How To Regulate Your Emotions So They Don’t Regulate You

Image by ashish choudhary from Pixabay

Image by Ashish Choudhary from Pixabay

Introduction

Emotional self-regulation or emotion regulation is the ability to respond to emotionally intense situations in a manner that is socially acceptable, yet, still remain flexible enough to be spontaneous in your reactions and maintain the ability to delay spontaneous reactions when needed.

As adults, we must all learn to regulate our emotions, especially negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and frustration so they won’t drive our behavior or cause us to overreact in intense situations.  

We all have times when we allow negative emotions to control our thoughts and actions. Later, we often regret the things we say and do, wishing we had been more self-regulated.

In this post, we’ll be discussing negative emotions and how to take steps to improve our responses to emotional situations and conversations.

These steps will help improve your communications with others, as well as, improve mood, increase feelings of self-worth, and increase empathy for others.

 

Robin Overhears An Argument

Do you remember Robin at the Ferry Building Marketplace where she overheard a couple arguing?

Robin was working on a class assignment, observing how individuals interacted with each other using vocal elements and body language.

Robin witnessed and recorded an intense argument between a guy and his wife. She had just discovered that their bank account was overdrawn by $1000 because of gambling by her husband, unbeknownst to her.

Robin walked over to Jerry, after his wife, Hazel, stomped off.

What are emotions?

We often interchange the term emotions with the term feelings, but according to Neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, there is a big difference. Feelings emerge only when our brain registers a physical change in the body. Whereas, emotions are the initial, unconscious reaction to a stimulus.

For example, if someone embarrasses you, you begin to blush, when you get excited your heart beats faster if something scares you, your skin begins to pale. Emotions are strictly subconscious. Something triggers the body to react automatically or unconsciously. It is not something you can control.

On the other hand, according to Damasio, feelings occur only in the brain. When we become aware of the physical changes in our body we experience the feeling of embarrassment, excitement, fear or any other feeling.

 

Role of Emotions

Emotions play a very important role in your body. They stimulate an array of feelings, positive or negative, which allow and assist you in experiencing life. In essence, your emotions are your guidance system, your conscience. They make you who you are.

Your emotions are the reason behind your behavior. They get you moving. They also control your nonverbal communication automatically and unconsciously.

As we have discussed in previous posts, emotions communicate physically rather than verbally, giving you pertinent information about situations and people: affecting word choice, volume, pitch, inflection, the speed that is used, eye movement, facial expression, body movement, gestures, posture, eye contact.  

Emotions can give you erroneous information if they are connected to negative core beliefs.

Primary Emotions

My research has revealed an inconsistency in how psychologists view primary and secondary emotions. Dr. Neel Burton M.D. in Psychology Today states, “In the 20th century, Paul Ekman identified six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise) and Robert Plutchik eight, which he grouped into four pairs of polar opposites (joy-sadness, anger-fear, trust-distrust, surprise-anticipation).”

A study by the University of Glasgow states that there are only four basic emotions that make up the primary emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted. According to the documentation, they are still working on definitive proof to back up their premise.

My research has shown that most of the literature on emotions adheres to Paul Ekman’s definition of six basic or primary emotions. In Ekman’s book Emotions Revealed, he tells about his collaboration with the late Silvan Tomkins, who stated that we often react to an initial emotional (primary emotion) reaction, which gives us a secondary emotion. For example, we may become angry because of the helpless feelings associated with the pain of being emotionally or physically hurt.

Primary emotions are easy to understand. Basically, they are your initial reactions to external events. Sudden events may cause you to experience an emotion. For example, You may feel sad when you hear about someone being hurt or you are anxious about a presentation you have to give at work or school.

Secondary emotions are more complex because they are triggered by your reactions to and interpretations of your primary emotions. It is when you feel something about the feeling itself. Example: You may feel angry about being hurt or shame about your anxiety. Your secondary reaction or emotion is more intense.

Primary and Secondary Emotions
http://changingminds.org/explanations/emotions/basic%20emotions.htm

Benefits of Handling Negative Emotions

Most experts use the “down-regulation or self-regulation” method of emotion regulation. It is a process of willfully reducing the intensity of your emotions.

When you “self-regulate” your emotions you can communicate more effectively, which allows for both parties to get their needs met. When you are able to regulate your emotions you decrease conflict and increase intimacy in your relationships, which also improves your interactions with others.

When you experience a secondary emotion, it may feel overwhelming. Sometimes you feel like you want to hit someone or do something to get the feelings to stop.

The feelings themselves are not dangerous or destructive, but the action you take could be. Often you feel like you are fixing the situation, but actually, all you are doing is alleviating your intense feelings. The action you take just make things worse. People often lash out then justify their actions or blame the other person for making them feel the intense emotion.

Remember, the other person didn’t ’cause’ your feelings; they are yours, and they are triggered by your own interpretation.

Repressing your emotions is also not a good idea. Repressed emotions make it more likely that you will act on them later at which time they may be more intense because of the build-up of the emotions.

Self-Regulation

Allow yourself to feel all your emotions, but resist acting on them while you’re upset.Laura Markham Ph.D.

    1. Feel The Emotion. Accept that you have them and you’re feeling them.
    2. Choose The Opposite Action.  Choose to do the opposite of what your impulses are telling you to do. This robs your anger or other emotion of power.
    3. Don’t Get Attached. You aren’t angry, you are feeling angry. The feelings will go away. Notice them. Acknowledge them. Let them go.
    4. Don’t take it personally. The feeling it created will go away.
    5. Anger is Defensive. Get in touch with the initial emotion underneath, then the anger will melt.
    6. Don’t Act. If it’s not an emergency, resist the urge to act. If you feel an urgent need to take action you are in fight or flight mode.
    7. Stop!! Breathe!! Sit and breathe. As you do the feelings will begin to evaporate.
    8. Don’t Jump To Conclusions. Don’t draw any conclusions when you’re angry. Do the opposite. Think about something restful and relaxing.
    9. Identify. When your emotions are hijacked don’t try to work on the real problem. Wait. Breathe. Identify the underlying primary emotion.
    10. Assess the information. Use the emotions as information to be able to resolve the real problem.

 

Robin and Jerry

Jerry continued to sit with his head down ignoring Robin.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I overheard your argument with the woman you were with. Is there anything I can do to help you?” Robin asked.

He shook his head but didn’t say anything.

Robin sat on the bench across from him, remaining quiet. Eventually, he raised his head and looked at her, “You’re still here? I figured you’d left also. Everybody does sooner or later.”

“Why do you say that?” Robin asked looking at Jerry who was looking at the floor again.

“I’m just a big screw-up,” he said. “I’m a throw-away.”

“No you aren’t,” another voice said.

Jerry looked up, “What are you doing here? I thought you were gone.”

Robin looked at Hazel and got up and slowly walked away, leaving Hazel and Jerry to work things out.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t follow my self-regulation procedure. It really took me by surprise. I’m also sorry I broke your phone. That one’s on me,” she said.

Hazel sat down on the bench where Robin had been.

“I’ve been trying to follow my self-regulation procedure before I do something like throwing your phone. I was instantly so angry that I couldn’t self-regulate soon enough. I walked through the Marketplace which helped me get ahold of myself. A thousand dollars is a lot of money and now your phone.

Hazel paused taking Jerry’s hand, “I’m really scared. I know what the guys at the game are capable of. I saw, what was his name, Sam, wasn’t it, after they worked him over. It took him months to recover. I’m surprised they didn’t kill him”

“They wouldn’t kill him. They wanted him to hurt,” Jerry said. “I’ve already taken care of the money. I got it from my dad, but I just put it in the bank. If you check now, you’ll see it’s okay. I was so afraid to tell you. I know how angry you get. I’m so sorry. I made a deal with my dad. I will have to work it off, plus go to Gambler’s Anonymous, plus counseling. I guess he figures I won’t have time to gamble.”

“Is that all?”

“No, he won’t ever bail me out again. That’s almost worse. To have my dad just walk away.”

“I’m so sorry,” Hazel said. “Now we have a phone to pay for too. I thought I could learn to self-regulate my anger, but I guess I can’t, not when it’s really tough. Maybe I need to go to a group that will hold me accountable also,” she said.

Conclusion

Emotional self-regulation is not easy. It is a learning process. If you are a person who stuffs your emotions down inside, like many of us are, at some point they explode so much force you may not be able to regulate them.

Some people may need therapy to help them be able to learn self-regulation. Meditation, mindfulness, stress management, and anger management may also be options to consider. These other techniques can also help to improve your mood, increase your feelings of self-worth, and increase your ability to extend empathy.

There are many techniques in helping to regulate your emotions. Most experts advise “self-regulation” or “down-regulation”, which is willfully reducing the intensity of your emotions. A person who is grieving can down-regulate his sadness by intentionally thinking of happy or amusing thoughts. If a person was anxious about a situation she could think about something totally different.

If a person suffers from depression, she could “up-regulate” her emotions to keep from crashing with an anxiety or depression attack.  

Also, the Bible warns us to guard our hearts against emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, grief, guilt, and more.

John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said, “If you abide in my word…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Psalms 34:14 “…seek peace and pursue it.” 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

We don’t always see our emotional responses or notice our feelings until they explode. I know, I for one, have a habit of stuffing my feelings until something triggers them.

I am learning to prayerfully turn situations over to God, to abide in His Word and receive a generous helping of His peace, forgiveness, mercy, grace, joy, and love. I’m seeking God’s help to share these with others using His wisdom to approach situations and reach constructive solutions, thereby, making positive changes to help me regulate my own emotions.

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How To Speak Up With Intention

Communicate With Confidence

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Speaking up with intention can be your strongest move ever

Introduction

Have any of you ever, for one reason or another, been afraid to speak up and say what is on your mind, to give someone your opinion or thoughts about a certain subject? Are you afraid of the consequences of speaking up?

In this post, I will explain ways to speak up even if you are afraid or apprehensive about addressing an issue or exposing your feelings. It’s important to set your intention before entering into a conversation that could create conflict or hurt feelings.

Many times if you notice someone is upset by what you have said you respond, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” When you make a similar statement you are shifting the focus from the person who is upset to yourself. You are not asking for forgiveness or trying to make amends. You are actually shifting the focus so you don’t have to offer a sincere apology. Also, the person who is upset does not feel heard and nothing has been done to ease the pain. I will also cover how to set your intentions for the best possible outcome.

I will also go through the information needed to create a clear and effective message.

Jenny & Frank

Frank a very opinionated, middle-aged, slightly overweight man working as a paralegal in Jenny’s law office. He always wore a short-sleeved, usually white, dress shirt that always needed ironing.

As Jenny walked into the lunch room where Frank was eating his lunch she noticed his shirttail hung out on one side, with a dribble of sauce down the front.

He always seemed to be a source of irritation to Jenny, so she tried, on a regular basis, to avoid him as often as possible, but she was late to lunch today.

Still trying to maintain her good intentions and cheery attitude. She tried to ignore him until he said, “Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out.” (toxic message)

Jenny had been practicing “Living with Intention.” She gave Frank a smile. She could feel that it was forced, but it was a smile.

She took several deep breaths trying to calm her emotions and her thoughts and hoping that her voice and body language would show good intent. She finally managed to say with a soft voice, “Thank You,” all-the-while wanting to “knock his block off” but not wanting to show her negative intention.

 

What is Speaking Up with Intention?

We have all heard the saying, “Think Before You Speak? Have your parents or teacher told you to choose your words wisely because they might come back to bite you? Speaking impulsively, speaking whatever pops into your mind, before you think is a bad habit that can get you in trouble and hurt others. Impulsive words can damage your relationships and your career. You can apologize but you can never take your words back. Your words are always in the other person’s memory.

