,

“I’ll listen to you if you listen to me.”

 

Some couples will just make these agreements and will not need any further help. Most people need more education and training in using them. The practice examples and guidelines are in the seminar and book.

DOWNLOAD the instructions on practicing this agreement.   Relationship Communication Skills

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Get notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

HERE.

Imagine Responding To Your Partner’s Anger With Grace & Ease 

Yoda-Believe Let Go Of The Belief That Anger
  Always Begets More Anger  
      Are you frustrated with how quickly you escalate small disturbances in your relationship?  Do small irritations in your relationship quickly become major arguments?  Yoda and I have some solutions.
     Having helped couples manage their high conflict moments for 30 years, I’ve come to agree with Yoda’s advice to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.  Yoda felt Luke’s doubt about doing something that seemed impossible was stopping him from learning.  It only seemed impossible because Luke had never done it before.  Yoda’s advice was, “If you not can believe.  That is why you fail.”  Regarding relationships, this is the belief that whenever your partner becomes agitated or upset with you, that you must defend yourself.  The belief to get rid of is the reflexive habit of responding to your partner’s criticism or disturbance with defensiveness and anger.
     Can you imagine responding to your partner’s anger with curiosity, responsibility, empathy, and a commitment to addressing his or her concerns?  If you find great difficulty imagining this, you are like Luke, not being able to imagine doing something that he had no experience doing before.  Luke has more power than he knows.  You have more power than you know to transform potential high conflict into resolution, understanding, and connection!
     This doesn’t mean you simply cave in to whatever your partner wants.  It means that you take his, or her, concerns seriously in your first words of responding.  This earns you the right to talk about your experience of the same situation.  The habit of quickly defending, explaining, blaming, or avoiding is due to the adrenaline coursing through your body.  The adrenaline tells your mind that it’s becoming dangerous.  The adrenaline reaction of fight or flight helped our species survive physical threats millions of years ago.  This same reaction is now turning small irritations into unnecessarily aggressive conflicts between partners.  This reaction can be overridden!  
     The best way to begin believing that you do not have to get defensive around the slightest hint of your partner’s disturbance is to successfully replace it, just once, with another behavior.  It takes that first successful experience of you not responding to anger with angry defensiveness.  This new response to the irritation of your partner can then become a habit.  The first words of your response can now seriously engage your partner’s frustration.  This will pave the way for your experience to be addressed.  Give yourself evidence that it is possible to respond to anger with grace!
     The skill of engaging your partner’s anger, is a difficult one to master.  Most people habitually respond defensively, which makes your partner believe that you don’t care; which makes them more emotionally agitated.  Then, you respond to the higher agitation with your own higher levels of defensive emotions.  This is a self-reinforcing feedback loop, which often ends with very strong and harsh responses.  This eats away at a couples’ trust, and eventually their loving commitment to each other.
     My RealHope For Couples Conflict Blog contains tools and methods that spell out exactly what you can say that should smooth out most couple’s conflict.  Many couples who try these tools first, before going to marriage counseling, find that there is no need for more expensive therapy.
When you know better, you do better!
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Loving couples argue too! 
    
Marc Sadoff, LCSW – Relationship Coach  310.444.1951
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ConfusingSigns2

Ask Directly For What You Want

 

People don’t ask for what they want for several reasons:

  • They think that you should know what they want.
  • They don’t believe that they are worth it.
  • They feel vulnerable in the asking….
  • They feel like a war is going on, and you don’t ask enemies for favors.

It can be frustrating trying to read the mind of your partner, who may clearly need something in a moment he, or she, is upset. Although, it never hurts to ask directly, “How can I help?” Or, “I’m here for you.” This shows you are willing to listen more.

 

               If you never ask. The answer is always, “No”.

 

When a partner thinks you should already know what they want, it could be that you should know by now. Don’t overlook the possibility that you’ve slipped up. If so, just admit it, ask for mercy, and don’t forget it again.

 

When a partner doesn’t feel worthy of receiving other your giving or service. Sometimes this quality comes across as a shaming of the potential giver, which may be you. Instead of saying out loud that he, or she, doesn’t feel worthy of receiving, the person may make you feel bad for not just offering the gift or gesture. So it comes out, “Why didn’t you clean your car? You knew I’d be using it.” This slight shaming could have been prevented if the person stated more directly and more clearly ahead of the borrowing of the car.

 

For some people, it’s more in their comfort zone to be angry and disappointed; than to be vulnerable and ask someone for a favor. If I ask you for something then I’m acknowledging that I need something. To admit I need something from you means admitting that they are needy. Being needy is seen as being weak or dependent. It can feel like a power struggle for some. If I have to ask you, it may feel as if I am ‘one down’ in this relationship. These people will not ask for things in the proper form, using a sincere question mark at the end of their sentence. There may be an attitude of expectation or entitlement. It doesn’t feel good to listen to this type of expectation.

 

When couples argue, there is usually some adrenaline flowing. Adrenaline is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. In the midst of an argument that is mildly angry, is the best time to state simply exactly what you need to feel better, and stop making your points. But, when adrenaline is flowing the other person is either the predator to run from, or to hurt. Adrenaline shapes a mind to see those around you as an enemy. You will feel like you want to run or to fight. If the anger level is mild you can still think as a partner, not an enemy, and perhaps say exactly what you need to end this conflict. When the adrenaline level is higher there is no listening patiently, as the other takes the time needed to make their points. At the highest levels of feeling like a war between enemies is going on, it is most advisable to ‘take a time out.’ To stay and continue arguing most consistently ends with more damage, and more regret. The time out agreement that I teach couples is very specific. It meets the needs of both partners. But, the time out agreement is the subject of another blog post.

 

In my 30 years of doing couples therapy, the most common reason an argument is not ending, is because one partner is not asking for specifically what is needed to feel better.

