First Published on KSL.COMQuestion:
I read your article last week on communication. My husband and I do pretty well, but we often get into a fight when I try to tell him about something that's bothering me. I try not to sound attacking, but he always seems to get defensive and then I wish I hadn't said anything. Should I just keep my frustrations in and deal with them myself or is there a way I can approach him that won't create conflict?
I don't recommend that you just keep your frustrations in and try to ignore them or sweep them under the rug. There are kind, honest, healthy ways to discuss what bothers you that won’t create conflict. Hopefully you got the worksheet on Validating Communication Formula from our website last week. It is a great place to start.
It might also help to learn some basics about men and communication. According to Dr. John Lund, author and psychologist, men are naturally defensive all the time, which means when you try to talk to your husband about something that's bothering you, his initial reaction will almost always be defensive. They are subconsciously programmed to defend, which makes sense because of their protector role. They also have fear around not being good enough, like we all do.
If you have something you want him to work on, you might want to start the conversation with something he does well or that you love about him. Or start by asking questions about how he feels about the situation. Listen to him and honor and respect his right to see the situation the way he does. This will ease his fear and make him feel validated.
It's always a good idea to start every conversation with some validation.
Then, most men want to know three things about a conversation before it starts. If you will tell your husband these three things up front, both of you will be happier with the outcome.
John Gottman, a leading authority on relationships, wrote the book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" (New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1999). In it he writes about 650 couples that he studied for up to 14 years and how starting conversations right affected their relationships. He found that "96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first 3 minutes! A harsh startup simply dooms you to failure. So if you begin a discussion that way, you might as well pull the plug, take a breather, and start over." Try these three things the next time you start a conversation with your husband and see if it doesn’t go much smoother.
1. Is this going to be painful?
Nobody likes to be blindsided by criticism. Think about what you want to tell your husband and mentally rate it on a scale from 1-10, 10 being something he would be very hurt by. Let's say you decide it's a 4. You could approach him by saying something like, "Honey, I would like to talk to you about something and I would say it's a 4 (so it’s not a big deal and won’t hurt). When would be a good time to do that?"
He then has the option to talk to you now or giving you a time later that would be better for him. Asking a permission question will lessen his defensiveness and make him feel respected. If it's not going to be very painful, most of the time he'll want to talk about it right now, but if you've given it a pretty high score, he might want time to prepare himself emotionally to hear what you have to say.
He might also have a lot on his mind or be in the middle of a project right now, so no matter what the score, it would be better for him to talk about it later. However, if he decides to talk later, tell him not to worry or second guess what it is about and start getting defensive before he even knows. Let him know there is nothing to worry about until then. Ask him for a time within the next 24 hours and make sure it happens.
2. How long is it going to take?
Men use a third fewer words than women, so they hit information overload long before a woman is done talking. This causes them to tune out and even feel trapped by a long conversation. Decide beforehand how much time you think you'll need (keep it short) and let him know. So again, you might start your conversation by saying, "Honey, I would like to talk to you about something and I would say it's a 4. It will take about 15 minutes. When would be a good time to do that?" It is very important for you to stay within the time limit you give him. He needs to trust that when you say 15 minutes, you don't really mean an hour. Give him a realistic time frame and stick to it. If you do this every time you talk, he will trust you more and he will feel more respected.
3. What do you want from me when this conversation is over?
Men are also natural problem solvers, and this shows up in most conversations. When a woman talks to a man about something that's bothering her, he automatically tries to solve the problem or fix the situation. He even feels responsible to do this. Most men get bothered when their wife isn’t happy because they feel subconsciously responsible for it. Usually women just want to be heard and understood and don’t expect anything.
Be careful not to expect your husband to be able to read your mind on this though, and you also must know what you want before starting the conversation. Some ideas of what you might want are solutions, feedback, his opinion or even just to listen. Make sure you clearly communicate what you want up front. When you ask for something, make sure you are focused on future behavior (that he has control over) and not just complaining about his past behavior (which he cannot fix or control).
If you put these tips together, your conversation might now start like this, "Honey, I would like to talk to you about something and I would say it's a 4. It will only take about 15 minutes and I just want you to listen to how I'm feeling and do one small specific thing differently moving forward. Is this a good time or when would be better?" When the time comes to have this conversation, follow the communication formula worksheet step by step.
