Tag Archive for arguments

Marital Conflict & the Fly on the Wall

Every married couple will experience conflict. Spouses disagree. Fortunately, the University of Waterloo is discovering ways to promote the successful resolution of that conflict. Here are two research based exercises they suggest for resolving marital conflict in a positive way:

  • The Fly on the Wall. When you find yourself in conflict with your spouse, take a breath, step back, and look at it from the perspective of a third party (the proverbial “fly on the wall”). Stepping out of your personal perspective and intentionally looking at the situation from a third person perspective leads to less biased decisions and judgments. It leads to “wiser reasoning” as well. Specifically, it Pointing fingers at each otherincreases a person’s awareness of the limits of their own knowledge and of the changing context of the conflict. It contributes to the person’s willingness to acknowledge their partner’s point of view; and, perhaps most important, it makes a person more willing to seek a way of integrating their two points of view into a common solution. That “fly on the wall” is a smart dude…and can help reduce the conflict in your marriage. (Read a review of the study here.)
  • Go Back to the Future. Another way to reduce conflict is to focus on the future. Imagine how you will feel one year from now. By doing so, you shift away from the current emotions of conflict and disagreement and allow yourself to focus more on the foundational emotions of your relationship. Couples that intentionally take time to focus on the future of their relationship during conflict become more positive about their relationship. They open up more to forgiving and being forgiven. They even reinterpret the conflict in a more positive light. So take a trip to the future and come back to a more positive relationship. (Check out this study here.)

Maybe, if you really want to resolve conflict quickly, you can focus on the future of a fly on the wall…never mind, that doesn’t end well. Just take a third person perspective of your conflict (as though you were a fly on the wall) and focus on the future of your relationship. With those two exercises you can enjoy a long, loving relationship with your spouse!

Arguing With Your Spouse: A Pain in the Back…or Worse!

The University of CA (Berkeley) and Northwestern University recently published the results of a study following 156 heterosexual couples for 20 years. The authors examined how the couple’s way of managing “conflict conversations” impacted their health over time. They found a link between “stonewalling” (which includes barely speaking, little to no eye contact, emotionally shutting down) and back pain. They also found angry outbursts were associated with cardiovascular problems. Let me repeat those results so you don’t miss it.  Pointing fingers at each other

  • The emotional withdrawal of “shut up and put up” is a pain in the back. It may contribute to backaches, stiff necks, stiff joints, and muscle tension over time.
  • On the other hand, flying off the handle with angry outbursts can break your heart. It may contribute to chest pain, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems over time.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my marriage to be “a pain in the back” or a “broken heart!”  So, what can we do when we disagree or argue to prevent this?

  • Remember your love for your spouse. Recall attributes and character traits you adore about your spouse. Keep your gratitude for your spouse’s positive contributions to your life in the forefront of your mind.(Read The Killer Wall in Your Marriage for more info)
  • Listen intently for the sole purpose of understanding your spouse. Your differences of opinion open the door for you to know our spouse more intimately. Your spouse becomes an open book voicing her opinion, thoughts, and desires. Listen carefully. You will learn a lot and grow more intimate as you listen with the sole intent of understanding your spouse. (Read Go Ahead & Argue With Honor for more)
  • Postpone your own agenda until your spouse feels emotionally validated and understood. Don’t even try to explain your side of the situation until you can restate what your spouse has said and your spouse responds with “Yes. You got it. Now you know how I feel!” (For more read Make Your Argument the Best Part of Your Day)
  • Breathe to stay calm. Men, especially, have a tendency to move into a fight or flight mode during disagreements. When you reach this point, you no longer think rationally. You simply defend, fight to win, or run. Breathing can help you stay calm, rational, able to listen, and compromise. Breathe.
  • Soothe your spouse, as well. Be aware of your spouse’s sensitivities and don’t push her buttons. Respond in love by respecting your spouse’s vulnerabilities. If you notice you or your spouse “losing your cool,” take a break, express some affection, or tell a joke—anything to help restore a sense of calm to both you and your spouse.
  • Allow your spouse to influence you. Sometimes your spouse may make a good point (I know, it’s surprising). Sometimes your spouse may actually be right! Sometimes they may simply have a different opinion than you…and neither of you are wrong. Enjoy the difference. Remain humble enough to admit his/her wisdom. Allow his/her opinion to influence your responses and actions. Doing so expresses love.

Follow these 6 tips and your marriage will not become a pain in the back, nor will it break your heart.