 

I invite you to test yourself in the near future by asking directly for what you want more often.

Scroll down for more blog topics, tips and tools for couples communication.

When you know better you do better!

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

This exercise has the potential to have you and your partner noticing and talking more about each other’s positive, caring, and loving behaviors. What a relief this can be from the opposite pattern of always having to deal with someone’s criticism or defensiveness.

caringbehx

The graphic above is inspired by Richard Stuart’s approach in ‘Helping Couples Change.’

If there have been some problems in your relationship that have caused some harm, then it makes sense your partner’s nervous system is on alert to see the problem coming again. Of course, this also holds true for experiences of harm that happened to your partner before he, or she, ever met you. And, remember that anything said about your partner applies to you as well.

We pay more attention to what we are
afraid of, than to what we enjoy.

Example: We notice red stop signs more quickly than green lights. Are you more likely to tune in to the news if there was a plane crash, or if there was a safe landing? If we’ve been in a bad auto accident, then we get notice problems on the road, much more quickly than we are noticing how calmly someone is driving.

When it comes to relationships, moments of unpleasantness may stand out more than the more plentiful pleasant experiences with your partner.

  • Make a copy or scan the blank form below, so you’ll always have the template.
  • Each partner alternates writing out a positively framed ‘caring behavior’ in the middle space of the paper. So on one sheet, there are 4 caring behaviors apiece written by each partner. Remember that you can’t write something like, “Didn’t nag or criticize me today.” You can request the same thing by writing, “Was positive toward me all day.”
  • Notice under each name is a grid that is 7 across and 3 down. The days of the week are listed across the top of each grid- Sunday- Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday – Friday – Saturday and 3 rows are simply Week # 1, Week #2 and Week #3.
  • You agree with your partner to meet for 5-10 minutes of review at the same time every night, for three weeks straight. Each night you review all the listed behaviors and put marks, checks or an ‘X’ in the square for that night for your partner. Only the partner can put the check or mark under the other partner’s name. The one with the pencil is the one who decides if the behavior was performed.

CaringBehaviorBlankTo download the Caring Behaviors blank go HERE.

More Examples of Caring Behaviors To Help You Kick Off Your Personalized List
Kissed me for more than 20 seconds,       Did something I asked for ahead of time so I didn’t have to repeat my request,         Wrote me a nice note,       Asked me if I wanted to be alone and uninterrupted for an hour,                    Said “I love you to me”,         Was punctual today,       Were flexible about time, asked me how my day has gone,       Cleaned up after yourself, made the bed,     Recycled something,     Left the toilet bowl seat down,                       Listened fully to me today, planned a date for us,       made love with me,     touched me more,                                Talked with me more today,     Made an effort to get along with my family,     initiated a call to my family,               Gave me your undivided attention when we speak,     Called me today,     Held my hand when we are in public, avoided looking at other people when we are out together,       Did what you said you’d do today, kept a clean kitchen today.     Talked positively to me all day,      Listened to me without getting defensive,                                 Expressed your feelings in a non-blaming way today,     Gave me a gift today,                     Was communicative with me today,         Did me a favor today without being asked,              You were very present with me today,                     You were accepting of me today (no criticism) etc.

Do This Exercise And You Will Notice A Change For the POSITIVE!

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

What To Do, What To Do?

What To Do, What To Do?

Try this experiment that I have run dozens of times with consistent results. First, using only your imagination, picture your partner coming to you with the statement that follows.

 

“I’ve been feeling distant from you recently because I’ve been holding on to a resentment. I think if I can talk for a few minutes with you I can let it go and get right with you again.”

 

Run this thought experiment in a group of friends, or yourself. Just put out the statement and ask that people simply notice what they are think and feel as they imagine that their partners were making that statement to them. What feelings come up? What thoughts arise? What sensations do you notice in your body? Then, ask that people share their thoughts or feelings about the moment of hearing their partners say this.

 

Now ask your group if this experience sounds positive, negative, or neutral. You will find that 90% of those that perceived it as a negative event, or something to be avoided are MEN. And, 90% of those that would feel positive about that conversation are WOMEN. Men typically feel threatened by the existence of disturbances in their relationships. Women tend to see the sharing of feelings as an opportunity to mend the distant feelings.

 

This fact may explain why women seem to feel even more upset with their partners when they are frustrated in their attempts to talk it out. They are often seen as unnecessarily complaining or critical; when they are actually reacting to feeling as if their partner doesn’t care to help resolve a problem.

 

Unfortunately, men believe that they are saving themselves trouble by avoiding the discussion. The plain and simple fact is that they are doubling their troubles by trying to avoid, minimize, or explain their way out of the situation.

 

The glitch in getting through resentments seems to be the man’s tendency to avoid or dismiss the expression of frustrations by their partner. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and make men more aware of how their avoidance is actually multiplying their woes. But that’s just a fantasy. What I do have is a method of responding to a partner’s feelings without giving up your right to explain your side of the story. You can get a summary of how this is done HERE.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

How do you know if a relationship, that has some problems of conflict, can change for better? Kenny Rogers speaks to this dilemma, with his song lyric, “Ya gotta know when to hold, when to fold and when to walk away.”

 

dogs-playing-poker-11The poker analogy is a good one for relationships. For instance, folding your cards just means that you’ve given up hoping to win that hand. Folding in an argument with a partner means that you cease hoping to win in that moment. You may still play other hands. You just stop trying to win that hand. The walk-away is surrendering to the idea that you have either run out of resources to continue, or you just don’t believe it’s productive. Could be you ran out of money, or were just weary of the play. Or, maybe the other players made up rules along the way.

 

 

  1. Stay in a frustrating relationship and keep trying?       The hold.
  2. Do you temporarily give up, to keep playing later?      The fold.
  3. Or, do you stop playing altogether?                               The walk-away.