It would be amazing to reduce your misunderstandings from 40 out of every 200 to only three out of every 200, and Lund says that making sure you start this way and say exactly what you mean (using content communication from last week) can do that. Start practicing this with easy conversations about a topic that doesn't have too much negative emotion around it. Work your way up to the touchy subjects. You may even want to practice with visualization first.
You can talk about anything if you come from trust and love instead of fear and it won't create conflict. It just takes practice.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.claritypointcoaching.com. Lisa Stirland is also a Claritypoint coach. You can learn more about John Lund at www.drlund.com.
First Published on KSL.COM
My wife and I really struggle with communication. We are so different in our communication styles and sometimes we just don't get each other. We've tried reading books and doing what they suggest, like reflective listening, but it still isn't working very well. Do you have some other suggestions to help us work through things better?
Communication is a critical part of a good relationship, and it sounds like you've been working on it, which is the first step in the right direction. It might also help to know some of the differences in how men and women communicate and how to use what Dr. John Lund, therapist and author, calls "content communication," which helps eliminate misunderstandings.
As you have probably noticed, women typically want to talk more than men, and that's why you may sometimes feel like you've reached your limit long before your wife is done. This is normal, and your wife should not feel like it's because you don't care or you're not interested. She needs to understand it's a guy thing.
Lund says that communication signals involve much more than just words. We communicate with our body language, facial expression and tone of voice too. Men, on average, use 7,000 communication signals per day and women use 21,000 (see Pease, Alan and Barbara, "Why Men Don't Listen and Why Women Can't Read Maps," New York: Broadway Books, 2001). So it's no wonder that men hit their limit long before women do. By the time you're done, she's just getting started.
Another way that men and women communicate differently is that efficiency of words is very important for men, but not so much for women. Lund has found that men tend to become impatient with inefficiency from other people, and then they start to finish sentences for others and interrupt. This is something you can be aware of when talking to you wife. It's also true that women interrupt, but for a different reason. They usually interrupt to add more detail which, by the way, men perceive as unnecessary.
Does your wife ever feel like she has to pry information out of you? This could be because of your need for efficiency and her need for more detail. Also notice that when you talk, it's probably mostly about giving information and your wife will probably talk more about feelings and emotions as a way to process them. Neither is right or wrong, it's just something you both need to be aware of when trying to connect with each other.
One last difference is something Lund calls personalization. You may have heard it said that men are good at compartmentalizing — taking all of the experiences throughout the day, putting each of them into separate compartments and not letting them mix together. Most women are not good at this.
Personalization is when women make connections with all the information they process, and then they integrate this information and internalize it. Here's an example. Let's say you're having dinner with some friends (at their house) and you say to your wife, "Wow, this pie is really good, don't you think?" Because your wife personalizes, she's thinking, "He wants me to make pie like this." She has gone through an entire process of connecting your statement with a lot of her own thoughts and then applying it all to herself.
If she had said the same thing to you, you probably would have thought, "Yep, good pie." This is also why you and your wife could have a small argument in the morning and you're OK with being intimate that night but she isn't. You have compartmentalized (it's two completely different situations) and she has internalized (the two situations get mixed together and affect each other). This tendency towards personalization sometimes means women see things that aren't really there.
This is something we have to work on. We have to learn to step back and make sure what we are thinking is accurate.
Now, think about a time when your wife asked you to go somewhere with her and your response was, "Yah sure" but your tone of voice was not very excited. Your wife is getting a mixed message because your communication signals (words and tone of voice) don't match up. So which one does she believe? We pay more attention to facial expressions and body language (55 percent) than to tone of voice (37 percent) or the actual words (8 percent) (see Smith, Dennis and Williamson, L. Keith, "Interpersonal Communication," Dubuque, Iowa: W.C. Brown Co., 1981). Your wife would probably assume that you didn't want to go because she believes your tone of voice more than your words. But it's still a guessing game, and we get it wrong a lot.
This is where what Lund calls "content communication" comes in handy. It's really quite a simple idea. All you have to do is completely ignore all communication signals except for the actual words. This means that no matter how much your body language and tone of voice conflict with your words, we only believe your words.
You and your wife would have to agree ahead of time to communicate this way. Lund, in his book "For All Eternity," says, "As content communicators, you must own your words and your feelings. Remember, you are under obligation to say what you mean and to be held accountable for your words."