If you are a person with an impulsive disorder, like ADHD, create a habit of counting to 10 before you speak. That slows your brain down so you can think. Build a new habit.

Intention is defined as the purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct. In other words, you set your intention before beginning to speak. You determine the effect you want to have on the situation or other person.

An intention is a guiding principle of how you want to live your life. It’s not a goal. Intentions come from the heart. They are emotion driven and evoke feeling and purpose.

 

Why is it important to speak up with intent?

When you express yourself clearly with intent you reap several benefits. You stand a better chance of being understood, which leads to cooperation from others.

On a personal level, you get your needs meet. In relationships speaking up with intent clearly helps to establish closer connections and enhance intimacy.

If you want cooperation from others, either personal or professional, it’s important for them to understand what you are saying or asking for.

If you are one that is afraid to speak up, you run the risk of allowing your emotions to build up on the inside until you explode or say something at the wrong time with the wrong intentions and pay the price. In some cases, the price may be just the loss of a potential friend. Another case may be the loss of a job or a personal relationship.

 

Giving A Complete Message with Intention

Speaking up with intent also means giving clear and concise information. When you extend the full message you are giving clear information about what you have observed, your opinion, the conclusions you have drawn, your feelings, and what you need[1] :

  • Observations: You report only what your senses tell you, what you have personally observed – facts you have experienced, heard about, or read.
  • Opinions: The conclusions you personally have drawn based on what you have heard, read and observed about what you feel is really going on and why.
  • Conclusions: Your personal value judgments, beliefs, and theories based on your personal observations.
  • Feelings: You give your emotional response to the event or situation based on your personal observation. When you allow others to know what saddens, pleases, anger, and frightens you, they develop greater empathy for and understanding of you, and they are more apt to modify their behavior to meet your needs.

Remember, feeling statements are not observations or opinions.

  • Needs: You speak up about what you want or think you must have in a given situation. Needs are not judgemental or derogatory or blaming. Needs are simple statements about what you want and need.

You are the expert in what you have observed, your opinion, feelings, and definitely what you need. Nobody can read your mind. If you don’t speak up nobody will know. No two people have the same wants and needs. It’s very important to speak up clearly. Other people care.

 

Toxic Messages

It is a message that is expressed with part of the information missing out of negative feelings for revenge or to hurt the other person, intentionally or unintentionally or out of fear or lack of planning.

There are times when a speaker is not prepared and only gives, perhaps, his or her feelings or needs, but does not fill in the observations, opinions, or conclusions. In this case, much of the pertinent information is missing and can result in a failure to communicate.

For example:

“Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out,” Frank said to Jenny out of the blue with no other information.

Franks comment was one of several that felt very much like the bullying she had received in school. They did not share any other conversation. His comment was one of many she had received from him: you’re late, you’re going to miss your opportunity if you don’t hurry up, I can’t believe you forgot the meeting this morning. All these statements contained a toxic element criticism.

 

Jenny Sets Her Intentions and Talks To Frank

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Jenny had been working on “Setting Her Intentions” for a while. She found it difficult to speak up for herself, but she was beginning to see the need.

In every school she attended from Kindergarten on, there was always, at least, one guy that gave her a hard time. Today, they would call it bullying. Her mother used to tell her it was because they liked her, but she didn’t really buy that scenario.

Now, a junior attorney in a prestigious law firm, here was Frank, not a friend, mentor, or peer always telling her what she was doing wrong or what she needed to do differently.

“Is it ever going to stop,” she wondered. Then she thought of the class she was attending about how to be more assertive. One of the first classes was on “Setting Intentions.” She had been working on setting her intentions through prayer and meditation. She was beginning to feel more confident, but she had not tried setting her intentions for a personal conversation.

“Well, I guess it’s time. I need to talk to Frank. Sometimes I’d prefer to “knock his block off,” but then I’d be doing just what he accuses me of. No, I’m going to do this the right way. I’m going to set my intentions for good. She thought about the verse that she prayed every morning.”

Psalm 19:14. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

She found a quiet place to sit and meditate. She went through the questions on her list to decide what she wanted her intention to be. She decides on three questions.

What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?

She wanted to create and nurture peace and self-confidence. She knew that she would have to confront Frank, calmly and appropriately in order to build her confidence. She would like to have a good working relationship with Frank without fearing his sarcastic comments.

What would you like to let go of?

She knew she had to let go of the fear of confronting people, for her career and for her personal peace and self-confidence. She couldn’t allow “bullies” to push her around anymore.

Who would you like to forgive in your life?

Jenny also knew she had to forgive Frank and all the other guys who had bullied her over the years. She could feel that the unforgiveness was eating away at any peace she had.

The Intentions she set were “peace” and “courage.”

She began writing out what she was going to say. She also decided to ask him out for coffee after work so they could talk some place other than work. There was a sidewalk coffee shop on the walking mall outside their office building. She tentatively set the date for the next night. She knew if she waited too long she’d talk herself out of it.

As she began writing out what she would say to Frank, she emailed him asking him to meet her for coffee the next afternoon. She got an immediate reply back confirming the day, time, and place.

As she read the email, fear began to instantly rise on the inside. Her chest began to tighten up, her stomach began to hurt and she suddenly became dizzy with an internal sense that something horrible was going to happen. She feared he might misinterpret the nature of her invitation.

She sat quietly for a few moments, breathing in deeply and letting the air out slowly as she rehearsed in her mind, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

She repeated the breathing and the verse over and over until she felt the fear lessen.

She wrote out what she intended to say to Frank.

“Frank, I asked you here for a particular reason,” she said with as much confidence as she could muster.

“Oh really. I thought you asked me because you found me so attractive,” he said sarcastically.

Jenny paused briefly, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

“I experience comments, like the one you just made, on almost a daily basis, comments about my clothes, my work, whether I’m late, on time, or early. You always have a comment,” she continued.

“Oh, you actually noticed?” he commented.

Again Jenny paused for a deep breath.

“The comment you made to me the other day about the color of my clothes really hurt.”

He looked at her quizzically but didn’t comment.

“Not that it is any of your business what clothes I wear, but this is the way my mother taught me to dress. She was the head litigator in this office until she died suddenly of a heart attack a couple of years before I started (observation). I was still in college finishing my degree. She prepared me to follow in her footsteps as an attorney. We had different last names so I don’t make reference to her being my mother. She has left some very big shoes to fill and I would like to fill them without using the fact that she was my mother (opinion). The one thing I do follow her in is her dress. If you were around when she was her you would notice I dress pretty much as she did. That is one tradition that she left me that I can do now (conclusion),” Jenny said in a confident voice.

Frank squirmed in his seat like he was a little uncomfortable, but he did not say anything.

Jenny continued, “Your comments are very hurtful, especially when it refers to the way I dress. My intention is to make my mother proud of me in every way I can, which includes my dress (feelings).

Frank looked down at his coffee cup but didn’t say anything.

“I need you to refrain from making the cutting, sarcastic comments to me at work. I know you are one of the best paralegals we have at the firm and I would like to have a good working relationship with you (good intent),” Jenny said looking into Frank’s eyes as he raised his head.

Frank cleared his throat, “I know who you are. I worked with your mother. She would be so proud of you.”

“Then, why the comments?” Jenny asked.

“I’ve wanted to talk to you, I mean really talk to you, since the first day you started with the firm, but I’ve been afraid to say anything (contaminated message). So, I guess, I just threw out sarcastic comments. Please forgive me for hurting you, that was not my intention.”

“So what was your intention,” Jenny asked.

“I guess I was hoping you’d call a meeting just like this so we could talk. I was afraid you’d think I was just a stupid old man. Several times I went to work with the intent of asking you to meet me here to talk, but every time I chickened out. Your mother and I had a relationship. I was going to ask her to marry me, but convinced myself that she wouldn’t want a man who was just a paralegal so I broke off the relationship  (fear of speaking up).

“And I thought I was the only one who was afraid of speaking up,” Jenny said with a softer expression on her face as she reached out and touched his hand.

Conclusion

Jenny’s talk with Frank is an example of how to  “Set Your Intentions” and carry them out. Yes, Jenny was very nervous, to the point of being sick at one point. But, with prayer and meditation, she gained the strength to answer the questions that would help her set her intentions.

Jenny gained self-confidence as she engaged Frank in a conversation following her plan. She also gained information that she never expected, which helped to establish a closer working relationship.

 

References:

[1] Davis, Martha, Ph.D. Fanning, Paleg, Kim, Ph.D., and Fanning, Patrick How To Communicate Workbook: Powerful Strategies for Effective Communication at Work and Home. 2nd ed. New York: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2004

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How To Set Your Intentions For Good

Too Busy Defending Your Intentions To Notice The Effect On Others?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Prologue

In addressing the subject of intentions, I have found it to be rather nebulous and imprecise, but there are several important aspects of it that I feel need to be addressed in regards to communication.

 

What is an intention?

An intention is an idea that you plan (or intend) to carry out. It is something you “want to do” or something you “don’t want to do.” An intention is your purpose, aim, something you want to align with. It is different than a goal, which is something you want to achieve. It’s something you mean to do, whether you pull it off or not. Intentions are emotion driven and evoke feeling and purpose.

Since intentions are nonphysical and emotion-driven they can be stuffed so far back in your mind that you may not know they are there. Yet, when the right set of circumstances arise, they surface. Similar to an old memory that you haven’t thought about for years, maybe even, decades, but the right trigger pulls it to the forefront of your mind.

 

Jenny’s Hidden Intention

Jenny works in a law office on the fifth floor of a downtown office building close to the courthouse. As a young girl, her mother was always on her case about how she dressed to go out the front door. Her mother was an attorney and from an early age impressed on Jenny how to ‘dress for success.’ Years later, when she thought about it, she always smiled and got a warm feeling when she remembered her mother’s voice.

“Now, Jenny, you can wear either a dress, pants or skirt and a nice top, but the skirt or dress must be in the middle of your knee. Make sure your clothes are not too tight or revealing. You need to stick to white, blue, navy or gray. Never, I mean, never walk out of the house in crazy patterns or shocking fashions, never!”

From that early age, it became Jenny’s intention to always ‘dress for success.’ She didn’t have to think about it because it had become automatic. When she went clothes shopping she could tell the intent was emotion-driven. She just didn’t like clothes that fell onto her mother’s ‘never list.’

 

Thoughts and Emotions Build Intents

Emotions are basically a flow, of feelings and at the same time, an experience of them, such as joy, sadness, anger, fear. Thoughts trigger different emotions and emotions trigger different thoughts. They work hand in hand.

Thoughts and emotions have a profound effect on each other. Intentions are formed as a result of that effect.

 

Jenny’s Thoughts and Emotions

When Jenny thinks about her mother, she gets a feeling of sadness because her mother is no longer with her. The feeling then changes to warmth and love as she remembers her mother’s arms going around her. These are all thought driven emotions.

Once while shopping, a store clerk said, “I think you would look great in this,” as she handed a dress to Jenny try on. It was pink with big flowers. Jenny instantly felt disgust, “I would never wear that,” she said out loud, throwing up her hands as if she needed to protect herself and backed away from the dress with a sour look on her face like the clerk was trying to give her a dirty rag. This triggered an emotion-driven intent.

An Intention Is Revealed

Jenny’s intention is to honor her mother and never to buy or wear a pink dress with big flowers or a crazy pattern.

 

Defensive Communication

Are you aware of your thoughts, emotions, and intentions, on a moment by moment basis? Are you actually aware of how they, affect your vocal elements and body language in your communication?

I have to say that I haven’t been very aware. There’s also a good chance, most of you are not, either.

If you say or do something that affects another person and they comment on it, are you too busy defending your intentions – “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” – that you don’t see the effect it has had on them?