 

Some people struggle with tolerance, patience, and difficult setbacks in their relationship until there is an outcome of growth and satisfaction. This would be a victory of faith and hope! To stay in a challenging relationship does call for some mutual growth. If it’s not both people growing, then it has to be only one person giving up more and more of his or her reasonable entitlement of respect from the other. It’s not unusual for one person to lead the way by beginning to change. The other may learn skills through modeling. The hold and the fold have rewards and some risks also. The trick is how accurately gauging whether there is mutual effort and growth. Is there real hope for a situation changing; or is this a toxic hope that is foolish to invest in more time?

 

Still others won’t or can’t give up on trying to make a relationship work; despite risks to mental, emotional, or physical health. Some principles of discerning real hope from toxic hope can be helpful in making such decisions.

 

Others will walk away from a marriage or relationship at the first bad experiences of disrespect, problem drinking, or infidelity. There are good arguments to support leaving at the first sign of major problems. There are also good reasons for trying to work through difficulties. To listen, speak, and act from their gut about noticing a lack of respect in the relationship may be just what is needed for one partner to realize that there are limits. More importantly though, is that the partner who realizes that he or she has reached a limit makes decisions for self-respect and self-nurturing. It’s helpful to know how to express these feelings of disrespect in a way that can be heard and accepted by a partner.

 

The poker analogy is true also in this way. The calculation for staying in a poker game begins with a few factors. Can you risk staying in and do you have the resources to stay in? Do you have money and energy? And, are the other players playing by the rules? Does it seem like the rules are applied differently to different players?

 

In the important realm of relationships there are a few rules I’ve developed that indicate minimum levels of respect, self-control and dignity. Couples are asked to make some agreements out loud with each other.

 

One agreement is to set up mutually agreed guidelines for ‘how to talk with each other’ in a difficult conversation that has conflict and misunderstanding. This is the Listening Exchange agreement. One partner gets one minute to be a speaker and express thoughts and feelings. The other person reflects what was said, without adding any their own thoughts and feelings. A reflection is repeating back or paraphrasing what the listener heard. The first person continues for more one-minute rounds of being a speaker. Each one-minute expression is reflected by the listener until the speaker is satisfied that he or she has been heard. Then the listener becomes the speaker. If someone cannot keep their agreement to not interrupt and not to communicate their judgment or point of view while being the listener, then that person is in violation of the agreement made. That person is ‘out of their own control.’

 

Another agreement is allowing the partner to leave the room and conversation at any time, without being interfered with; so long as that person returns to the conversation within an hour. This is the Time Out Agreement. When one partner cannot allow the partner to leave a heated conversation because it is felt to be unproductive or even unsafe; that partner is failing to honor the agreement to allow the other to leave and is ‘out of their own control.’

 

There is an Integrity Agreement each partner makes out loud to each other.

 

“If I cannot reasonably follow my agreements then I am out of my own control. If this happens then I want to see myself seeking further help to address my problem of being out of control. This may be an appointment with a counselor, a psychiatrist, or an anger management group. Or, I will attend the appropriate self-help groups for the problem I may have.”

 

Is there real hope for this problem to get better, or am I in toxic hope? Two important factors regarding real hope are a) willingness and b) execution. There’s a big difference between knowing it’s time to leave the table and doing it. As for relationships, when there is a set of agreed ways of handling conflict, there is more chance of success and mutual growth.

 

Real Hope means there is a sustained change happening that can be seen or felt. When both partners are held to the same rules by clear and specific mutual agreements, then the results will be self-evident. Even, if only to one partner. Integrity means saying what you mean and doing what you say. If you say you’ll stop interrupting or that you will let the other leave a room under prescribed circumstances; and you cannot do this, then you are out of your own control and need help.

 

The hard part is seeing one’s own powerlessness, and becoming willing to act on it.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

 

3 Tips To Renew Love

3 Tips To Renew Love

Tips & Tricks That Enhance Friendship & Intimacy

                                                The Belly Hug

A ritual that has helped a lot of couples is something known as the ‘Belly Hug.’ Dr. Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist at UCLA shared this ritual with about 300 therapists at a couples conference I attended in 2007. It’s very simple. You do this ritual whenever you’ve been separated from your partner for more than several hours. The first thing you do upon seeing each other is to embrace the other in a ‘belly hug.’ A belly hug is a hug in which the stomachs of the two people are touching. Make eye contact just before hugging the other, and hold the other with your bellies touching for 10 seconds, or more.   It’s pretty simple. Eye contact and a 10 second hug with your stomachs touching.   There is a connecting and calming influence of this contact.   This ritual can set a baseline of connection that actually prevents more intense levels of conflict from developing. There is also a connecting and calming influence of talking with one another once a week in a structured way, as we are about to learn about in the ‘Couples Time’ agreement.

 

                                    It Takes Three Seconds Four Times A Day

Four Important Times To Say, “I love you.” are: 1) Waking up. 2) When you part in the morning. 3) When you reconnect in the evening and 4) when you go to bed.   Make the first experience of someone in the day a loving one. What is it that most people think about if their loved one dies unexpectedly? It is often remembering the last thing we said to each other. So the last thing you say as you leave for work and the last thing you say as you go to bed is pretty important.   Secondly, when the first thing you experience with your partner as you reconnect is a loving smile and affectionate words, then this tends to color the way in which the rest of the time feels. So the morning greeting and the evening reconnecting words and ‘belly hug’ go a long way to shaping how the rest of your time together feels. This a simple ritual packs some great results!