Through several studies he has done, he found that if we pay attention to all of the communication signals, we misunderstand each other at least 20 percent of the time. But if we use content communication, we misunderstand only three out of every 200 communications. One of my clients has tried this with her husband, and he loves it. He will ask if she wants to go to a movie and reminds her to use content communication — then he trusts that he's getting an honest answer.
Changing the way you communicate is difficult because it's hard to override your subconscious habits and hold back your responses to body language and tone of voice. It is going to take some practice to get there, but I think this is a great place to start. Also make sure to download the validating conversations worksheet from our website. Couples who know how to have validating conversations can work through almost anything.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.claritypointcoaching.com. Lisa Stirland is also a Claritypoint coach. You can get more information about John Lund and his communication tips at www.drlund.com.
First Published on KSL.COMQuestion:
I have a friend who is battling terrible depression, and I often say the wrong things. I want him to know I care and I’d like to help, but I don’t think I’m getting that across and often stick my foot in my mouth. Do you have any advice for how to show up for him better? What can I say to someone who is depressed that would help?
To answer your question, I recruited help from one of my Claritypoint coaches, Greg Thredgold, who has suffered from depression for over 40 years. Thankfully, through the grace of God and a medical miracle, Greg has overcome depression and anxiety and found a passion for helping others deal with this terrifying, lonely and misunderstood disease. The tips in this article come from him.
Just so you know, the number of people diagnosed with depression is increasing by 20 percent a year. “At this rate of increase, depression will be the 2nd most disabling condition behind heart disease in the world by 2020” — Seligman, M.E.P. (1990). This means, like it or not, depression will be affecting you or someone you care about soon. It would be good for all of us to have greater understanding and more compassion for those who are affected.
Greg said, “The life of a depressed is a lonely hell with no hope in site. For 40 years I found myself walking on a tightrope between giving up and seeing how much more I could take. It is a life of often being ignored by family, friends, and others because they don’t know what to do or say.”
Greg said that when well-meaning people would ask “How are you?” his responses were usually not the truth. He translated what certain responses from a depressed person really meant.
Obviously, a depressed person's world is darker than we realize.
David Burns said: “Depression can seem worse than terminal cancer, because most cancer patients feel loved and have hope and self-esteem.”
Greg said, “I was never looking for my family, friends, or others to have the perfect thing to say or do, and neither are the depressed people in your life. They just don’t want to be treated like a leper. When people don’t know what to do, they often do or say nothing. This means they are letting their fear of saying the wrong thing stop them from showing love at all. This is what you cannot do.”
“When a depressed person says, ‘I’m fine,’ look them in the eye and say, ‘No you're not!’ then give them a hug, listen, and just be there. I am only here today because of the tender mercies of a few people who did just this.”
He encourages us to reach out to those who are silently screaming for help and even when we feel uncomfortable, show love anyway.
Is there anything we should NOT say to a depressed person?
What to say instead: “What can I do to help?”
What to say instead: “I think it’s great that you are trying to get better and working with your doctor. I’ve heard medication can really help some people.”
What to say instead: “I’m not going to abandon you, even if your depression frustrates me.”
What to say instead: “I have a hard time understanding depression. Is there a place I can go or a book I can read that will help me learn more about it?”
What to say instead: "I'm praying for you."
Is there anything we could say to a depressed person that might help?
“Most people never say anything and basically ignore us. I was so grateful to the people who at least talked to me even if they said the wrong thing. One very special person in my life took the time to ask this question. ‘I don’t know what to say or how to deal with you sometimes. I get scared that I will say the wrong thing. Can you please give me some suggestions on how I can best help you without making it worse?’ This was the only person, other than my immediate family, that ever asked that question, and it meant the world to me. Please take the time to ask this question of the depressed people in your life.”
Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern. Just the slow erosion of the self, as insidious as any cancer. And, like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience. A room in hell with only your name on the door. -- author unknown
“If you have never experienced depression, you cannot possibly understand what it’s like and you might not have the right words, but trust me, just being there is enough. When I was in the depths of depression, there was never a long line of people at the door wanting to help me. But everyone that did was an angel sent from above regardless of what was said or how it was said. Sometimes they said nothing and just listened, which literally saved me at times.”
On top of the chemical depression, your friend also deals with shame and fear that he is inadequate and even inferior to you because he struggles with this. He needs to know that you see his value accurately, as the same as yours and everyone else’s. We all struggle with a fear we aren’t good enough, but this is magnified a hundred times in a depressed person.