Again, I can’t say that I’m always aware of the effect my communication has on people. As I have written these posts, I’ve become much more aware of my communication and the communication of those around me.

When you say, “I didn’t mean…” you are NOT allowing the other person to feel heard. You are discounting the other person’s feelings and changing the focus back to yourself, where you can justify and defend your intentions, thoughts, emotions, and actions., demonstrating no empathy, understanding or remorse.

I have to say for me personally, too many times I have said something like, “I didn’t mean…” but never gave it another thought. I didn’t hear the person out or even consider their feelings.

It’s very easy to launch into defensiveness if what you hear sounds like it may be a criticism. I haven’t always checked the person’s intentions or if they meant what it sounded like.

I have jumped to an erroneous assumption with my husband only to discover what I thought he said or was implying wasn’t what he meant at all. Once we’ve gone defensive, it’s very hard to back out.

Becoming Aware

Intentions are nonphysical and cannot be detected by our five senses. Yet, they are as real as anything physical.

Becoming aware of your intentions is key because they precede and set the direction and tone of your communication, which in turn, results in action. Your action can take several different forms:

  • Words flavored with verbal elements, such as tone, pitch, volume.
  • Body language, body movement or posture, gesture, facial expression, eye contact, touch, adding space.
  • Physically leaving.

Both our thoughts and emotions are a continuous flow which creates our intentions. They are always flowing, therefore, we often need to slow the process down and become aware of our thoughts, emotions and the intentions they create.

This morning as I prepared for the day I noticed my mind rushing from one item to the next, things that had to be done today. As I entered into prayer I was able to consciously slow the flow of thoughts and emotions and then determine my intention.

Many people worldwide begin each day with prayer or meditations to set their overall intentions for good, like the prayer in Psalm 19:14.

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

That’s a good start, but what about the curve balls life throws during the day. A boss that is unhappy with the work you turned in, kids who are just being kids, problems you face. Are you able to slow your mind and emotions down to create an intention that says what you really want it to say, which then affects every part of your communication?

Live With Intention

Loretta G. Breuning, Ph.D. in “Living With Intention” states that “we run on automatic for routine tasks with little or no thought to our intentions.” In automatic mode, we do not give thought to our emotions, words, body language, or actions while interacting with others. What pops into our mind often comes out of our mouth without any thought.

In comparison, when we live with intention, we are aware of our thoughts and emotions. We notice the effect our words and body language have on others. We think before we speak or act.

We can become aware of our intentions. But it does take more mental energy and thought that running on automatic.

Living with intention will create different results in our life.

 

Jenny and Frank

Jenny had spent time praying before starting her day and had had a fantastic day. She was late going to lunch because she was wrapping everything up on a major project that her boss seemed to really like.

She walked down the hall toward the lunch room, oblivious to everything around her, basking in the success of her project.

She was dressed as usual, in a gray pantsuit with a soft white silk shirt. As she walked into the lunch room she saw Frank sitting at the far end on the only table in the room.

He sat eating a burger that he had gotten at the corner hamburger stand. The sauce dripped down his hand and arm and onto the hamburger wrapper on the table.

When Jenny walked in he said ‘hi’ to her with a mouth full of food.

Frank a very opinionated, middle-aged, slightly overweight, man who worked as a paralegal in Jenny’s law office. He always wore a short-sleeved, usually white, dress shirt that always needed ironing. His shirttail hung out on one side, with a dribble of sauce down the front.

He always seemed to be a source of irritation to Jenny, so she tried, on a regular basis, to avoid him as often as possible, but she was late to lunch today.

Still trying to maintain her good intentions and cheery attitude, she tried to ignore him until he said, “Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out.”

Jenny had been practicing “Living with Intention.” She gave Frank a smile. She could feel that it was forced, but it was a smile.

She took several deep breaths trying to calm her emotions and her thoughts and hoping that her voice and body language would show a good intent. She finally managed to say with a soft voice, “Thank You,” all-the-while wanting to “knock his block off” but not wanting to show her negative intention.

Jenny got her lunch out of the frig and headed back to her desk to eat. She rarely ate at her desk because she want a break from her office, but not today.

Instead, she decided to work on what she called “Setting Her Intentions.”

 

Set Your Intentions

Setting your intentions allows you to focus on who you are in the moment. It helps you work toward achieving your dreams and gives your purpose. It is something you need to work on daily to achieve.

According to Marla Tabaka “Many entrepreneurs are excellent at identifying their values and know that living within their interpretation of them is a powerful way to achieve success, and more importantly, happiness. Daily intentions can help you do that.”

Many of our thoughts, emotions, and intentions aren’t that easy to determine. Many times, we just don’t like the direction of our life. We don’t have the loving attitude that we’d like or we seem to be operating on automatic all the time. Sometimes there is a particular situation that needs attention. Try this.

Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts and emotions. Make sure you have a notebook, journal, something, and a pen to answer questions and take notes about your personal discoveries.

Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and relax. Focus on your breathing. Don’t change it, just become aware of it. After a few minutes, become aware of your physical body. Start with your core, around your abdomen. Focus on how you feel. After a few minutes move outward toward your arms and legs. Notice any tension, stress or pain. Relax. The purpose of the exercise is to learn how to be aware of your thoughts and emotions to set your intentions.

Start in the center, around your abdomen and concentrate on how you are feeling. Move outward toward your arms and legs noticing any tension or pain. The purpose of this exercise is to get our mind to systematically focus on individual parts of our body. In doing so we are able to direct our mind as a discipline.

Melissa Eisler in Intention Setting 101, states that “your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values, and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like ‘open your mind and heart,’ ‘love,’ ‘softness,’ ‘strength,’ ‘compassion for myself and others,’ ‘peace,’ or ‘freedom.’”

Make sure you chose an intention that is positive, not negative. Our mind picks up, as reality, what we say and repeat.

Proverbs 23:7 “For as ‘a man’ thinketh in his heart, so is he…”  

Questions by Melissa Eisler:

  1. What matters most to you?
  2. What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
  3. What would you like to let go of?
  4. Who would you like to forgive in your life?
  5. How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
  6. What makes you proud?
  7. What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
  8. What fears would you like to release?
  9. What are you grateful for?

10 Intentions You Can Borrow

By Melissa Eisler

You can borrow one of these if it resonates with you, but try to create something personal for yourself.

  1. Find balance
  2. Open your mind and heart
  3. Peace
  4. Stay steady, calm and focused
  5. Act with courage
  6. Embrace change
  7. Give and receive love
  8. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
  9. Connect with others
  10. Love

 

Conclusion

If you don’t consciously choose your intentions then your unconscious thoughts, emotions, and intentions will take over. You have to consciously choose!

We can choose intentions that will change the course of our lives, take you to a different destination.

In addition to choosing long-range intentions, you must also be aware of the intentions you are choosing on a moment by moment basis. Set intentions for yourself for each day to eliminate some of the automatic intentions, like an off the cuff remark that may be hurtful to someone else. The automatic intentions or responses will lessen.

You are used to setting goals of things to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis, but most of us don’t set intentions at all.

When was the last time you looked at what you wanted to change in the way you communicate with coworkers, significant others, children, or friends? Have you thought about who you need to forgive or make amends with? Do you feel balanced and at peace? What fears do you need to release? Have you made a list of things and people you are grateful for?

If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps it’s time to Set Your Intentions.

You can train yourself to become, aware of your thoughts, your emotions, and set your intentions to become more of the person you have always desired to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Do Your Words Say You Are?

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Modern humans are worse at reading body signals than their
ancestors because we are now distracted by words.
Pease, The Definitive Book on Body Language.

 

Remember Robin from Part 1 and Part 2? She was given the assignment to evaluate an individual’s communication.

In Part 2 she was People Watching at the Ferry Building Marketplace where she observed a couple having an intense argument.

After the woman threw the phone down and stomped off, the guy sat with his head in his hands, not moving. Robin, training to be a coach, just couldn’t resist the opportunity to offer some help.

She walked over to the table across from where he sat. He didn’t seem to notice that she was there. Finally, she reached out and gently touched his arm. He slowly looked up. His eyes met her’s.

“May I help you,” he asked.

“I’m Robin,” she said extending her hand.

“I’m Mark. Did you want something?” he said.

Robin, hesitated when she heard the slight edge of irritation in his voice, but decided to continue. She took a deep breath, “Can I help you?” she said.

He looked up with eyebrows raised, head turned slightly to the side and mouth dropped open like he wanted to say something, but not sure what to say. Finally, he said, “Why do you think I need your help?”

Robin dropped her eyes to the floor for a minute then looked him in the eyes. “I’m sorry, but I overheard your argument with the lady that just left.”

Mark’s forehead wrinkled as his face started turning red. Robin noticed that he began clenching his teeth, “How dare you listen to our conversation.”

Robin stopped and thought about some of the conversation techniques she had learned.

What Are Your Words Saying?

In part 1 we looked at our spoken words and the verbal elements, such as vocal tone, pitch, speed of speech, and volume. In part 2 we explored body language and what it says about our spoken word.

If our vocal elements and body language don’t back up our words it often means we can’t be trusted, we don’t keep our word, or perhaps, you’re trying to scam someone.

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about words. The power of Life or Death is in our words (18:21). We can crush and destroy others with our words (11:9) or we can give others helpful words of encouragement that is like a tree of life (10:21, 32, 15:4). Wise words bring benefits to many (12:14) and kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and health for the body (16:24).

We do have a choice in our communication. We can bring life or we can bring death to a person or a situation. But, we cannot separate ourselves from our words. Our words come from the soul and reflect who we really are. And our nonverbal communication (body language) tells whether we are telling the truth and can be trusted or not.

Who do your words say you are? What are you communicating to others? Are your words saying you are a person they want to get to know or do business with? Or are you saying you can’t be trusted and are a person to avoid?

Social Context

Different Cultures

For communication to be correctly and fully understood, we must consider the social context. We also understand that different cultures have different meanings for words and body language, only when we can step into their shoes and have empathy, can we accurately understand the meaning and be able to communicate effectively. Regardless of the culture, words and body language occurs together predictably.

In doing the research on body language I found a plethora of material on how to read body language, what to do to get the desired results in different social settings, like, a job interview, a date, and personal relationships.

As I thought about this I came up with questions I’d rather ask. I had to ask myself first.

Am I being viewed the way I want to be viewed? Does my body language backup my words? Do others view me as a good communicator? What do I need to change to be a good communicator? Would I like to be married to me? Would I like having me for a boss? Would I like having me for a parent or grandparent? Do I offer empathy to others? When I am involved in a conversation with others, do my words revolve around me or the other person? Do I really listen to others and exercise attentive listening or am I off in my own head?

To be honest I’m not sure I can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions.

 

How do we want to be viewed

Until I started this paper, I didn’t really think about how I am viewed by others or if I was viewed as a good communicator and somebody others wanted to be around.

Unfortunately, we put too much trust in our own perception of how we feel we are viewed by others. We rarely take a good look at how things really are, how we really come across to others. We have a view of ourselves that we think is reality, but is it? Is that how others see us?

Have you received body language from others that causes you to think about how the other person might view you? I recently had an experience that caused me to stop and think.

I had gone to lunch with a lady that I knew casually. We had been together in a group, but not alone. At lunch, I discovered that she was very quiet and didn’t initiate any conversation topics or have many responses.

I became very intimidated by her silence and began talking more about myself than I should. Toward the end of our lunch, the heel of the palm of her hand was supporting her cheek with the index finger of her hand pointing upwards. The look on her face said she was bored and we probably wouldn’t be doing lunch again any time soon.

Instead of asking more questions about her to get to know her better, I overcompensated as I had flashes of both of us sitting with nothing to say. Bad communication.