 

     If You Say No To Someone, Immediately Say When You Can Give Them What They Want

 Many conflicts get worse simply because one person said, “I don’t want to keep talking now.” and the partner would not let that person leave the room.   The majority of the stories I hear from men just entering our group reveal that the bad behavior began when either he or his partner would not let the other one leave in the middle of an argument.   Well, there is a logical reason why someone won’t let their partner leave in the middle of a beg argument. The experience is often that the person leaving is taking control by leaving abruptly. The person left behind is left to wonder about when their partner will come back or IF the partner is coming back.   And, the one left behind does not know what mood the other will be in.   The one left behind is left alone to his or her anxiety. It can feel punishing and uncaring to be left like that.

 

I’ve taken to doing a pantomime with couples I work with about stopping an imflammatory interaction involving an abrupt departure, from getting worse.   I’ll put my left hand up in the air about a foot in front of me in a stop fashion. Like the way a crossing guard puts her hand up to tell drivers to stop.   Then, I’ll immediately follow that by putting my open cupped right hand up next to the stop hand. The extended palm up open cupped hand is akin to offering a gift held in this hand. The idea is that whenever you take something away from your partner, you offer something the other needs.   What those left behind need is to know that the partner is leaving repectfully, though abruptly; that the reason is to calm down so that the conversation can continue.  No one likes to be walked out on, or told to shut up.

 

Immediately after saying ‘I need a Time Out, you are offering up something.  That something is saying what time you will return.   Using the phrase Time Out lets the partner know that there is plan for a return to the subject in a better state of mind.

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

blaming             Responding To People Who Are Upset With You

             Real Power Is Being First To Admit You Made A Mistake

 

When the idea of POWER is transformed into being response-able, you will find arguments are turned into healthy dialogue. Immediately take responsibility for your part in a conflict. This buys you credibility and the space to talk about what you want the other to understand about your perspective. After owning what’s true about your behavior, it opens up the ears of people who may be upset with you. When you explain yourself first, without owning your part, you ensure the other will continue to make the case against you.

 

For example, a wife says with irritation in her voice, “You said you would take the trash out this morning! It’s overflowing!” It’s easy for a guy to get plugged in to her irritation by giving reasons or excuses why it didn’t happen.   It’s hard to picture her saying, “Oh, all right then. It’s O.K.”. Explaining actually makes her more likely to keep making her point. Imagine her response though, if his first words in responding to her were:

“That’s right I didn’t do what I said.

I can understand why you’re upset.

I’ll get it right now.”

 

The word POWER denotes strength and a sense of not being easily wounded. The transformation of personal or business arguments takes place when we understand what real power looks and sounds like. For instance, you see a man at a store criticize his wife loudly in an angry manner. Does he look powerful? Or, do you think that he is weak somewhere in his character? Do you know people who often minimize, deny, or justify their behavior when you comment on what they’ve done? Do they look secure or insecure as they provide excuses for their behaviors and choices? Our ego, pride and insecurity gets in the way of being able to attend to the other person’s experience right away. Adrenaline then makes it difficult to take responsibility or have empathy for the other. We get so concerned about reflexively explaining our point of view that the argument keeps going and going.

 

It is defensiveness that broadcasts a lack of power. It can convey a bit of guilt also. Shakespeare knew it when he wrote, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

 

The Power Response sounds like this:

  1. Own what you said or did first.
  2. Acknowledge the other’s thoughts or feelings.
  3. Say what you’re going to do about it.

 

In over 30 years of my psychotherapy practice I’ve seen perhaps a thousand couples. Most of them had problems of unnecessary arguing.   I say unnecessary arguing because if either partner used this simple method there would more likely be a healthy dialogue. First, address the other person’s disturbance before attempting to get the other to hear your point of view. Those are simple words. Simple yes. Is this an easy thing to do in practice? Not really!

 

You may read these steps and say to your self, “Of course, that makes sense. I knew that.” Shortly after reading this you may be face to face with someone who is upset with you. It may be your husband, girlfriend, boss or work associate. The adrenaline courses through your veins and you will reflexively defend and explain your self. That’s when you’ll look for this issue of Whole Life and review the three steps. It works, if you work it.

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Round Up 'My Usual Suspects' card- Front

Round Up ‘My Usual Suspects’ card- Front

The images to the left are a reminder tool I call ‘Round Up My Usual Suspects’ card.   The actual card is the size of a business card and is printed front and back.  The card helps you remember the common behaviors that you, in particular, have that make others feel defensive.   You check 3 or 4 of the checkboxes you think apply to you.  The ones that you are most likely guilty of doing when you get upset.     Often, the usual suspects are non-verbal behaviors like using a harsh, or demeaning tone of voice; or making a face that is filled with rejection or contempt.

Round Up 'My Usual Suspects'- Back

Round Up ‘My Usual Suspects’- Back

Your ‘Usual Suspects’ are the behaviors YOU DO to make your partner feel intimidated or anxious or mad.  Then, you ask your partner to use a yellowhighlighter to underline the number one behavior that gets him or her upset.  You keep the card in your wallet or purse.

One day you find yourself confused about why someone is irritated with you, or picking fights with you, or just pushing your buttons.  Or, maybe you’ve taken some of my Power & Compassion Communication course and you’ve just taken a Time Out.  So, you pull out your trusty card and review your recent behaviors asking yourself, “Which one of my Usual Suspects might have been operating  just now.”  It doesn’t matter whether you only showed these behaviors because the other person did something first.  It doesn’t matter whether you are right, or justified, or that your response was understandable.  The point is to be able to eventually return to the person soon, to be the first person to sweep his side of the street.  Yes, it sounds odd, to admit that you did something, even when you think the other did something first, or worse.  But, just because you sweep your side of the street doesn’t mean you can’t make your case later that you want to hear the other see what his, or her, part was in the recent problem.

So, you return to the person and simply say it out loud,

“I was _(fill in from the card above)__  just then.  I see how upset that made you.  I’m sorry, I’ll be mindful of that in the future.”