For a Healthy Marriage Complain

Let’s face it. No matter how much you love your spouse, he will drive you crazy. At other times, she will do things that frustrate you. Somehow these moments need to be addressed in order to maintain a healthy marriage. If not addressed, these frustrations will erode your Pointing fingers at each othermarriage. People in healthy marriages address these frustrations and concerns with complaints, not criticism. It’s true. They complain. They do not criticize. There’s a big difference. A complaint addresses a specific unmet need. It identifies a specific action or statement that irritates you and leaves the need to feel loved and connected unmet. A criticism, on the other hand, attacks character. It makes a global statement about the other person’s shortcomings, demeaning or belittling them. When a discussion begins with a criticism, it is sure to end poorly. The one criticized is tempted to rise up in defense, which perpetuates a cycle of decline and disconnection unless repairs are made. So, if you want a healthy, happy marriage, state your concerns as complaints, not criticisms. Here is a format for offering a complaint rather than a criticism.

  1. Realize that your frustration or irritation speaks more about you than anyone else. Other people may see the same action and not be bothered. They may simply let it “roll off their backs.” The fact that it bothers you reveals that you have a specific need. You want to get help with this specific need, not attack your spouse.
  2. With a calm voice, state your observation of a specific action or behavior that creates a need. “When I came home from work the last two days, dishes were piled up in the sink.”
  3. State the impact this behavior has on you, but do so without placing blame. The impact will identify your emotions in response to this behavior and a need created by this behavior. “I get really frustrated when I’m tired and see all those dishes. I think about how much I have to do and I get angry.”
  4. Offer a positive way your spouse could help meet your need. “If we could all put our dishes in the dishwasher when we use them it would really help me feel better.”
  5. Ask for your spouse’s input about other ways you could work together to meet the need. “Would you be willing to do that or do you have another idea for how we could work together to keep the sink clear?”

Remember, you are approaching this situation to get a positive need met, not to attack your spouse. When you voice a concern with a complaint rather than a criticism, you are limiting the chance of a defensive response and increasing the chance of getting your need met. You also open the door to work together. You increase intimacy and trust in your marriage. So, when problems arise in your marriage, don’t criticize. Complain instead.

Avoid 5 Practices to Have a Successful Family Conflict

Yes, you can have a successful family conflict! Successful conflict increases mutual understanding and intimacy. It draws families closer together. Conflict also reveals ways to help your family grow stronger. Conflict can do this and more if we avoid five practices. If Pointing fingers at each otheryou let these five practices sneak into your family conflict, misunderstandings increase. Anger grows. Intimacy diminishes. Joy dwindles. What five practices interfere with a successful conflict? Let me share them here.

  • Mind-reading interferes with successful conflict. Mind reading occurs when one person assumes to know what the other person thinks or intends by their actions or words. A person who mind reads assumes to know the motives of the other person. Mind reading implies that “I know your thoughts, intents, and motives better than you know them yourself.” When a person practices mind reading, he passes up the opportunity to truly understand what the other person means, intends, and believes. He increases the chances of misunderstanding the other person’s motives. Instead of mind reading, ask questions. Seek to understand what the other person means and intends by their statement.
  • Labeling interferes with successful conflict. Labeling involves name-calling. It can be as subtle as “You’re irrational” or as direct as “You’re an idiot!” Labeling, name-calling, will obviously interferes with a successful conflict. Name-calling hurts. It arouses the other person’s defensiveness. It passes judgment on the other person. It implies the conflict cannot be successfully resolves since the other person is “an idiot,” a “jerk,” or…you fill in the blank. Instead of labeling and name-calling, practice kindness in the midst of conflict. Take the time to remember the other person’s positive qualities.
  • Blaming interferes with successful conflict. Sometimes people blame directly. “It’s your fault!” Sometimes we use a more subtle form of blaming, “You-tooing.” “I may have left the dishes out, but you….” “Well even if I did break the dish what does it matter? You have broken lots of dishes in the past!” By blaming we avoid responsibility. We avoid looking at our own contribution to the situation. We “pass the buck.” The person we have a conflict with is more likely to take responsibility for his role in the conflict if we willingly take responsibility for our role in the conflict. Instead of blaming, accept responsibility. Apologize as needed. Take the log out of your own eye and state what you will do differently to resolve this conflict.
  • kids arguing 5 and 6 years oldKitchen-sinking also interferes with successful conflict. Kitchen-sinking is throwing every past conflict and frustration into the sink when you are discussing one dirty dish. You’ve had the kitchen-sink experience. You and your spouse begin to argue about a single incident but, as the argument progresses, you both bring up “the time you forgot to put the gas in the car” or “the time you yelled at me for no reason” or “the time you went out with the guys instead of watching a movie with me” or…you get the idea. I’ve heard couples bring up things that happened 20 years ago when they begin to argue about a specific incident that occurred yesterday. Kitchen-sinking prevents you from resolving anything. Stop kitchen-sinking. Instead, deal with one incident at a time. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. So, once you resolve an incident put it to rest. No need to beat a dead horse. Resolve it and let it go.
  • Generalizing interferes with successful conflict. We generalize with words like “always” and “never.” “You never listen to me.” “You always get your way.” Such generalization increase defensiveness. The other person feels the need to “prove” the generalization wrong. The conflict becomes a surface battle of events rather than the deeper dialogue of resolving hurt feelings and emotional disconnection. Instead of making broad generalizations, stop to think of exceptions. Consider times that counter the generalization. Instead of making broad generalizations, deal with the incident at hand…no more, no less. It is not an issue of “always” or “never” but an issue of “today” and “this time.”