 

Improve Your Communication Skills

Listen. Listen attentively and unconditionally to the other person’s value and needs and what they have to say.

Be Interested. Show the other person you are interested in what they have to say, who they are, and their concerns. Show them they are important.

Use Your Voice. Voice your approval of the other person on a regular basis. Give them honest encouragement, positive strokes and praise with a sincere tone in your voice.

Show Empathy. To show sincere empathy, identify with or vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitude of the other person.

Empathy is trying to view the world from the other person’s point of view, to see what they see and how they see it. Everyone has their own unique perspective on life and on what they see around them. No two people will describe things exactly the same.

“The path to good communication is accepting the fact that every human being is a distinctly unique individual – and thinking how good that is. No two people are alike, not even identical twins.” Denis Waitley, author of Seeds of Greatness.

 

Robin and Mark

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Robin sat across from Mark for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, Mark looked up, “You’re still here? Why do you care anyway?” he said in a real snarky voice.

“Well, as I said, I overheard you and, what was her name?”

“Marty”

“I overheard you and Marty in a heated argument. Actually, everybody around these tables heard it,” Robin said.

“So, why do you care? I don’t see anybody else over here butting into my business,” Mark said, eyes glaring as he straightened up. “Who are you anyway? Somebody the mob boss sent after me?”

Robin Thinking About Her Words

Robin sat quietly looking at the cement floor under the canopy. She’d been telling everyone she was going to be a counselor or a coach, but every time someone asked her for help she always had an excuse; she didn’t know enough, she was busy, or something. A question ran through her mind, “Do you really want to help or is this just school?” Her words had been saying she was a counselor or coach, but her nonverbal communication said it was just school, she was a fake. She had a choice back-up her words or not.

Robin straightened up and looked at Mark, “You asked who I am and why I care? Well, I’m a student at the university preparing to be a counselor or a coach, haven’t decided which yet. I would like to help you if I can.”

“Oh, you want me to be your first client, is that it? You want to experiment on me. No thank you. I don’t want to be anybody’s guinea pig,” Mark said in almost a scream.

“What is it you need?” she asked in a low tone.

“I need $1500. That’s what I need. You heard our argument. Why are you still here?” he said his voice still loud with a hint of sarcasm. “Do you have $1500 for me?”

“I don’t know why I’m still here. I don’t have any money. I’m a broke college kid,” she said staring at the cement floor again. “But, I do know someone who could help, his name is Jesus.”

“Oh, so now you’re a preacher?” Mark laughed. “That’s really going to help me.”

Mark started to get up.

“No, please. Can we talk a little longer?” she said reaching out her hand to him.

“I don’t have the answers for you, but I work part-time with a recovery group at my church. The leader is an ex-gambler. He’s always telling the group how Jesus is the answer. How Jesus can help you turn this around.”

“Is Jesus going to give me the $1500 before my wife divorces me?  Money from heaven,” once again with a snarky laugh.

“No, I don’t think money is going to fall from heaven. But, I do know that LeRoy, the leader, works with the person and the people they owe money to so nobody gets hurt.”

Robin saw Mark brush away a tear from his eye. She reached out to touch his arm. Mark looked up. “They said they would hurt Marty if I didn’t have the money for them by Monday. I’ve been here thinking about how I could get the money.”

“And?” Robin said.

Result of Marks Actions and Words

Mark was quiet for several minutes then wiped away another tear, “The only thing I could think of was to rob one of these vendors in the Ferry Building. But, I don’t have a gun. I’d probably be shot and killed then they’d still grab Marty and do whatever to her.

“Then, why don’t you come with me to see LeRoy. I know he can help.”

“But, you said Jesus was the answer. I don’t understand?” Mark said looking at her quizzically. 

“Jesus is the answer. LeRoy will introduce you. Let me call him. He can meet us down here.”

“Okay, I guess,” Mark said looking around as if to find a way out of this situation while Robin made the call.

“Good news,” she said. “LeRoy is inside at the coffee house. He said to come on in, it’s quieter inside.”

Robin stood up and started collecting all of her things. Mark got up hesitantly. He started walking in the opposite direction. Robin, with her laptop and backpack, ran to catch up.

“You don’t want to do this?” she asked. “You said you wanted to.”

“Well, that’s one of my problems, I guess. I don’t always say what I mean or do what I say,” he said.

“Then it’s time to change it. This way,” she said pointing to the entrance. She stopped and turned to see if Mark was following.

“Okay, I guess it can’t hurt. How much worse can things get?” he said.

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What Is Your Body Language Saying?

You Do Know The Difference Between Nonverbal Communications And Body Language, Right?

Photo by bonneval sebastien on Unsplash

Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

“Body language is the use of physical behavior, expressions, and mannerisms to communicate nonverbally,
often done instinctively rather than consciously.” –
HelpGuide.org

Elements of Communications

In the scientific paper “Body Language Classification and Communicative Context” by Jianxue Yin,  the elements of communication are grouped for better understanding of how they work together and separately. They are divided into three groups, Verbal, Posture – nonverbal and body language, and Social. In my last post, we looked at verbal and vocal elements. In this post, we’ll look at nonverbal and body language.

Do you know what your body language is telling others?

 

Robin On Assignment

Robin, a junior in college, was working on a degree in Social Psychology. She had been given the assignment of observing individuals communicating in a busy, distracting environment. She was to report how individuals interacted with each other, the vocal elements they used, and their body language.

The ABC Coffee Shop close to campus had been her first location, but it proved to be too noisy and distracting. She heard a couple of conversations but did not hear enough for a full report. She had to hear enough to connect the words spoken with the nonverbal body language.

Her next location was the Ferry Building Marketplace on the pier. There were many restaurants with tables on the sidewalk and inside. It was a popular place for sidewalk musicians and, all around, a great place to just hang-out.

Nonverbal vs. Body Language

Your nonverbal communication is the way you listen, love, move, dress, touch, make eye contact, interact, and react. It also includes your need for personal space, which tells others if you want to keep your distance or have a closer relationship.

We often use the terms “body language” and “nonverbal communication” interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Nonverbal communication is communication without using words – clear and simple. 

Much of your nonverbal communication is subconscious. Your subconscious mind understands and interprets the nonverbal messages you receive from other people without you, necessarily, knowing it with your conscious mind.

 

Body Language

Body language is a segment of nonverbal communication that focuses on gestures, body postures, and facial expressions.

The main purpose of “body language” is to communicate the speaker’s mood, emotions, and attitude to emphasize their spoken words.

Body language reveals whether you’re listening, being truthful, interested, bored, distracted or if you have completely checked out of the conversation. All of this information is contained outside of the spoken word.

When your words and body language are in agreement, you develop trust. When they don’t lineup you create tension, distrust, confusion, and perhaps even, anger in the other person causing them to question if they want to develop a connection with you.

Emotions

Body language is a very significant indicator of human emotion and expression. All nonverbal cues have an emotional base or are affected by the emotions you feel.

Emotions affect every communication element group. They motivate you to take action and assist you in making quick decisions by giving you feedback about the other person’s nonverbal communication and/or the situation at hand. 

Emotions are also fundamental in the choice of words used and the vocal elements.

Many times you will hear somebody say, “I sense”, or “I have a hunch”, or “I feel something” about a person or situation.  It’s possible they have detected something in the other person that they like or are curious about and want to explore more fully. Or it might mean that they have detected that the person’s body language does not match their words and they want to avoid possible confrontation or conflict.

When we say that someone is intuitive, we are actually saying that they know how to read a person’s body language and to compare it to their verbal cues.

“Being ‘perceptive’ means being able to spot the contradictions between someone’s words and their body language.” – Pease

Body Language Illustrations

  • Facial Expressions (smile, eye contact, frown): There is an English proverb that says, “The face is the index of the mind”. Emotions that one feels are immediately shown on the face. Facial expressions signal different feelings and intentions, such as anger, happiness, surprise, fear, disgust, sadness, aggressive, and neutrality. To see a complete list see changingminds.org.

According to Barbara and Allan Pease authors of “The Definitive Book of Body Language,” the basic facial expressions are universal. For example, nodding indicates a ‘yes’ or affirmation. Shaking the head side-to-side indicate ‘no’ or negative.

 

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

People frown or scowl when they’re sad or angry.
Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

This guy looks slightly down and sideways avoiding eye contact.
Photo by Sergio Souza on Unsplash

  • Raised Eyebrows:  According to changingminds.org, raised eyebrows can indicate several different things.

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Fear: Raised eyebrows with eyes wide, closed or pointed down;
mouth open or corners turned down; chin pulled in and head down.
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Image by nadine coco from Pixabay

Desire: Raised eyebrows with a smile and a slight tilt of the head.
Image by Nadine Coco from Pixabay

Image by fsHH from Pixabay

Interest: Steady gaze with the eyes and raised eyebrows.
Image by fsHH from Pixabay

 

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Surprise: Raised eyebrows, mouth dropped open, eyes wide,
and head tilted back or to the side.
Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

  • Smiling: When a smile is genuine its subconsciously transmits; happiness, friendliness, warmth, liking, and affiliation. Therefore, if you smile a lot you will be perceived as being likable, friendly, warm, and approachable.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

This guy exudes confidence with this smile.
Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

  • Body Posture: We communicate different messages by the way we walk, talk, stand, and sit.

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

The man standing straight, but not rigid, and leaning slightly in the woman’s direction communicates that he is approachable, receptive, and friendly. Hands of both are open with palms up, which indicates openness and honesty. His facial features indicate his interest in what she has to say. They are also Mirroring each other’s Body Language as explained below.


Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

If a person turns their back on another person or looks at the floor or ceiling it shows they are avoiding communication or they are not interested, as demonstrated above.

  • Mirroring Body Language: If you are in a conversation with another person and the other person mirrors your body language it’s an indicator that the conversation is going well. According to a study at Uppsala University in Sweden, the mirroring effect seems to be subconscious unless it is in opposition to what you are feeling. (See image above)
  • Gestures: When a person does not use gestures they are considered to be boring and stiff. According to changingminds.org, the movement of the arms and hands tend to be more associated with speech and language than other body movements. They are viewed as deliberate movements to either emphasize the spoken words or the gesture has a very specific meaning apart from the words.

Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash

Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash
His present body language seems to indicate that he is not an engaging speaker.

It’s also a scientific fact that gestures give away the person’s true intentions. Body language is an outward reflection of a person’s internal emotions.

  • Shoulder Shrug: According to Allan Pease, the shrug is a “good example of a universal gesture that is used to show that a person doesn’t know or doesn’t understand what you are saying.”

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

“It’s a multiple gesture that has three main parts,” they continue. “Exposed palms to show nothing is being concealed in the hands, hunched shoulders to protect the throat from attack, and raised brow, which is a universal, submissive greeting.”  

  • Openness – Open Palm: According to Pease, an open palm is associated with “truth, honesty, allegiance, and submission.”

Photo by yugdas manandhar from Pexels

Photo by Yugdas Manandhar from Pexels

When a person wants to be open and honest they will often hold one or both hand open, palms up.
This appears to be a completely subconscious gesture that gives you the intuitive feeling that they are telling the truth.

  • Pointed Finger with Closed Hand: When some use a closed hand with a pointed index finger, they are trying to show dominance. Subconsciously, this gesture provokes negative feelings in their listeners. It is also a sign to “leave now.”

Image by Kristin Baldeschwiler from Pixabay

Image by Kristin Baldeschwiler from Pixabay

  • Crossed Legs: Psychologically, crossed legs show that the person is mentally, emotionally, and physically closed. It also indicates a submissive or defensive attitude.

Image by jamesoladujoye from Pixabay

Image by James Oladujoye from Pixabay

  • Crossed Arms: Crossed arms typically signal defensiveness and being emotionally and mentally closed. But in reading body signals, you must be aware that people often cross their arms when they are physically cold.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

 

  • Closed: When a person is closed off, lying or trying to avoid contact they will display gestures similar to below.