You might want to remind him that depression is a class (a really hard class) he got signed up for (here in the classroom of life) but it doesn’t affect his value at all. You might tell him he is an amazingly strong soul and you admire his strength to keep fighting through it.
If you are interested in learning more about Greg’s battle with depression and download the do's and don'ts of depression, visit his website and take the fear assessment.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a coach and speaker.
This was first published on KSL.COM
There is a manager I have to deal with in my office who is driving me crazy. She creates problems out of thin air and blames them on me. She sometimes attacks me with ridiculous accusations. I’m apparently the only one with a target on my back, so no one can validate what I’m experiencing. I really don’t know what to do. I can’t leave this job and I can’t have a rational conversation with her because she denies it all. Any advice?
This advice would apply to anyone who has to work (or live) with someone they don’t like and struggle to get along with. We all experience people problems, therefore learning to cope with difficult people is an important life skill.
The famous author J.G. Holland said, “The secret of many a man's success in the world resides in his insight into the moods of men and his tact in dealing with them.”
Here are nine tips for coping with the difficult people in your life:
1) Understand most bad behavior is based in the difficult person’s fear about themselves. Even when they are attacking you or casting you as the bad guy, they wouldn’t be doing this if they weren’t so scared of looking bad or being taken from. Everyone on this planet is scared of failure (looking bad) and loss (being taken from) to some degree, and these two fears are behind most bad behavior. Step back from every situation and ask yourself, “What is this person scared of?” This manager obviously sees you as a threat in some way. Why? Understanding her fear issues will help you with the next tip ….
2) Don’t take it personally. Just because she is blaming you and casting you as the bad guy doesn’t mean you have to take it, pick it up and own it. You don’t even have to be upset by it. You could let it bounce off you and deny her actions any power to hurt, diminish or bother you. You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.
There is an old legend that a man started insulting and verbally abusing Buddha. Buddha let the man go on for a while, then asked, “May I ask you a question?” The man responded, ‘What?” “If someone offers you a gift and you decline to accept it, who does it belong to?” The man said, “Then it belongs to the person who offered it. He must keep it.” “That is correct. “ And with that Buddha walked away.
3) Look for the lesson. I recently taught the principle of not taking things personally to a corporate group. One of the "difficult to work with" employees in the group immediately latched onto the idea of not taking things personally to excuse herself from being responsible for her bad behavior. She basically decided to dismiss anyone who had a problem with her. This wasn’t what I meant. When people attack you, complain about you, or are upset over your behavior, you had better step back and check this feedback for accuracy.
In a place of trust, seeing life as a classroom, not a test, where your value isn’t in question, you should step back and look at any and all feedback to see if there is truth behind it. Make sure you are mindful of how your behavior affects others. This experience is in your life to teach you something. What is it showing you about yourself? The easiest thing to change in any situation is you. Is there any way you could behave differently to improve this situation?
4) Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. What is going on in their world? Are they dealing with a family issue, a divorce or health problems? Are they struggling with their job or clashing with the boss and taking it out on you? If you can put yourself in their shoes, you may gain some compassion and clarity about what’s really going on. Then you might see a way to help them and solve the issue for you both.
5) Don’t react impulsively. An emotional reaction when you are annoyed never produces the best results. Give it a little time and space to make sure you see the situation accurately and are not coming from fear before you say or do anything. But don’t let the problem fester too long, either. It’s better to tackle bad behavior sooner than to dig up something that happened weeks ago.
6) Stop talking about it. If you are talking about this difficult person with everyone who will listen, you are adding negative energy to the problem. Check why you feel the need to do this. Are you doing this to get validation or feel important? Consider focusing on finding solutions instead of gossiping.
7) Treat this person with respect and kindness even if they don’t deserve it. This is the best approach because they will never expect it! Kindness may actually throw them off their game completely. Nothing changes a negative situation faster than refusing to participate in it. It takes two to fight. Look for good in this person and compliment them often. Dig deep and find something in this person to appreciate and be grateful for. The more you thank them for good behavior, the more they will behave that way toward you. Kindness will make it very hard for them to treat you badly in the future.
8) Have a mutually validating conversation. If you decide you must have a conversation with this person about their behavior, follow these steps for best results:
You have more power to change this situation than you think, but a scared, angry, victim mentality will rob you of that power. Your power comes by choosing to act from a place of strength, fearlessness, wisdom and love.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and is a coach, speaker and corporate trainer.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.