Avoiding these five practices will help you experience the true joys of a successful family conflict.

A Great Way to Win an Argument

If you have been married for any length of time, you know that arguments happen. If you have ever parented a teen, you definitely know that arguments happen. And arguments kids arguing 5 and 6 years oldescalate. Each person conspires to make the other person understand “what I’m saying.” Defensiveness increases. Voices get louder. Heart rates begin to increase. Breathing accelerates. Many people find their jaw tightening. Other body muscles begin to tighten. Each person becomes determined to prove “my position” and “defeat” the other person’s position. In other words, the argument is no longer about resolution. The body has moved into a fight or flight response. Each person is either looking to fight and win or shut down and escape. Neither choice helps resolve the disagreement. But, there is a way to win this argument. That’s right. Here is a technique you can use to win an argument, even after it has gotten to the level of “fight or flight.” This solution will sound counterintuitive, but it is the best move to make. The move…? Take a thirty minute break! I told you it sounds counterintuitive. But, it is true. The best way to resolve the disagreement and win the argument is to take a break. Dr. John Gottman wrote about this idea in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. “In one of my experiments,” he noted, “we interrupted couples after 15 minutes [of arguing] and told them we needed to adjust the equipment. We asked them not to talk about their issue, but just to read magazines for half an hour. When they started talking about their issue again, their heart rates were significantly lower and their interaction more productive.” In other words, a thirty minute break in which both parties focused on something other than the argument, helped them calm down. Their heart rate returned to normal. Their breathing returned to normal. The stress hormones pulsing through their veins decreased. As a result, they could think more clearly. It was no longer about survival. It was about resolution. They could think about their partner and what was best for their relationship instead of focusing on defending themselves. They could listen better…and understand. So, next time you find yourself in an argument with a family member that seems like it is going nowhere, take a break. In fact, take a thirty minute break and focus on something else. Then, come back, discuss the disagreement, and search for a resolution.

Quit Taking Your Spouse’s Perspective

Who should you think about during an argument with your spouse—me, you, I, us??? That is a good question. We have probably all heard the advice to step back and see our spouse’s Pointing fingers at each otherpoint of view during an argument. This common wisdom advises us to see things through the other person’s eyes and walk a mile in his or her shoes. When you do, the advice-giver explains, you will feel less upset. Your understanding will improve. You will more quickly resolve the conflict…so the advice goes.  However, recent research suggests this folk wisdom may be wrong! In fact, a study of 111 couples found that taking the other person’s perspective actually made things worse, especially for those with a “less-than-positive sense of self-worth.” Now, let’s face it…in the midst of a fight with our spouse you can bet that at least one person is experiencing a “less-than-positive sense of self-worth.” Anyway, it seems that when a person looks at the conflict from his spouse’s perspective, he begins to wonder what they are thinking or feeling about him. In other words, when I look through my spouse’s eyes I see myself…and begin to wonder what she is thinking about me in the midst of the conflict. Thoughts I imagine my spouse having about me take up my mental energy and focus. “She’s blaming me!” “He thinks I don’t care.” “She’s angry about my work.” “She doesn’t believe I’m trying my hardest.” These thoughts and thoughts like them increase our self-doubt and decrease our sense of self-worth. When the argument is over, the person who looked at things through his spouse’s eyes feels even less satisfied and more insecure in their relationship.

 

Instead of trying to see the conflict from your spouse’s point of view, take a more objective approach with these two suggestions.