 

Image by Hilary Clark from PixabayCommon Lying Gestures:

      • Cover the Mouth.
      • Touch the Nose.
      • An Itchy Nose.
      • The Eye Rub.
      • The Ear Grab.
      • The Neck Scratch.
      • The Collar Pull.
      • Fingers-in-the-Mouth.
                    • Fidget.
                    • Say things that are inconsistent.
                    • Hesitate or Talk slower.
                    • Avoid Eye Contact.
                    • Change The Subject.

Barbara and Allan Pease authors of “The Definitive Book of Body Language

Changingminds.org

  • Touch: Touch is used to express a wide variety of emotions. It is a very powerful form of nonverbal communication but must be managed carefully. Touching is used in many rituals in different cultures. Acceptable modes of touch also vary depending on the gender, age, status, intimacy and cultural background of the individuals. For example, the most widely used form of touching is to shake hands or hugging as a greeting or departure.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

  • Space and Proximity: Distance in communications expresses the degree of intimacy and acceptance. It can also indicate anger or aggression when a person gets into another’s personal space uninvited. In some aggressive situation, people will actually go nose to nose. People usually show some sign of discomfort when another invades their personal space.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

  • Silence: Is a very powerful communication tool that can be either positive or negative. As a positive tool, it can show attentiveness and respect. As a negative tool, it may mean that the person has lost interest, been distracted, or perhaps angry, refusing to respond with words.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

 

Robin At The Ferry Building Marketplace

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

She arrived at the Ferry Building Marketplace on a Saturday about 10 am. As usual, the marketplace was swarming with people. Most of the outside tables were already occupied, but she was able to find one close to the band. The tables were close enough that she could hear all the conversations clearly. She exuded confidence. She would definitely be able to complete her assignment, now.

As she settled in, she noticed the band. The banjo and bass players were playing, but the other two were not. The clarinet player had his head turned talking to the saxophone player, but the sax player was looking at the people on the street and didn’t seem to be paying any attention. She saw the sax player shrug his shoulder like he didn’t know or didn’t care about what the other guy was saying. Neither of the players was paying attention to the other musicians even though a small crowd had gathered to listen.

The couple standing closest to the band with three kids seemed very relaxed, happy, having a good time. The oldest boy was trying to do the “floss” to the music. The youngest boy was trying his best to imitate him.

Robin overhead a couple at the next table. She turned the webcam on her laptop toward the couple to record the scene.

“What do you mean, I can’t buy that dress?” the woman said with her pitch raised and hands on her hips staring intently at him. “I just put my check in the bank. There’s plenty of money in the account. Besides, who are you to tell me I can’t spend my own money?”

He crossed his arms pulling the hood of his sweatshirt down to cover his forehead. He dropped his eyes to the floors and said nothing.

“I’m talking to you,” she said a little louder as if she thought he couldn’t hear her.

“I don’t want to talk about it here,” he said taking a couple of small steps backward.

She took steps toward him. Now almost nose to nose, “Talk to me. What’s going on?” she said in a very low pitched, low volume that conveyed her seriousness.”

He said nothing as he stepped back even further as if to escape her wrath.

“There’s a problem with the account,” he finally said hesitantly, pulling the sweatshirt hood down over his face even further.

“What kind of a problem?” she said, now in his face and barely audible.

“Ah, ah, the credit card company took too much out in the last payment. The account is short,” he said avoiding all eye contact rubbing his nose with the back of his hand.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense. By the way, where were you the other night when you were late getting home?”

“I had to work late.”

“You’re lying. I drove by and your car wasn’t there. Did you go to the casino?”

Total silence.

She grabbed his phone and logged into the mobile banking app, “We’re overdrawn by a $1000. You’ve got to be kidding,” she said as she threw his phone on the ground and stomped off.

He slumped to the bench, elbows on his knees holding his head.

Robin looked at her notes and video of the scene. A smile spread across her face. “I’ve got this.”

Conclusion

Remember, much of your body language is triggered by emotions in your subconscious mind. Therefore, you must feel confident and in charge in order to give off confident body language. Also, If you are distracted by checking your phone, Facebook, thinking about what you are going to say next or being distracted by anything else you may miss the nonverbal cues given by the speaker.

You must be focused and engaged in the conversation for your body language to be appropriate. If you are not you may tell the other person you are not interested or, perhaps, that you can’t be trusted.

If you do not catch the cues being sent by the other person, you may misconstrue their message or respond inappropriately. So, the key is to pay attention to the words and body language of the other person.

It’s a choice. Choose to be engaged and focused.

“Few realize how loud their expressions really are.
Be kind with what you wordlessly say.”
Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

 

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What Are Your Vocal Elements Saying About Your Words?

Remember Mom Saying, “Don’t speak to me in that tone of voice.”

Image by natureaddict from Pixabay

Image by natureaddict from Pixabay

We’re surrounded by distractions, especially our phones.  Are you paying attention to the conversations you are having or are you distracted by your phone and social media? What are your vocal elements telling others?

In communications, personal or otherwise, consider your voice. Your vocal elements can help you be engaging and interesting or they can put people to sleep.  They also help ensure that your ideas are communicated clearly.

Communications

In the scientific paper “Body Language Classification and Communicative Context” by Jianxue Yin,  the elements of communication are grouped for better understanding of how the elements work together and separately. The groups consist of Verbal Group – vocal elements,` Posture Group – nonverbal and body language, and the Social Group. This post will address the Verbal Group, which deals with voice elements and emotions involved in sending and receiving verbal messages.

The Assignment

Photo-by-Mimi-Thian-on-Unsplash

Photo-by-Mimi-Thian-on-Unsplash

Robin, a junior in college, working on a degree in Social Psychology, was given the assignment of observing individuals communicating in a busy, distracting environment. She was to report how individuals interacted with each other, the vocal elements they used, and their body language.

Every morning Robin stopped at the ABC Coffee Shop to get her Chocolate Hazelnut Expresso on her way to school. Being close to the university, the coffee shop was always very busy. You could find groups of students and faculty discussing the latest hot topics. The shop was large enough for 10-15 tables but small enough so you could hear snippets of just about every conversation.

Robin sat at her usual table, in the back corner where she could watch the others. She loved to watch people, perhaps that’s why she chose Social Psychology. She was curious about what made people tick.

The teacher had told them about the assignment, but would officially give it to them during the next class. She was sure the coffee shop would be the ideal setting.

 

Verbal Group

As we all know, verbal communications involve a person sending messages to another person or a group using speech.

The communication is successful when the message sent is received by the listener and both parties understand the message. 

It’s not always easy to get the other person’s attention to receive the message, especially if they are on their phone or distracted by some other electronic device.

Emotions

Emotions affect every communication element group. They motivate you to take action and assist you in making quick decisions by giving you feedback about the other person’s nonverbal communication, the situation at hand, and the meaning of their words.

Emotions are contagious. They can interfere with your ability to communicate nonverbal messages. If you enter into a conversation with someone or a group and you are stressed, upset, or angry, it’s very likely that you will transfer your emotions to the other person resulting in a bad situation.

For example, stress may cause you to defensively misread the messages sent by the other person resulting in you sending inappropriate messages.

“93/7 Rule: 93% of communication occurs through nonverbal behavior & tone;
only 7% of communication takes place through the use of words.”

John Stoker, Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold Real Conversations That Create Respect,
Build Relationships, and Get Results

Since 93% of our communication is nonverbal behavior, it behooves us to become more aware of our body language and other nonverbal cues that we give to others, which we will cover in the next few posts.

Voice Elements

In a conversation, your voice is the channel through which your listener receives the message. People do not listen to only your words, but the way you say them – vocal elements.

Vocal elements such as tone, pitch, rate of speech, volume, pauses, plus your words are all part of your communication. How you use the vocal elements can make your words appealing, powerful, and create interest. They can also make your listener angry or check out.

Have you ever listened to someone who speaks in a monotone? Was it hard to focus?

Speed

Rate of Speech

    • Speaking at the same rate of speed is very similar to speaking in a monotone. Boring!
    • Varying the rate of your speech creates interest.
    • It also helps listeners interpret the meaning of your words.
    • Quick or jerky movement or voice show stress or fear inside.

Creating Excitement

    • If you want to excite your listeners, speak quickly with an enthusiastic tone.

Creating Anticipation

    • Slow the rate of your speak to allow your listeners to think about your words.
    • This also creates anticipation for your next idea – cliff hanger.

Pitch or Tone

Raising the Pitch or Tone          

    • Raising the pitch in your voice signals uncertainty or suggest a question.
    • The tone of voice reflects psychological arousal, emotion, and mood. It may also carry social information, as in a sarcastic, superior, or submissive manner of speaking.
    • Universally, adults use higher pitched voices to speak to infants and young children.
    • Men and women both use higher pitched voices in greetings and in courtship, to show harmlessness and to invite physical closeness.
    • “‘It [e.g., stumbling over words, higher vocal pitch, repeated swallowing] is no guarantee that a lie is being told, but it signifies a hot moment, when something is going on you should follow up with interrogation,’ Dr. [Paul] Ekman said” (Goleman, New York Times, C9, Sept. 17, 1991). A higher pitch can also indicate defensiveness.

Lowering the Pitch or Tone

    • Lowering the voice pitch projects a more authoritative and influential character.
    • A lower pitch can indicate shame, especially if the person is caught in a lie.    
    • The softer pitch is innately “friendly,” and suggests a nonaggressive, nonhostile pose.
    • According to (Washington Post [Schwartz 1996:A4]) “There’s a hidden battle for dominance waged in almost every conversation–and the way we modulate the lower frequencies of our voices shows who’s on top”
    • Submission: the act of acknowledging, complying with, or surrendering to the power or will of another.

Volume

Low Volume

    • If your voice is too low, your listener may not be able to hear and understand you.
    • A low volume communicates timidity and submissiveness.

Raising Volume

    • If your voice is too loud, it may be annoying to some listeners and disturb others.

Vary Voice Volume

    • Vary your voice volume to dramatize an idea or thought.
    • Lowering your volume can draw your listener to concentrate more closely on what you are saying.
    • Raise the volume when you want to emphasize a particular word or idea.

Pauses

  • Punctuate with pauses.
  • Occasionally pause to break up the flow of information and words especially after an important point or concluding an idea.
  • This allows listeners to process and understand what was said.
  • Use pauses to create anticipation.
  • People who are lying often pause to give themselves time to think.

Be Clear

  • Improve your listeners’ understanding.
  • Clearly enunciate each sentence, phrase, and word.
  • Practice improving pronunciation.
  • Speaking clearly conveys competence, confidence, and intelligence.

Vocal Element Combination

Lowering your pitch while varying the rate of speech with occasional pauses has proven to be the most effective.

 

Robin Gets Her Assignment

Robin listened as her professor finished giving the assignment.

He began talking about a similar assignment he had been given in college. The more he talked the faster he talked and the pitch in his voice raised.

The excitement began to build in Robin. She couldn’t wait to get started. Her mind began to race through different possibilities of how to make this happen. She could feel the adrenaline beginning to course through her body.

She looked at her watch, “Fifteen minutes left. I wish he’d end the class. I want to get started.”

He caught her attention when the volume in his voice dropped. The pitch in his voice lowered and his speech slowed to almost a crawl. He had her attention. What changed? What was he going to say next?

He paused. All the heads in the classroom raised to see why.

“I know this is short notice, but I need your project proposals by Monday morning. That gives you three days to work on it. If I don’t have it by Monday you will be docked one grade point,” he said just a little above a whisper, but loud enough for everybody to hear.