Say These 3 things.... then, Say Your P.O.V.

Say These 3 things…. then, Say Your P.O.V.

AFTER saying these three sentences the other person will be more open to hearing your experience of the problem.  It takes perhaps 8-10 seconds to say the three ideas about What I did, How the other felt or though, and What I’ll do about it.   The 10 seconds you invest in saying these sentences will save you hours, and days and weeks of unnecessary conflict.  Learn more about the March 19th Saturday seminar in Los Angeles ‘Real Power In Relationships- Responding To People Who Are Upset” HERE.

Round Up ‘My Usual Suspects’                   


If you are honest with yourself and you know you are an emotional person, who wears his, or her, feelings on your sleeve; then simply admit that you’re upset.   Some people won’t admit it, or they deny,  justify or blame their feelings on others.

By owning and taking responsibility for your behavior as soon as possible, you are creating a possibility for a ‘Conversation’ about the issues.  You make that happen because you’re willing to sweep your side of the street first by checking if your tone of voice or facial and body language contributed to a conflict.  When you do this you make it so much easier for others to ‘sweep their side of the street’ by admitting what they may have done to contribute to the conflict.  Then, two people may have a conversation!  Would you like to see that happening in your relationship?

 

style of classroom watching videos and learning new ways of experiencing conflict resolution.  I am so confident, I offer a money-back guarantee that if you don’t think the seminar is helpful by the lunch hour you just tell me, or my staff, and you get a refund.  I’ve done these workshops for over 16 years and have had less than a handful of participants ask for it.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

People easily see when you are mad.

People easily see when you are mad.

Another way of asking the question is, “Are you often genuinely surprised and shocked that people think you have been disrespectful to them with your tone of voice or with the look on your face?”

If so, then you probably often get people who respond to the hostile edge in your voice, or the look of rejection or disgust on your face with some anger or energy of their own. Then, you look at them and think, “Why are they starting something up with me.” You are being honest when you deny that you made a rejecting face or that you had a harsh tone in your voice.  Because you are either actually unaware of your extra harsh tone or face; or you are back-pedalling in trying to minimize, justify, deny or rationalize your angry tone.

mouth_yelling_anim_500_wht_14777

Energetic Tone Or Voice

Let’s start with a skill that will help you recover from the reactions of people around

I work with an domestic violence men’s group in Los Angeles.  Sometimes I will raise my hand saying, “I am a man who might broadcast hostility, contempt or rejection.  I may be honestly completely unaware that I am agitated so when people around me react to my face or voice I think to myself, “Now why are they starting up a fight with me.”  But, when I look back I can see that I really started the energetic exchange.

“…so when people around me react to my face or voice I think to myself, “Now why are they starting up a fight with me.”

Below is a reminder tool I call ‘Round Up My Usual Suspects’ card.   The actual card is the size of a business card and is printed front and back.  You circle 3 or 4 the checkmarks you think apply to you.  The ones that you are most likely guilty of.     Your ‘Usual Suspects’ when it comes to making your partner feel intimidated or anxious.  Then, you ask your partner to use a yellow highlighter to underline the number one behavior that gets him or her upset.  You keep the card in your wallet or purse.   One day you find yourself confused about why people are irritated with you, or picking fights with you, or just pushing your buttons.  Or, maybe you’ve taken some of my Power & Compassion Communication course and you’ve just taken a Time Out.  So, you pull out your trusty card and review your last conflict asking yourself, “Which one of my Usual Suspects’ might have been operating  just now.

Then, you return to the person and simply say it out loud,

“I was _(fill in from the card below)__  just then.  I know that makes you upset.  I’m sorry, I’ll try in the future not to do that.”

Register for the August 22nd 2015 Los Angeles One Day ‘Communicate With Power & Compassion’ workshop HERE.

Round Up ‘My Usual Suspects’                  

 

RUUS-Front

Round Up My Usual Suspects Card Front


If you are honest with yourself and you know you are an emotional person, who wears his, or her, feelings on your sleeve; then simply admit that you’re upset.   Some people won’t admit it, or they deny,  justify or blame their feelings on others.

RUUS-Back

Round Up ‘My Usual Suspects’ Card- Back

By owning and taking responsibility for your behavior as soon as possible, you are creating a possibility for a ‘Conversation’ about the issues.  You make that happen because you’re willing to sweep your side of the street first by checking if your tone of voice or facial and body language contributed to a conflict.  When you do this you make it so much easier for others to ‘sweep their side of the street’ by admitting what they may have done to contribute to the conflict.  Then, two people may have a conversation!  Would you like to see that happening in your relationship?

Register for the August 22nd 2015 Los Angeles One Day

August 22nd One Day Training

Los Angeles Couples Seminar

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

 

MovingTowardDangerWhy would I want to move toward, or engage, the anger of my partner?  For one thing, it lets her know that I take her issue or concern seriously.   Ask yourself, what you end up thinking and feeling when you are angry and your partner either changes the subject, avoids you, ignores you, blames you or attacks you.  Do you want your partner to engage your concern?  How do you feel about their level of concern or caring for you as a partner when his or her first words are to explain, justify, minimize, deny or blame?  Or worse yet, if the response is to ignore, change the subject or simply withdraw?  Would you want them to address your concern first directly, responsibly and with a sense of empathy and a willingness to be mindful of your experience?

So, what makes you think your partner wants anything different?  The very idea that anyone getting even a little angry makes that person the devil is a pernicious and dangerous common perception.

Is this what you think it means to engage the anger of your partner?

Is this what you think it means to engage the anger of your partner?

I’ve seen hundreds of couples in which, especially men, seem to think that if they directly engage the anger of their partner; they believe that they are agreeing with the premise that they are bad people with bad intent.  They seem to think that taking a complaint or concern seriously somehow admits total guilt and will make things worse.