  1. Imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. This is different than seeing things from your spouse’s perspective. Rather than imagining how your spouse feels or how your spouse thinks about this conflict, imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. Couples who did this showed an increase in empathy.
  2. Put on your Sherlock Holmes’s hat and get curious about your spouse. Observe your spouse’s behavior. Take the time to notice how your words, actions, and tone of voice impact them. Respectfully and lovingly modify your words and actions to elicit the most helpful response in the situation.  In other words, discuss the difficult issue using a tone of voice that will help your spouse to stay calm and words more likely to elicit a calm response. Go ahead and disagree, but use respectful words and end with a hug. You get the idea. Observe your spouse’s reaction to you and adjust your behavior accordingly.

 

Forget the folk wisdom…quit taking your spouse’s perspective. Take an objective view. Watch your spouse and work to soothe them as you imagine what you might feel in the same situation…and enjoy a “satisfying” argument.

Sibling Rivalry–The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Siblings argue. They have disagreements that escalate to yelling and screaming…maybe even name calling, pushing, and physical aggression. Not all sibling rivalry is bad. Some of it is good…and some is downright ugly. Take a moment to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly of sibling rivalry.

kids arguing 5 and 6 years old

Some sibling rivalry is good. As long as the argument gets resolved and the conflict does not become abusive, sibling rivalry, competition, arguments, and even minor fights can result in positive growth…especially with adult coaching. Consider some of these areas of potential growth:

  • Sibling rivalry and conflict can increase children’s self-control. In the midst of anger and frustration, siblings can learn to stay calm or walk away rather than hit and scream.
  • Sibling rivalry increases effective emotional expression. Siblings learn how to express their emotions in a way that increases the chance of being heard during a conflict.
  • Sibling rivalry teaches conflict resolution skills like listening, negotiation, and compromise.
  • Sibling rivalry accelerates the learning of social understanding—the awareness of other people’s emotions, the ability to “read” another person’s facial expressions, the knowledge of when to quit “pushing” your point and walk away, and the ability to empathize with another person’s point of view.
  • Sibling rivalry provides opportunities to learn positive problem-solving skills, skills that can lead to a “win-win” for each person involved.
  • Sibling rivalry also teaches that a person does not always get their way. As much as I hate to admit it, life is not fair. Parents strive to find fairness for their children, but sometimes it just does not happen. Sibling rivalry is one way in which children learn to cope with the minor breeches in fairness they will experience throughout life.

 

Sibling rivalry can, however, escalate to the bad category. Once sibling rivalry escalates, parents may need to become involved and teach their children the skills necessary to resolve the conflict.

  • Sibling rivalry becomes bad when the loud, intrusive, and inappropriate behavior of children in the midst of conflict begins to interfere with other people’s life or experience. For instance, children’s behavior in the midst of conflict may interfere with a parent’s desire for peace and calm in a house…or exacerbate an already aching head…or interfere with a parent’s need to complete some task. In public, sibling rivalry may create discomfort for the family or other people in close vicinity to the conflict. You can see this happen in restaurants or parks when siblings engage in loud and intrusive conflict. Public episodes of sibling rivalry can build a reputation of disrespect, selfishness, or poor emotional control. A parent can respond to public incidents of sibling rivalry by removing their children from the public forum and taking them to a more private setting. In addition, parents need to take the time to teach their children to remain aware of those around them and to consider the impact their behavior has on those around them.
  • Sibling rivalry also moves into the bad category when siblings get stuck in the same argument over and over with no apparent resolution. Parents can step into these situations and teach their children problem solving skills. Help the children learn to calm themselves, listen to one another, actively seek to understand each other, identify each other’s needs, and brainstorm mutually acceptable solutions.

 

Finally, sibling rivalry can get ugly. Parents must step in for the safety of the children involved.

  • Sibling rivalry gets ugly when it escalates to physical or verbal violence. When either sibling becomes abusive of the other, parents must get involved. To assure that all involved parties are safe, the parent may have to separate the siblings and allow them a “cooling off” period. After the siblings have cooled off, parents can bring them together and help them work to resolve the conflict. In addition, parents can set up some basic ground rules for all conflict–guidelines like no name-calling, no physical aggression, and a “hands-off” policy. Guidelines may also include knowing when to walk away and allow one another to calm down.

 

Sibling rivalry—the good, the bad and the ugly. A parent’s job is to keep sibling rivalry in the realm of “the good” as much as possible. A parent who does this will eventually enjoy the benefits of children who know how to resolve conflict, listen, negotiate, and compromise.