 

ABC Coffee Shop

Photo-by-Quang-Nguyen-Vinh-from-Pexels

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

At the ABC Coffee Shop Robin observed two women.

Robin chose a table in the corner so she could see every table. With laptop open and recorder on, she began to take notes. If she listened closely she could hear just about every word said at the tables closest to her. She was hoping to be able to record some of the conversations. The tables further away gave her an ideal view for watching their body language.

She sat for a moment observing the coffee shop. All of the tables were full. Music was playing over the loudspeaker. Phones rang. People were talking and laughing. Three were talking on their phones. A couple of people were even talking on their phones and to the other person at their table. Someone in the back dropped some dishes. A person entered the front door causing the bell hanging on the door to ring. A coffee bean grinders whirled. The expresso machine screamed as it was frothing the milk for a Latte’.

She tuned in on two women talking at an adjacent table. They may have been professors, administration or just a couple of women getting together for morning coffee. Robin didn’t know. One of the women, we’ll call Connie, seemed to be more talkative than the other one who we’ll call Debbie.

Connie spoke first as the women were seated with their coffee in hand, “I remember the last time we were together. Do you remember the Christmas Party?” Connie asked.

“Absolutely,” Debbie replied. “That was a lot of fun. It was great seeing everybody’s families, especially the kids.”

“Are your grandkids close?” Connie asked.

“My daughter lives down close to Atlanta. She has two grandkids. I don’t get to see them very often, I wish…” Debbie was saying when she was interrupted by Connie.

“I know exactly what you mean…” Connie started to say when Debbie took the conversation back.

“I’m really sorry, but we don’t have a lot of time, I have to prepare for my next class, but I did ask you for coffee to discuss our next get-together. We had so much fun last time.”

Nice take-back, Robin observed. She observed two guys at another table. They looked like college kids.  She called the one with dark hair Fred and the redhead, Willie.

She observed that Willie was talking almost non-stop. Fred was engaged in attentive listening, using verbal signals, like, “yeah”, “aha”, “really” with a few nods and smiles thrown in also. Then his phone rang. He said, “Excuse me,” as he looked down at his phone and pushed a button for it to go to voice mail.

“Sorry about that. Please continue,” Fred said with a hand gesture for Willie to continue.

After a couple of minutes, Fred held up his hand with his index finger extended. Willie stopped talking.

“Can you repeat what you just said? I’m not sure I understand correctly,” Fred said.

Willie smiled and went back over what he had just said in a little different way.”

“That was a really polite conversation for a couple of college guys,” Robin snickered to herself as she looked around the room.

Robin recorded all the noise in the coffee shop wondering how anyone could carry on a meaningful conversation with the noise and distractions.

 

Conclusion – Communication Tips

Starting A Conversation

When you start a conversation with someone you haven’t seen for a while, reference the context of your last meeting.

Speaking Tips

Speed

Watch the speed at which you speak. Don’t speak too fast or too slow. Watch the response on your listener’s face. Varying the speed creates interest and helps the listener interpret the meaning of your words.

Pitch or Tone

The tone of voice reflects psychological arousal, emotion, and mood. It may also carry social information, as in a sarcastic, superior, or submissive manner of speaking. Lowering the pitch or tone projects more authority or influence.

Volume

Varying the volume in your voice adds drama. When a person lowers their volume it draws the listener in, whereas, raising the volume emphasizes a word or idea.

Lowering your pitch while varying the rate of speech with occasional pauses has proven to be the most effective.

Listening Tips

Interruptions

Never interrupt someone while they are talking. Not only is this rude, but it can be annoying, too. Unless you are interrupting someone to clarify something, please refrain from doing so while they are talking.

If you are interrupted, you have a couple of good options. Ignore their interruption and keep talking, politely take the conversation back (which I will cover in another post), or allow them to hijack the conversation.

Follow-up Questions

Make it a point to ask a couple of follow-up questions. Doing this shows that you were attentively listening to what they were saying and allows them to clarify their meaning.

Listening

One of the most important parts of communication is listening. Listening is not just waiting until you have a turn to speak, using the time to compose what you are going to say next. Listening is being respectful while giving the other person a chance to share their thoughts and idea.

Give them non-intrusive verbal and nonverbal signals to continue talking. Give yourself time to receive and digest what the other person is saying so you will be able to respond more appropriately when it is your turn to speak.  

Active and attentive listening builds emotional intimacy and shows empathy and respect.

Ask Questions

Get the other person to share stories.

In a personal conversation stay away from facts. If you ask where they work then immediately follow with, “How do you like working there?”

Encourage them to tell their story.

If you get short answers to your “open-ended” questions find a different topic.

Are you aware of how you use vocal elements in your conversations? If not, perhaps it’s time to listen to yourself and watch other people’s faces to see if they are engaged in what you are saying or not?

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How To Achieve And What Is A Win-Win Conversation

“It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” – Stephen Covey

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Image-by-Gerd-Altmann-from-Pixabay

Jerry discovered that Debbie, the step-mother of his girlfriend Connie, was a Life Coach. He and Connie had been having problems lately. He wanted to take their relationship to the next level – move in together. Connie wasn’t so sure. They had been seeing each other for about six months and Connie was noticing some things that sent up some red flags.

Jerry was determined to move in, but he knew he needed some extra support with Connie. He got Debbie’s phone number out of Connie’s phone when she stepped out of the room. The next day when Connie was at work he called Debbie and started talking like they were old friends or like he was her client.

Debbie knew about Connie’s misgivings about the relationship so she played along allowing him to continue talking hoping to find out more information about Jerry. He talked and talked and talked. Debbie was surprised. She really couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“I’m so glad you took my call. I really want to get to know you. Connie and I will be moving in together in just a couple of weeks. I’m so excited. I go over now and clean up her apartment and have dinner ready for her when she gets home. As soon as I move in I’ll be able to really take care of her.”

“Jerry,” he finally stopped talking. “How are you going to do all of that and work?”

“Oh. I’m waiting for my disability check to kick in.”

“You’re not working?” Debbie asked.

“Well, I am. You might say. I need your help. I really love Connie and she’s been talking about us moving in together, but lately, she seems to be getting cold feet. I know why and I need your help to talk to her.”

“What do you need my help with? I don’t know you. Why would I help you?” Debbie asked.

“I know she thinks I’m acting strange. I’ve tried to talk to her, but I don’t seem to be able to get it across to her. I need your help,” Jerry said.

“What is it you want to get across to her?”

“I’m ADHD and some of the things I do are a little different. I need you to explain it to her so she understands,” Jerry said after a little pause.

 

Win-Win

The goal of communication with anyone is to create a Win-Win situation for all parties. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states that “Win-Win is not a technique to be learned, but a philosophy of human interaction. It is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win also means that all agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying.”

The Win-Win mindset takes all the competition out of the interaction. According to Covey, “most people think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win… or lose. Covey goes on to say that this type of thinking is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on power and position rather than on principle or paradigm that states that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.”

 

What others say

I asked several people what a Win-Win Conversation means to them:

Win-win is where both parties learn something useful.” – Liz

“All parties involved have been given the opportunity to explain their own views with clarity and understanding making sure all who are listening fully grasp what is being conveyed. Then, leading into a time of evaluating all views that have been contributed with a goal of incorporating the different thoughts into one agreeable outcome that is accepted by all involved.” – Don

“When you first asked me, I thought there’s no way a Win-Win happens because in a situation of finite resources someone loses what the other acquires. But in reality, mankind has survived by the process of bartering, exchanging value for value.” – Larry

Growing up as an only child, living in the basement of my parents business, a nursing home, there were very few real conversations, with me, at least. My parents were both too busy to interact with me unless I did something wrong. As I grew into my teenage years and older I was very quiet because I had not learned how to communicate, to have a meaningful conversation, let alone, have a Win-Win conversation. I began to think there was something wrong with me because when people would talk to me I couldn’t think of anything to say to contribute to the conversation.

As I began my journey into adulthood, I devoured the book “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas A. Harris MD. I learned from reading the conversations in the book how to respond to people, how to begin to communicate my thoughts and feelings.

In college, I learned more about the academic side of communication, which isn’t always appropriate either. The erudite communication style shows off the person’s knowledge but is usually very hard for the other person to connect with.

I have learned much over the years about communications and having conversations with another person. Still, I have much to learn about truly connecting with another person so both parties walk away from the interaction feeling blessed just for being a participant.

Decisions and solutions don’t have to be determined or developed for the conversation to be important and bless both parties. It can be just an exciting, exhilarating, meaningful conversation.

 

Conversations with someone with ADHD

Just when I thought I was getting closer to mastering the art of a meaningful conversation I was thrown into communication situations with individuals who have ADHD. People with ADHD often jump from subject to subject without any warning. As a general rule, they can be very argumentative and become easily offended and launch into a tirade of defensive verbiage, or begin the blame game. Because of their impulsivity, the conversation threads can be trashed in seconds. Very often listening with focused attention does not happen. It’s a very interesting experience.

It sent me back to the drawing board to really learn and perfect a Win-Win Conversation Style.

Communications Styles

Most of us are familiar with the basic four styles of communication: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, Assertive.

Passive: Passive Communicators are usually introverts, like I was, afraid, unwilling, or don’t know how to share their thoughts, feelings, desires, wants or wishes in a meaningful honest way. Many times the person has very low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like what they have to say is important. A passive communication style is also used if the speaker wants to avoid being critical or hurting the other person’s feelings. The passive communication style often leaves the listeners feeling angry, confused, and often suspicious.

Aggressive: The Aggressive Communicator, on the other hand, is similar to what I described above, very argumentative, easily offended, blames and makes accusations. The Aggressive Communicator often over-generalizes by using phrases such as, “You always put me down.” or “You never want to spend time with me.” This communication style often follows when a person is feeling threatened, criticized, or obsessing on negative thoughts and feelings. They usually focus on the other person instead of on the situation. Many people with ADHD are Aggressive Communicators, but they are not the only ones.

Passive-Aggressive: The Passive-Aggressive Communicator is usually passive to the other person’s face, but displays aggression behind the person’s back. The primary goal of the Passive-Aggressive Communicator is to avoid face-to-face conflict. Later, they often become angry or seek revenge in some way. They often voice their real opinion behind the person’s back or to the person after the decision has been made and executed.

Assertive: The Assertive Communicator conducts their conversations in a healthy, non-defensive, non-aggressive, non-passive manner. They ask for what they want and need, voices their opinion in a respectful manner while remaining positive during the communication process. They seek a good mutually-satisfying conversation whether it’s just a conversation or they need to come to a decision or solution. The Assertive Communicator uses “I” statements instead of “You” statement which can be misconstrued as an accusation or blame. He or she also maintains good eye contact with the other person.

One thing to remember in any conversation is that opinions and goals are rarely as different as we might imagine. As we begin the communication process remind yourself to keep an open mind and be flexible in your thinking. Maintaining an amicable mindset which will promote peace and goodwill.

 

Achieving Win-Win Communications

Get the information needed out in the open

Lay all the concerns, facts, wants, or needs about the problem openly and honestly on the table. When a person is not open it inhibits effective communication.

Focus on the Problem Not The Person

Avoid identifying the other person as an “opponent.” Keep the problem or issue at the forefront of your mind. Try to ignore the personality and personal opinion differences. To do this try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Apply a generous helping of Empathy! In determining a Win-Win solution, focus on the common ground instead of the differences.

Be Aware of Any Emotions or Voice Tones

If you notice negative emotions coming to the surface, evaluate your emotions. Determine where they came from and how you can alleviate them so they do not cause a problem. Remain calm! If you observe an emotion in the other person, do not reflect it or respond in the same manner. If you respond with the same emotions there is a high likelihood of a heated argument. If you do detect an emotion make an effort to understand the other person interest, needs, and concerns.