In fact the exact opposite is true.  Again ask yourself what you want when you are upset with your partner.  When your partner treats your frustration with the respect of engaging and listening to you; don’t you feel better about him or her?  Don’t you feel more cared about?  So try when your partner is upset with you, make your first words an effort to acknowledge what is true about your behavior, how it affected the other and commit to being mindful in the future.  And, then pay attention to the results!  Then, compare these results with how it used to turn out when your first words in response were to explain, defend, deny, avoid or minimize what your partner is upset with about your behavior or decisions.

This moving toward the danger is an unnatural reflex to train in people.  My ‘Power & Compassion Couples Communication’ course shows you exactly how to begin engaging the frustration of your partner in such a safe and respectful way, that you will more likely also have a chance to get your partner to hear and engage your experience of the same situation more fully. This only happens if you surrender your right to be heard first and can tolerate listening and engaging the frustrations and irritations of your partner first, before beginning to explain or defend yourself.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

ChasingPursueAvoid

When someone moves toward you and you believe you are in some danger, the natural instinct is to run or hide.   If you are the partner in pursuit of emotionally important information from your partner and your partner moves away, avoids or distances you can become more agitated in your pursuit.

The more he runs away or withdraws the more intense and agitated the pursuer becomes.  The more intense the pursuit the more withdrawn and distancing the Avoider becomes.

arrows_spinning_chase_300_wht_9838

Pursuing Causes Distancing Which Causes More Pursuing, Which Causes More Avoiding etc., etc.

This is commonly called a vicious circle.  The more you do one thing, the more you get of the thing that makes you do that something.  The harder you try, the farther away your goal becomes.  This is often the nature of attempts to manage or control other people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

 

This continues until someone blows up!  Usually by saying or doing something so outrageous and often disrespectful.  This can either catapult the argument into something much, much worse; or it can end the pursuit.  Unfortunately, it can also end the relationship.

Our brains and our nervous system have seen fit to hard wire our emotional experience such that if we see our prey escaping, we think we need to run harder.  Similarly if we ARE the prey, our brain tells us to get away from the threat even more if the threat is getting closer.  There’s not a lot we can do about our brain’s hard wiring.  However, we can train ourselves to modify this pattern.

If we can change the MEANING OF THE CHASE and the MEANING OF THE DISTANCING.   This is known in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as ‘Reframing.’  When you change the meaning of pursuing and distancing/avoiding/withdrawal behaviors it is possible to reduce your experience of threat and danger.   If you knew that the partner pursuing you simply wanted to feel connected to you, you might feel differently.  Or, if you can reframe your perception of your partner distancing as seeing someone who is afraid or ashamed; you might feel differently about continuing the intensity of your pursuit

 

The best way of minimizing the sense of threat is to get positive experiences with turning toward your pursuer to become interested in what he or she wants.  Or to accumulate positive experiences of slowing down the energy of your pursuit to use some of the skills mentioned in my ‘Power & Compassion Couples Communication’ course.

“I want to see myself having radical acceptance and compassion for myself and others, as is, in this moment.”

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

parkingmeter

How can I get that 2 second window of time to think before I act?

Many people know that it is crucial to take a Time Out before major bad things are said or done, but when that time comes in a passionate exchange with their partner, they seem absolutely incapable of stopping themselves.  When adrenaline runs high in your body, you’ll find that even though you have sworn in the past to take time outs, that you simply had to have that last zinger, question or comment.

Well oops, that was the proverbial last straw that broke all hell loose!  The trick it seems is to recognize when your amygdala-pituitary-hippocampal-adrenal glands are beginning to ramp up.  And, you can do that without a crystal ball, a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree.  It just takes a little re-engineering of where you direct your attention.  Even though you’re thinking, “How could he be so uncaring about how I feel?”  Or, “Why is she ruining a perfectly good evening?”, you could be redirecting your attention to your physiology, your own thinking and your own thinking.  ptdwnbinocs

You can put down the binoculars looking at your partner’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors and pick up a mirror to become aware of your own thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physiology.

By physiology I mean:

  • Breathing and heart rate changes.
  • Feeling electricity in my head or body.
  • Flushed or hot face.  Dry mouth. Headache.
  • Clenched teeth or hands.
  • Feeling frozen or numb, confused, head spinning, head fog and funnel vision.
  • Pacing, waving hands, raising voice, leaning toward partner, pounding table or wall.
  • And you’ll add more…

By redirecting my attention to my thinking such as:

  • Thinking about saying, “I’m done.”, “I’m out of here.”, “I can’t handle this any longer.”
  • Imagining how I can best lie or hurt my partner.
  • Feeling powerless.
  • Thinking about saying how my partner started this, or how he or she does it worse than me.
  • Feeling like a victim and that I am innocent of what my partner thinks.  I’m misunderstood.
  • Feeling offended because, “I didn’t have a mean intention to harm my partner.”
  • And you’ll add more…

Nothing short of an absolute surrender of your will to control the situation will allow you to take a Time Out and prevent a lot more damage to the relationship!  You will not do this unless you have some experience with the practice of taking a Time Out.   I tell couples in my monthly seminar to practice taking Time Outs on small disagreements at least twice in the next month.  It’s like a fire drill in that couples get to practice the requirements of the Time Out agreement they made with one another.

No one gives up their self-will to manage threatening situations without some level of trust that it will still work out better.  If you are willing to see that using your usual style has usually failed, then perhaps you can try something new.  For the Time Out to work both partners make the agreement out loud to each other.  If you cannot execute the Time Out agreement there are a myriad of possible reasons, some of which I’ll briefly list here: pure selfishness, alcoholism or addiction, mental health disorders such as borderline, narcissism, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) bipolar disorder or side effects of medications and chronic lying.  For these issues one or both partners should seek professional counseling.  Using the five agreements and two skill of the Real Hope Couples Course can help couples navigate these qualities, but getting help individually is most often necessary.