How to Win the Parent-Child Conflict

When parent-child conflicts arise (and they will!), it does no good if the child always wins and gets his way. The conflict is really not resolved if the parent pulls rank, asserts parental power, and enforces parental wishes either. Just consider how you managed your parents pulling rank and using power to make you do what they wanted. Most children resist, defy, resent, blame or lie. Children in this situation may also retaliate, court the favor of one parent over the other, become fearful of  trying anything new, grow insecure in their own ability and seek constant reassurance, or form alliances with siblings against the parents. None of these help children learn, grow, or mature. So, what can a parent do to resolve a conflict and help their child grow during parent-child conflicts arise? I’m glad you asked.

First, realize that most parent-child conflicts arise out of a conflict of needs. Both the parent and the child have a need they want to satisfy…and they clash! Begin a healthy resolution of the conflict by accepting that your child has a legitimate need. Respect their desire to have that need met in an appropriate way. Modeling respect and honor for your child’s needs will establish the foundation for the next steps in resolving the parent-child conflict…and, it increases the likelihood that your child will listen to, honor, and respect your needs as well.   

Second, take time to discuss the conflict with your child. Set aside enough time to discuss each of your needs as well as mutually acceptable ways to meet those needs. Having this type of discussion does more than offer an opportunity to resolve the conflict. This discussion also helps your child develop thinking and problem-solving skills. It can also lead to better solutions; and, since your child has had input and an investment of time in devising the solution, it may also lead to greater motivation from your child to comply with the solution. To have an effective conflict discussion with your child, you will need the time to cover these 6 steps:

      1.    Identify and define the problem. This will involve defining the parents’ needs and the child’s needs. We often need to differentiate needs from requests. For instance, “I need my own room” is more of a request than a need. You can ask what this request will “do for you” to get at the deeper need.  Listen closely and attentively to understand your child’s needs. The goal of this step is to clearly state the problem and each person’s needs in a manner that both parent and child can agree upon and understand.


2.   Generate possible solutions. Come up with as many solutions to the problem as you can. Do not evaluate, judge or belittle any ideas. Simple accept the ideas as they arise. Make sure each person contributes to the possible solutions.


3.   Evaluate the alternative solutions. Now you can consider each of the solutions from step 2 and evaluate each one. Which ones look best? Which will produce positive results for parent and child? Which are acceptable to each person involved? What are the possible negative results?


4.   Decide on the best solution. Based on the evaluations of step 3, agree on a solution to “try out.” Remember, the solution is not a rigid permanent requirement set in stone but a flexible dynamic process; you can always try the solution out and modify it as needed. Before moving to step 5, clarify that each person is willing to make a commitment to carry out the agreed upon solution.


5.   Implement the solution. This step will most likely include a clarification of how you will implement the solution. Who does what? When? How often? To what standard? Again, remember that these specifics can be modified as needed.


6.   Evaluate. After implementing the solution for a short time, check back to evaluate its effectiveness. Are both the child’s and the parent’s needs met? Do you need to tweak the solution to make it more effective? Now is the time to do it.

You may think this process seems time consuming; but, it is not as time consuming as forcing a solution that you then have to enforce, remind, nag, and push. This process brings greater compliance, so less reminding, nagging, and pushing. Of course, this process will not work with every situation (what does?). However, when parents practice this method as often as they can, their children cooperate more, trust grows, conflict declines, and children’s problem solving skills increase. Really, isn’t that worth the time?

Who Should Win the Battle: Parent or Child?

It is inevitable. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. No matter how wonderful your parenting skills, the time will come when you and your child have a disagreement. You will expect your child to complete a chore and they will not want to. You will want them home by curfew and they will want to stay out later. You will want them to smile and have fun; they will be miserable and cold. It’s going to happen…no doubt about it! The important factor at this moment of conflict becomes how you resolve the conflict. In fact, allowing a child to experience conflict and learn how to cope with it allows them to learn and grow. After all, they will experience conflict throughout life. Where better to learn the best way to resolve conflict than at home with someone who loves them? Unfortunately, many parents see this moment of conflict as an “either-or” scenario—either the parent must win or the child wins. Conflict becomes a win-lose scenario. Consider the outcome of these two extremes.