Be Clear and Use Active Listening

Make sure your communication is clear with as few words as possible to get your meaning across. Use active, attentive listening, paraphrasing what the other person has said for clear understanding.

Use “I” Statements

“I” statements keep the communication from becoming argumentative, accusatory, or blaming.

Focus on Interest, Not Positions

Remember we all see things differently because of where we’ve been, our culture, values, beliefs, status, and responsibility. Our differences make for an interesting world. Seek understanding. You may be surprised.

Brainstorm Together

Be prepared with at least one possible solution to the situation. Make sure to ask the other person for ideas also. It’s possible that combining ideas could bring about a new solution that’s even better.

Mutually Beneficial, Mutually Satisfying

As Stephen Covey has stated, Seek a solution or decision that is mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying for both parties. If you don’t seem to be able to reach this point, together brainstorm for different solutions and be willing to negotiate.

Seeking The Win-Win

“Jerry, let me get this straight. You want me to convince Connie to let you move in with her? Is that right? And Why should I do that?” Debbie asked. Make the problem or situation clear.

Debbie could hear on the phone that Jerry was starting to get agitated. He was breathing harder than before. There was a sharp tone in his voice. Calm any emotions that arise.

“You know what ADHD is. You know how it affects people. If Connie just understood I know we’d be okay. I need you to explain it to her,” he continued talking in rapid fire without giving Debbie a chance to speak or even answering her questions. With ADHD or other disorders, you have to work at getting their attention.

Debbie waited for several minutes before trying to get Jerry’s attention hoping he’d run out of words.

“Jerry, Jerry you need to stop talking a minute.”

“You’ll talk to her for me?” Jerry asked.

“We’ll have a conversation about it and see if we can come up with an agreement,” Debbie said. “Why do you think she’s getting cold feet?” Focus on the problem.

“She doesn’t want me to go to her house and fix dinner for her anymore. She says she doesn’t want me there all the time. But, if I move in then I’ll be there all the time. I know she loves me. She’s said so. I just don’t understand.”

“Let’s back up a little. You said you weren’t working. Is that right?” she asked. “Then where are you living now?”

“I’m living with my sister, but she wants me out.”

“So are you wanting Connie to support you?” Debbie asked. Identifying the real issue.

“Well, it’d be just until I get my disability check. Isn’t that what couples who are in love do? They take care of each other,” he said.

“So you’re wanting Connie to take care of you even though you aren’t married? Do you suppose that could be Connie’s problem? Does she want to take care of you or do you just assume that?”

“I guess I was assuming that she’d want to take care of me, but we’ve never talked about it like that before,” he said.

“Maybe you need to ask her straight-out if she wants to take care of you.”

“Okay. Then can we talk more?” Jerry asked.

“Sure. Call me after you talk to her.”

 

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How To Communicate Effectively With People Who Think Differently

I can hear some of you who are reading this post ask, everybody thinks differently, so what exactly do you mean? Correct, people don’t think or do anything exactly the same, unless, perhaps, identical twins.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

People with personality disorders do think differently:

  • BiPolar: Obsessive Thoughts, think in the extremes – catastrophizing.
  • Paranoid Personality Disorders: Exhibit suspicious thinking.
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: Think they are completely flawed and inferior.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorders: Extremely superstitious with unusual beliefs in magic or the supernatural.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Vacillate between over-idealizing themselves, and completely devaluing themselves.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Black and white thinking.
  • ADHD: Think they are communicating when they’re just talking.

In this paper, I will focus on ADHA communication. I will explore communication with other personality disorders in subsequent posts.

 

Ted and ADHD

It was hard for Ted to start over trying to build a relationship with Tanya.

He thought back over his ten-year marriage to Amy. It seemed like she never understood him. That was part of the problem between them. He’d try and try to communicate with her, but she just didn’t understand. It seemed that the more he talked, the more distant she became.

Some times when he’d try to talk to her, she’d look at him like he was an alien from a different planet. She’d wrinkle-up her brow and say, “What the heck are you talking about?”

He’d try to explain it one more time and she’d throw up her hands and storm out. Occasionally, she’d say, “Can you talk in plain English so I can understand you?”

“The more I talked the worse it got. It got to the place I just couldn’t think anymore. It’s like my mind shut down. What’s wrong with me, anyway? I know I have ADHD, but what does that have to do with communicating? My mom took me to the doctor when I was about 12. He said it’s why I can’t sit still. I’m always moving and I get bored easily. But, what does that have to do with talking to my wife?”

 

Communicate, Don’t Just Talk and Talk

People with ADHD run into several different problems when trying to communicate. As you know from reading some of my posts on ADHD, people with the disorder are easily distracted. You can be talking to a person with ADHD and suddenly you notice they are gone. Their eyes take on a “vacant look” that tells you they have disappeared even though they are physically exactly where they were when the conversation started. Something that was said could trigger a thought that takes them on a “journey far far away”. If they have their phone close by and it beeps or makes some other sound they are gone, even if they don’t pick up the phone.

 

Communication Hot Spots for people with ADHD:

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Non-Stop Talking:

Impulsive Talking: Because of the impulsivity that most people with ADHD experience whenever a thought, feeling, or reaction pops into their mind they immediately have to say it. Most usually the person with ADHD does not take the time to evaluate whether this is the time or place for their thought to be said. They just blurt it out.

Solution: It’s very important to stop and think before speaking. Count to 10 to give yourself time before saying what pops into your mind. If necessary, ask someone else what they think about you saying it or how to say it.

Spilling Everything: Many with ADHD are compelled to say what’s on their mind before they forget it. This leaves the other person frustrated because of the flurry of words without exercising the standard communication and listening techniques. They often say, “I need to say this before I forget it.”

Solution: If you are the speaker and the listener is not aware of your impulsivity, tell him about your compulsion to vent and ask him for patience. After spilling everything on your mind, stop. Ask your listener what he has heard. Enter into a give-and-take communication about the subject. Also, design a device that will help you remember what you want to say.  If a truly important subject occurs to you, do as my husband does, and put a “pin in it” to discuss it later. He physically goes through the motions of pinning a note to a bulletin board. With the deliberate action, he remembers the subject almost 100% of the time.

Easily Distracted:

Switching Subjects: Those of us who are non-ADHD often get frustrated and have trouble following when the subject is switched without a resolution. Some non-ADHD people will look at the ADHD person and say, “What did you say? It just doesn’t make any sense? Please slow down and explain what you are saying so I can understand.”

Solution: Be self-aware that you have a tendency to switch subjects. Catch yourself and enlist your partner’s help in staying on track. Put a “pin in it”, as described above. It also helps to take several deep breaths and make a conscious choice to slow down.

Tuning Out the Speakers Words: A term used to explain ADHD is “fast brain”. When the person with ADHD is under pressure or feeling anxiety their brain is abuzz. They don’t have time to listen to what others are saying. When this happens, forget about responding to him. He can’t hear. If you ask him what you said, he may be able to give you a word or two, but not the thought.

Solution: When you, the one with ADHD, catch yourself beginning to tune out, ask your self, “Am I listening?” Tell yourself that your partner’s thoughts and words are important. If you need to, ask the speaker to repeat what they just said.

 

Image by ashish choudhary from Pixabay

Image by Ashish Choudhary from Pixabay

Argumentative:

Playing The Blame Game: People with ADHD often defend themselves against real or imagined criticisms. In many instances, the person with ADHD hears maybe five words, jumps to a conclusion of what the speaker is going to say and launches into defensive behavior and/or communication. They are often too busy defending, explaining, blaming, or justifying themselves that they can’t hear the speaker’s point.

Solution: If you hear yourself say, “It wasn’t my fault” or “You do it, too” or “That’s not right” or something similar, more than once, take a break. Go to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face, or take a walk, or go into another room to allow yourself to calm down, or take several deep breaths. Reset your attitude.

Make sure that when you leave the room, you don’t just walk away. Make an appointment to continue the conversation. Too often, when a break is taken, and a time is not set to resume the discussion, it results in important issues being dropped and the other person feeling like what they have to say or their feelings are not important.

Easily Bored: People with ADHD have a real problem with low stimulation and boredom. They do not handle boredom well. They need mental stimulation. It has been stated that they experience boredom when the activity in the front of their brains is too low. Women with ADHD who cannot handle boredom are often called “drama queens”.

Solution: Keep yourself busy. If it becomes a real problem talk to your doctor about a treatment plan.

Afraid To Speak Up or Caught Off Guard:

Some with ADHD have problems with their brain’s “locking up.” When a person with ADHD gets overly emotional, sometimes they just can’t think. This may happen in stressful situations or with intimidating or aggressive people.

Solution: If you are aware of an approaching situation, write down what you want to say beforehand then during the situation, if your brain locks up, you can read what you had written or use your notes to guide your part of the communication.

If you are caught off guard, take a time out or say, “I need to think about this.” Take several deep breaths to calm your emotions. At that point, if you need to, write down what you want to say and read it.

 

Trying To Build a New Relationship

Ted sat out on the back deck going over the argument he and Tanya had just had. She accused him of being mean and abusive.

“Am I starting this cycle over again, just with a different woman? Why? What do I need to do differently? She wrinkles-up her brow just like Amy did. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t they understand me?”

He sat and thought and prayed for a good while. Maybe God would help him. He really didn’t want a repeat of the last 10 years. A thought went through his mind, “Tell her about the ADHD.” He sat wondering why he had the thought. Was that God talking?

He went to the back door and asked Tanya to join him on the deck.

She walked out, taking a seat without looking at him.

“I want to apologize to you for my behavior lately. I’ve been angry with Amy and with God, but it’s not fair to take it out on you. Please forgive me.”

She turned and looked at him without saying a word. He could tell she was not happy. Her face had a reddish tint to it like she was very angry. He noticed that her brow started to relax just a little. But, she still didn’t say a word.

“There is something I need to tell you,” he said as she sat very still almost like a statue but gestured with her hand for him to continue.

He took a deep breath, “I’ve never told anyone this, but I have ADHD. I was diagnosed with it when I was 12.”

The angry appearance was instantly replaced by a puzzled look as she said, “Why haven’t you told anybody?”

“Good question,” he thought for a moment. “I guess I was ashamed and didn’t think it was a problem. I don’t notice anything.”

“Of course you don’t notice anything. You’ve always been this way and you’re inside the box. It looks like home,” she said.

“It looks like home,” he repeated then sat quietly thinking about what she had said. “You’re right. It is home. But why don’t you see it as home?”

“Because my home, my box looks like me, the way I do things, the way I think, the way I perceive things. What I can see of the inside of your box seems very strange to me? Sometimes it seems like another planet.”

“That’s what Amy used to say to me. Why are you no longer angry with me?”

Tanya’s face softened as he laughed slightly, “I studied ADHD in college. Now, it makes a lot more sense. You’re not just being a jerk.”

“I still don’t understand,” he said.

“Well, first of all, you’re very argumentative. No matter what I say you get defensive and start the blame game. I know you got a raw deal with Amy, but that can’t be all of it.”

“What do you mean? I’m not argumentative. I’m just explaining my point of view…” he said.

Tanya interrupted, “Many people with ADHD and other personality disorders, get defensive whenever they feel criticized whether it’s real or not. You launch a defense after just five words just in case it’s a criticism. You interrupt what I’m saying, maybe, so you don’t have to hear everything.”

Ted started to interrupt. Tanya held up her hand, “Don’t interrupt. You need to hear this.”

He settled back into his seat.

“And don’t shut me out. You need to listen.”

He nodded.

“Just like right now. You don’t necessarily like the way the conversation is going to you try to derail it, change the subject, or argue with me, right?”

Ted nodded.