I wrote the full Time Out agreement and an exercise for learning how to recognize that it’s time to stop arguing much earlier.   It’s free and it’s 9 pages of the pure practical advice for stopping arguments more quickly.

 

download_button Go HERE for this FREE download.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

 

I welcome and respond to any comments about the ideas or my methods.

I have total acceptance and compassion for myself and others, in this moment… as is.

 

EasyDoesItParkingSign

The K.I.S.S in the title refers to Keep It Simple Stupid! 

When you are given too many instructions at the same time it can be confusing.  I stood in front of that parking sign for 10 minutes and still did not know what to do.

The same is true for communication skills instruction designed to help guide you to more respectful, honest and effective ways to engage conflict with your partner.  The more emotional the conflict the more the need for simple ‘Easy Does It’ guidelines showing you almost exactly what to say when you are upset or responding to someone who is upset with you.

The first rule of my K.I.S.S. is that you can’t have a productive talk with a ‘walking lit stick of dynamite.’  That means that when adrenaline is running high and one partner is very scared, irritable, withdrawn or hostile there must be a cooling off period varying from 15 minutes to an hour.

Use Time Out when either party is unable to listen.

This is known as a Time Out.  It’s an agreement that both parties have previously made that states that anyone can call a temporary halt to a dialogue, as long as they come back to it within an hour.  The actual agreement is the first one listed in this downloadable 2 page summary of agreements HERE.

The second rule is that if it is the partner who is angry and you it is really important to not defend yourself immediately.  Later, you’ll have a chance to say what you want your partner to understand, but first you must do three things

  • Own what is true about your behavior that is upsetting your partner.  e.g. “Yes, I’m late.”
  • Acknowledge what your partner is thinking or feeling. e.g. “It makes sense you’re upset.”
  • Apologize if it’s appropriate and say what you’re going to do about it.  “I’m sorry, I’ll be more mindful of that in the future.”

Do these three things BEFORE you explain or defend yourself.  Having done so, you are earned your right to be listened to fully.   Click_For_What_To_Do.mp4 then come back to this page.

Let me review the simplicity of how to respond to an angry partner.

  1. If you or your partner is too hostile or withdrawn then take a Time Out for less than an hour.
  2. If you’re partner is angry at you then help him or her feel that you’re taking them seriously and not simply arguing.
  3. You do this by Owning what you did, how it affected the other and said what you’ll do about that.

That’s plenty to digest for now.  I will explain the Easy Does It K.I.S.S guidelines for expressing yourself in a separate post.  I’ll leave you with my new signature mantra below which helps me a lot.

I have acceptance & compassion for self & others as is, in this moment.

 

balance_13780Being able to balance focusing on your partner’s thoughts and feelings with your own is an emotional intelligence skill.  Sometimes the problem is that you may not put your needs or requests out there to your partner, until you’re so upset that you blow up or withdraw.  Other times, it is because your partner just will not give you the space, or time or attention to what you think, feel and want.  The RealHope Couples Course can help with both of these problems.

MyNeeds2YourNeeds

 

Surrender your right to be heard first, so that your partner becomes capable of listening to you.  It seems odd that to become heard by your partner; your best approach is to give up your need to be heard first!

The RealHope Couples Course outlines how to thoroughly listen to an angry or hurt partner, so that your experience is given the full space for expressing.

 

 

St. Francis of Assisi wrote a thousand years ago,

“Seek first to understand others before seeking understanding for yourself.

Seek first to give comfort to others before seeking comfort for yourself.”

This advice is more than simply spiritual in nature.  It is really very, very practical as a way to proceed with anyone you are having a conflict with who you’d like to eventually listen to you.    Listen to what seems important, and to what seems a problem to the other.   Address those issues and then speak your experience, thoughts, feelings, needs and requests.

Get these cards

Sounds simple, but for many people, they just cannot keep their mouths shut past the moment they think they hear something they disagree with.  The skill here is to ‘wrestle your lips to the ground.’  Couples that are easily triggered by each other may need some external structure like the popular ‘Listening Exchange’ method.  The instructional cards are shown to the left.  The cards will be provided with the full Real Hope Couples 10 Week Course available in the late summer of 2015.

Get cards with manualThis is your standard Active Listening instructions you might read about in any communication skills manual, or eventually hear at most marriage counseling sessions’ with just a few tweaks from me based on my experience.   Small changes in the protocol include keeping the speaker generally limited to no more than one minute at a time of speaking before the Listener reflects what was said.  There are specific instructions for allowing a Listener to interrupt a Speaker and there is an agreement that includes a trigger phrase that both parties agree upon that can initiate the ‘Listening Exchange’ at any time!

Just think about it.  Any time you want you can say a sentence that you and your partner agreed will allow BOTH of your points of view to be fully aired in a safe way.

Download a free .pdf of the instructions for
practicing the Listening Exchange.
Relationship Communication Skills

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Get notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop
 HERE.

pour-gas-on-fire2   The phrase, “That’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” absolutely describes what happens when defending and explaining yourself are your first words used to calm your partner.

The more you explain, the more trouble you seem to be in with your partner.  The more you say your point of view, the more angry your partner seems to become.

Just think of how you respond to someone you are upset with when that person immediately begins explaining and defending the behavior.  It does not calm you.  In fact, it usually makes you more mad.

Explaining and defending your behavior
ACTUALLY MAKES THINGS WORSE!

In medicine they call it an ‘iatragenic effect.’   When the attempts of the doctor to heal actually become the source of a new symptom or illness.  For instance, you go to the doctor for a pimple.  She prescribes a medication that then causes you to break out in a rash.    There was no bad intention.  The doctor did not mean to cause more symptoms, but nonetheless is responsible for having done so.

