Psychological Solutions For A Better Life

Following on from the previous post, there are some more 'NO-NO's' that, if you fall in the trap of using them, will certainly bring discord or stress into your relationships.

Conflicted Communication
Fighting Dirty

Fighting dirty is a recipe for disconnecting rather than for CONNECTING. It actually indicates that the attacking person has very little self-awareness, and very few skills with which to deal with conflict situations. Rather than expressing how annoyed, hurt, or exasperated he/she is, an attack on the partner’s person-hood is chosen. Common examples are: “You are not a real man, you can’t stand up to your brother”, “You can’t even string proper sentences together”.

Generalisations are often used in relationships to give an attack or accusation some punch. Words such as “all,” “every”, “never”, “everyone”, “always” are unlikely to be correct and are quite discouraging. Examples like “You never call”, or “all men are bad”, or “everyone hates me”, discount the many times the partner has made an effort. Other generalisations are words such as: should, must, ought, have to, need to, necessary, could/couldn’t, can/can’t, may/ may not, and possible/impossible. They imply that there is an invisible authority that prevents a person from acting autonomously – and not obeying to that authority could have grave consequences. For example: “I have to leave”, or “you should ring your parents”. These generalisations can easily be challenged by asking ‘what would happen if you did / didn’t, or “what prevents you”, or “what would happen if you could”.

Giving Advice
Giving advice is an often used block to communication. Instead of listening and understanding your partner’s situation, you jump in with giving advice and trying to fix the situation. Your partner’s need to be heard is ignored. Giving advice is only acceptable if your partner is asking for it. It is most likely that your partner has thought about possible solutions, but may not feel ready or strong enough to take action just yet. An indicator that your advice is unwelcome is when you get a “yes, but…” response. In your eagerness to fix the problem, you overlooked that your partner just might have wanted a bit of sympathy or wanted to be allowed to feel miserable or depressed.

When you find yourself judging what your partner is saying, you have stopped listening to what he/she is trying to convey. Instead, you are looking for evidence that you “have been right all along” and that he/she “is to blame for the dispute”.  Rather than listening, ammunition is collected with which to then attack, criticise, or judge the partner. Examples are: “That was stupid”, “From the beginning you have been irresponsible”, “You are always so insecure”.

Mind reading
When you are mind reading you are suspicious of what you partner is saying and you look for the “real meaning” behind words or actions. It’s a way of making things up in your own mind (in some circles that is called hallucination!), without checking out with your partner what he/she meant. Mind reading kills intimate and meaningful communication between couples because your communication and emotional states are based on imaginary ‘stuff’ created in your own head. Examples of mind reading are:

“ You don’t really want to know how I feel”
“ I know what you are thinking”
“ You don’t really mean what you say”

Lost Performative
A lost performative is when a value judgment is made in which it remains unclear who the person is that makes the judgment. It’s an indirect way of venting one’s negative feelings – pretending that there is somewhere a law against a certain action.  Example: “It’s bad to ring people after 9 o’clock”,
“Only rude people make visits unannounced”. Often the person who uses statements like that, feels powerless and refers to an un-identified authority to bring his/her point across. It can be easily countered by asking “Who says?”, or “according to whom”?

After all we have discussed so far, it is hopefully obvious that sarcasm is another form of attack that evokes a defensive behaviour i.e. withdrawal or counter attack and prevents connecting. Examples for sarcasm are: “Don’t get your knickers in a twist”, “Keep your cool”, “Get off your high horse”.

Placating takes place when one partner is requesting a particular action, is commenting on a promise not held, or is challenging a particular behaviour and the other partner is quickly responding with an apology or agrees. Example: “You are right darling, I have to be more attentive”. Thus understanding of the problem is signaled, but changes are not being made.

This concludes the 'What not to do' series. You can make best use of this and the previous Part I post by reflecting on your own experience. Which of the NO-NO's do you use in your relationships? In what situations do you do that? Do any of your close friends respond in any of these ways?


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