 

If the parent must win then the parent must announce the solution. The child’s input does not matter. The parent knows best; the parent determines the solution; and, the parent tells the child what to do. The child does not have to like it; he just has to do it! If the child does not like the solution, the parent will try to persuade them to do it. If that does not work, the parent simply asserts their power and authority to tell the child to do it. Unfortunately, the parent only has so much power. The child, who often lacks the motivation to actually invest in his parent’s solution, dooms it to failure. If he undermines the solution, the parent has to nag and persuade. And, the parent will find it difficult to enforce the decision in light of the child’s sabotaging efforts. Or, the child may simply comply out of fear of punishment and never internalizes the seed of true self-discipline. Perhaps most detrimental, the relationship is undermined and resentment begins to replace love and affection.

 

If the parent lets the child win they have given up any authority they might have. The child begins to lose respect for authority in general and just “does what he wants.” Young children learn to throw tantrums to get what they want, overpowering their parent’s will and energy with the intense emotion of the tantrum. As they grow older, they learn to use yelling, pouting, crying, or accusing to get their way…just like they did with tantrums as a child. A child in a permissive household may also learn to use guilt to persuade his parents to give in. Unfortunately, this child does not develop internal controls. He can become self-centered, selfish, and demanding. He will likely experience difficult peer relationships because he believes his needs are more important than the needs of others. At the same time, this child will often feel insecure about his parents love. Parents will find this child unmanageable and impulsive. They might become resentful, irritated, and angry toward the child. And, once again, the relationship is compromised.

So, if the parent winning does not work and the child winning does not work, what can a parent do? Good question. The answer requires a different paradigm of conflict resolution, power, and parenting, a paradigm different than the win-lose paradigm so often exalted in our society…but, I fear I have run out of time. So, I will explore a different paradigm in my next blog. Stay tuned to the “same bat station, same bat time”…well, you know what I mean. See you next week.

Improve Your Family With This One Honest Change

“You have no idea what you’re doing.”
“You are so lazy.”
“You have nothing to cry about.”
“You always want the last word, don’t you?”
“You just need to listen better.”
“You should give your friend a chance.”
“You better stop that now or else…”

These statements all have something in common. Can you see it? That’s right—they are all about the infamous “you,” the other guy. Most likely, we have all sent “you-messages.” “You-messages” are other-oriented. They tend to focus on the other person’s shortcomings or cast the blame on them for whatever went wrong. “You-messages” impugn the other person’s character and minimize the other person’s ability to solve a problem. As you can imagine (and probably have experienced), “you-messages” also shatter the other guy’s positive self-image.  These consequences become even more devastating when we consider how many “you-messages” we have sent to our own family members! Look back over the “you-messages” above and think of others “you-messages” you may have heard or said. They can all have the negative consequence of hurting whoever the “you” is. “You-messages” don’t resolve conflict; they escalate conflict. They do not result in deeper intimacy; they create distance. If you want to resolve conflict and create intimacy, replace the “you-messages” with “I-messages.”

“I-messages” have three parts…let’s make that four. 

     1.   An effective “I-message” includes a simple and objective description of the behavior that is bothering you. Keep this description free of labels and judgments.


2.   An effective “I-message” includes the speaker giving an honest appraisal of his feelings about the behavior.


3.   An effective “I-message” explains the tangible, concrete way in which the behavior impacts the speaker. Providing you have a positive relationship with the other family member, this brief explanation will provide some motivation for the listener to change her behavior. 


4.   An effective “I-message” offers the listener a concrete way to help the speaker, a solution to the problem.

As you can see, an “I-message” will be longer than the “you-message.” It will take a little more thought; but, it will also accomplish much more. For instance,

      ·     The “I-message” will prove more effective in influencing your spouse, child, or parent. While still giving an objective description of what bothers you, the “I-message” avoids blaming or putting your family members down. As a result, the other person does not feel the need to defend themselves. Instead, they can listen…and consider.


·     The “I-message” is more honest about my true feelings. When I use an “I-message,” I make myself more vulnerable as I express my feelings about a particular behavior. This models honesty. It also opens the door for intimacy. We connect with our family members through honesty and at points of vulnerability.


·     An “I-message is less likely to provoke resistance or rebellion from your spouse, child, or parent. When we communicate objective facts and open up to express personal feelings, there is less “arguable material.”


·     An “I-message” also communicates trust in your spouse, child, or parent…a trust that they care enough about you to change a concrete behavior that has a negative effect on you.


Most people have to practice to really learn how to drop “you-messages” and use “I-messages” effectively; so, go ahead and practice…make a few mistakes and learn from them. Before long, you’ll be using “I-messages” like a pro…and believe me, the results are well worth the effort.

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