When your partner is upset with you, and you’ve got adrenaline pumping through your body, and you are angry, hurt, scared or confused; the first response most people think of is a self-centered one.  That is the view of the situation that I see.  Not the view of the situation as my partner may see it.  Well, at that precise time the partner is trying to get his, or her, thoughts and feelings across.  If I interrupt that effort by bringing in my experience and point of view and my thoughts and my feelings; then the dialogue necessarily becomes a conflict.  My view or your view.

It is your first response, and your FIRST WORDS, that will show your partner what is most important to you.

Are you more interested in defending your good name than

in dealing with how you have affected your partner?

            Do my first words convey that:

          A) My highest priority is defending myself.  Or do my first words show that-

         B) I care about how my partner feels and how I affected him or her.    

As long as I think that defending and explaining myself is the solution for conflicts that I get into with my partner I am ensuring that the conflict will continue.  If I insist that you understand me before I’ve given you the experience of feeling understood by me; then I will continue to find myself at odds with my partner.  St. Francis to the rescue!  “Seek first to understand others, before seeking understanding for self.   Seek first to comfort others before seeking comfort for self.”  This means addressing the concerns of your partneras if they were true.’    The truth is simply that your partner thinks and feels these things.   So, it is true by definition…. that is what your partner thought and felt.  This does not define or convict you of anything.  Listening all the way through and trying to see what you can agree with and have some empathy for the partner’s experience is going to allow your partner to calm down and eventually hear out your experience, thoughts and feelings.

There will be some readers that will insist that the OTHER partner starts this process first.  Those readers are waiting for their partners statements of apologies, empathy, responsibility and amends.  The attitude seems to be, “You first!”  For these folks I can only reference Ghandi when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Or another saying that goes, “If change is to happen, let it begin with me.”  To these people that are still waiting I ask, “Do you want a fuller, compassionate and responsible dialogue with your partner over a contentious issue to happen sooner…. or later?”

If you do decide that you want to be instrumental in calming your partner during conflicts then you are ready to learn the 3 Step technique of addressing three things before you talk about your point of view.  It’s all about the sequencing and the order with which you respond to someone who is upset with you.   The RealHope Couples Course uses a metaphor to help remember to do a few things before you try to do another thing.  It just works better that way.

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Answer: Take turns, show some respect, make time for each other to speak and mean what you say, and do what you say. While those words are easily said, they can be hard to follow when your partner says or does something that just makes you crazy with frustration.AsianCoupleDistant

         Imagine driving in city traffic and there were no traffic signals working at any of the intersections. We would all be on hyper-alert at every signal. When the stop signals are working we basically trust that other people in cars will respect the rules of the road, we The Real Hope Couples Course consists of five agreements between you and your partner; and learning two skills. Are you in control of yourself, or not? If you make an agreement, and it turns out that you cannot keep your agreements then you must be out of your own control. If you still want to gain control over the behavior, professional help is probably needed.

The five agreements are:

  • Time Out: Either partner can stop a conflict and leave the room or house when arguments feel overwhelming. I will stop talking and let you leave the room when you say, “I need a Time Out, I’ll be back in an hour.”
  • Listening Exchange: To take turns listening to each other, reflecting what you hear.   There is less conflict when we are clear who has the floor as a speaker.
  • Weekly Meeting Time: To spend weekly time together to speak safely about the relationship, or any other concerns.
  • Respect: Commit to allowing your partner to say when your tone of voice feels disrespectful.
  • Integrity: What if I can’t do it? I will seek help if my behavior is out of my own control and my agreements are not reasonably kept. 

The full agreements used in the RealHope Couples Course, are included for free in the link HERE.  

These five agreements assure that there is a structure to move through conflicts. Someone who makes these agreements is interested in assuring that his, or her, partner feels safe to express their thoughts, feelings and needs without ill consequence.        

The Two Skills central to the RealHope Couples Course are:

  • How to respond to somebody who is angry, hurt or disappointed with you.
  • How to express your thoughts, feelings and desires when you are angry or hurt.

The result of practicing these two core skills is that whenever there is anger, disappointment or hurt in your relationship; there is a simple path to listening and speaking that is most likely to be successful. And, you also have an agreement and path to handle the moments when communication is not being successful.

“If change is to happen….Let it begin with me!” – Al-Anon slogan

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”     – Mahatma GhandiAsianCoupleHappy

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

 Anger Management skills can be helpful for people ranging from the mildly miffed to the violently vengeful.  You do not need to be in a physically violent relationship to benefit from understanding and learning about communicating anger and hurt feelings constructively.

I’m just expressing my feelings.   Isn’t that O.K.?

VulnerabilityGood15People think they are expressing their true feelings by being aggressive or hostile.  That’s partly true.  But, they are missing what is making them so agitated and controlling.  Like a pained, sad face underneath a clown’s mask; most aggression and hostility is a defense and protection against feeling vulnerable feelings such as fear, shame, pain, weak or powerlessness.    I’ve worked with men who are violent or hostile for 28 years and these men improve their relationships as they learn how to tolerate these vulnerable feelings in themselves and in their partner.

TranslationCartoon2

 

This blog is dedicated to helping people communicate better and improve their relationships.  There is so much unnecessary suffering and conflict and I believe the information, skills, agreements and resources I’ve developed can help.  Folks can use these skills to improve, or even to save, their relationships.

Sincerely,

Marc Sadoff, MSW, BCD

 

If you are scared of your partner’s angry behavior then reach out to your local shelter, to me, or call the National Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233)   You can read about abuse at their website- www.TheHotline.org

Or, read a little more on my site about abuse HERE. 

 

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.