“That is part of the ADHD. You’ve learned how to compensate for things that might be pointed at you. You deflect them to someone else or change the subject completely so you don’t have to hear it. Usually, this happens to avoid taking responsibility for the communication problem. Am I correct?”

This time he didn’t nod or say anything, but the fire danced in his eyes. At least he didn’t lock her out. She had his complete attention, which was rare. Usually, he’d get bored with the conversation or he’d switch the subject to something more comfortable for him.

“I am aware of most of the things you have to deal with. I’m willing to work with you to be able to make this relationship work. Yes, there are concessions we’ll both have to make. We can create workarounds so that we’re both comfortable. Deal?”

Ted stared at her for several minutes before answering. His face began to soften as the stress and tension began to leave his face. Finally, a hint of a smile appeared.

“Well,” he said. “That sounds like the best deal I’ve heard all day. I’ll take it.”

He pulled her into his arms, “Looks like we’re going to be doing some reconstruction on our houses.”

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How To Find The Cure For Defensive Communication

“One reduces the defensiveness of the listener when one communicates that one is willing to experiment with one’s own behavior, attitudes and ideas.”- Jack R. Gibb PhD – A pioneer in humanistic psychology

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Loved Me Anyway

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)

larrySWarfieldMusic.com

I was bent and broken. God had let me down. I was angry, I just didn’t care.

I was into taking all that I could get, giving just enough to get me there.

She knew just what that was like. She’d been there before.

With strength and faith, she knew what she could do.

God warned her – “Here he comes, my Dear…” He’s gonna need your love”

She said, “Just give me time to think it through.”

Then she loved me. She loved me anyway.

Ted Thought He Had It All

Ted thought he had it all together, a beautiful wife, an ideal job with an up and coming company.  But it all ended in a very nasty divorce. He was angry. He didn’t want to get close to anyone. He became a user of people, women in particular.

He was angry with God thinking God had let him down. He had done the religious, “churchy” things, so why did this happen? They went to church every Sunday. He sang on the praise team. They had their house with the white picket fence and their two kids. What more could a person want?

Then she asked to go back to work. She felt trapped and controlled. He called all the shots and she was to jump every time he said jump.

She had given up a career because he said – “No, my wife is going to be a ‘stay-at-home’ mom. The kids need you.” Her wants and wishes were not considered. Ted had it all figured out. He was right. This was how it was going to be.

He had the mindset of – “I win, we all win,” – as long as we do it my way. But, Amy didn’t buy it. She couldn’t get him to change his mind or even listen to what she had to say. Any time she got close to the subject of going to work, he stonewalled the conversation, stomping off to the other room and refusing to talk. Forget listening or paraphrasing what she had to say. He didn’t care how she felt. He was the boss of the family and that was that.

 

It Came Crashing Down

One day she got up earlier than usual, dressed in a business suit, had the kids dressed with lunches walking out the door when he staggered into the kitchen for his usual breakfast that she always sat before him with his coffee.

Not today. As he watched her march the kids out the door, he finally woke up enough to say, “What’s going on? Where are you going? Where’s my breakfast?”

“First day on the job. Kids are going to daycare. Breakfast is on you,” she said walking out the door.

He stood for what seemed like an eternity watching the car drive away. Then he plopped into a chair at the table, with his head propped up on his hands. He had no clue how long he sat feeling like his whole world had just crumbled. He couldn’t even wrap his mind around going to work or even calling in sick.

The family had settled into their new routine when Amy started getting calls from work. When Ted asked who called, she said, “It’s just a work problem.” But it wasn’t long until she presented him with divorce papers. The work problem ended up being a guy from work who was pushing her to get a divorce and start a new life with him.

His perfect life with the white picket fence, beautiful wife, and two kids soon found him in the house alone. Angry. God had let him down.

Then he met Tanya, nothing like his wife. She went to church on her own. She claimed to have a relationship with Jesus. He scoffed at her, but, yet, she was attractive to him, even with the God stuff.

He began to court her and develop a new relationship. She soon agreed to let him move in.

Sometimes he was mean and abusive. He’d get defensive. He’d attack. She’d take just so much and then she’d draw the line, “Stop it or there’s the door.” For some reason, he’d always stopped. He switched to loving.

Defensive Behavior

Defensive behavior occurs when a person perceives or anticipates a threat. When a person experiences defensiveness, he or she is not able to give their full attention to the task at hand because a large portion of their attention is devoted to defending him or herself. At that moment he is occupied with thoughts about how he appears to others, what he needs to do to appear more favorable, how he can win, dominate, impress or escape punishment, or how he can avoid a perceived attack.

The defensive listener may launch into explaining how you, the speaker, misunderstood. Or clarify their intentions. Or make excuses. Or explain the cause and effect. Or say you caused it. Or say you, the speaker, do it too. Or point out something else you do wrong.

Defensive behavior arouses defensive listening producing postural, facial, and verbal cues resulting in a raised defense level in the speaker. If this goes unchecked the circular response can become very destructive similar to the “Defcon” level of international military interaction.

As a person becomes more and more defensive, he becomes less able to perceive accurately the motives, the values and the emotions of the speaker. The defensive behavior actually prevents the listener from concentrating on the message. It also distorts what they receive.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Defensive Communication?

Defensive communication is a reaction that occurs when an individual reacts in a defensive manner to a perceived logic flaw, a threat or a perceived unjust accusation, resulting in aggressive retaliation. A defensive response can be triggered by feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and sensitivity when the listener feels negatively evaluated, controlled or persuaded by the speaker.

Defensiveness can be a very serious problem. It can become a very bad habit on the part of the speaker and the listener.

Defensiveness is very frustrating, especially when you, the speaker, are trying to make a point and it seems like the listener isn’t really listening or derail the conversation.

Likewise, you, as the listener, can become very defensive when it feels like you are being criticized or blamed for something you didn’t do. Within a matter of minutes, the criticism and blaming and defensiveness can escalate and turn into contempt or stonewalling, where the listener withdraws from the conversation, shuts down, closing himself off from the speaker. This type of cycle can go unending for days, weeks, months, and even years.

This pattern needs to be nipped in the bud and not allowed to continue. Make a decision to establish a more “supportive” environment which creates a defense-reduction climate. The less the listener interprets unfavorable motives, the less likely his or her anxieties and concerns will be triggered. As the listener’s defenses are reduced, he is better able to concentrate on the meaning of the message.

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Add A Softer Touch

If you don’t like your partner’s defensiveness make sure you are not causing it by being critical. When you need to talk about a problem or something that could bring out defensiveness in the listener, make a soft start.

Do not “blow them out of the water with both guns blazing” to get their attention. Begin with a soft tone.

If you start the conversation with an abrupt, loud, or angry or critical remark, it’s over. The listener is in defense-mode before you get a sentence out.

Decide if this is the time or place for the conversation that you are about to introduce. If not, in a soft tone, say that you need to talk to them and ask, “When would be a good time?” Make an appointment. Wait until then to begin talking.

At the appointed time, start by using a soft tone. Use the “polite” words, please and thank you.

Example:

Criticism: “You never lock the door!”

Request:  “For the next week, would you please be sure to lock the door every day?” Thank you.

 

Cure For Defensive Communications

Find some part of a request or criticism that you can honestly take some responsibility for. Talk about that first. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, find some part that you can acknowledge in good faith. Address that part first. Stay on the topic until the listener experiences some relief. Don’t shift to another part of the topic too soon.

Example:

Speaker #1 says, “You’re working too many hours like you always do.”

Listener’s Response #1, “That’s true. I have been working late.”                                                     

DO NOT SAY

Listener’s Response #2, “Well, I wouldn’t have to work so late, if you’d do more.”

If the listener responds with Response #2 it will lead to a fight. Response #1 acknowledges that he has been working a lot of hours.

 

To summarize:

  • If your partner is defensive, make sure you are not being critical.
  • Acknowledging and taking responsibility for part of the criticism lets the steam off so it does not become a fight.
  • Proverbs 15:1 ESV, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

 

One day Ted woke up to the fact that Tanya really did love him. When he realized he was loved, the meanness, the abusiveness, the defensiveness, the attacks began to diminish. His responses became softer with move loving tenderness.

Loved Me Anyway

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)

larrySWarfieldMusic.com

Then one day it dawned on me “She’s lovin’ you, you fool.”

I opened up my heart and I could see.

I’d thought I was in control. I’d thought I was so cool.

But there she was beside me. Tho’ she didn’t have to be.

Cause she knew just what I was like, making’ all that noise…

She’d take just so much and then she’d draw the line

And I learned I could trust that girl like no one else before

Now I’m so proud to tell the world she’s mine.

“It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way,” – Stephen Covey.

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How To Find the Rhythm in the Communication Dance

Find The Rhythm

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)
LarrySWarfieldMusic.com

When a man loves the work he does, it’s a wonderful joy it brings.
Not just mastering tools, or remembering rules, or just doing the same old thing
It goes much deeper within him. It’s so very much like romance.
He finds the rhythm in it and learns to dance.
Let me find the rhythm every step that I take in life.
As a general rule, I’m a stumbling fool, with my children, my home, and my wife.
Let me feel the rhythm. Give me one more chance.
Help me find the rhythm and learn to dance.

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

“When the two sexes communicate, women often communicate for the sake of communication and for the sake of talking. Men like to talk in a solution-oriented fashion instead. For a man, there must be a point and a conclusion in the conversation.”

 

An Average American Couple

Jack and Millie, a normal Southern California couple, married for ten years with two kids, a boy eight and a girl five. They both work full-time jobs as programmer-analysts. Millie’s mother takes care of the kids after school before they get home from work.

Jack works as an engineering programmer for a large oil company whose main office is in La Palma, CA, with offices and oil derricks all over the world. He often works overtime with frequent trips to different offices. His current assignment entails designing graphics that illustrate the different strata around an oil derrick.

Millie, also a programmer analyst, works for LA County Probation Office located in Whittier, CA. She has a 35-minute commute each way, which often turns into an hour each way because of traffic.

Their home is within five miles of Jack’s office, around the corner from the kid’s school, and grandma’s house across the street from the school. The arrangement works well for everyone in the family, except Millie, when she gets caught in traffic.

 

The Commute Home

This was one of those nights when two cars tried to occupy the same space on Carmenita Rd. Traffic was backed up for about two miles. Millie tried taking side streets, but everybody else had the same idea. It took her almost two hours to get home.

She tried calling Jack, but, as normal, his phone went straight to voice mail. He was on the phone so much at work so when he got home he often left his phone in the bedroom so he didn’t have to answer it.

She called her mom to see if Jack had picked up the kids and he had. At these times she wished one of the kids had a phone, but they had agreed Jack Jr. was still a little young for a phone.

She had to decide to stop and get take-out or cook when she got home. It was rare that Jack ever started dinner or did anything when he got home other than watch the news. She opted for Chinese. Their favorite restaurant was on her way home.

She was hoping for a quiet evening, but lately that hadn’t been the case. The kids seemed to be extra noisy and Jack didn’t seem to be present.

“I really don’t understand how he can have such selective hearing that he doesn’t hear anything but the TV. It’s been a rough few days at work and I’m not up for taking care of everything by myself tonight,” she said out loud. “I honestly don’t know what’s up with Jack. He’s always someplace else even though he’s in his usual spot on the couch.”

She could tell this had the makings of an unpleasant evening.

 

A Women’s Needs

Women need closeness and intimacy.  Talking is the currency of relationship building. It brings about intimacy for women – best friends sit and talk. Talking about problems or concerns or situations is the way they connect. Women value feelings and the quality of relationships.

Women need to receive care, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. A woman can be unconsciously afraid of being unworthy of love. They feel empowered when they feel cherished and cared for. She is often afraid of getting too close. Afraid she won’t be supported, she unknowingly pushes away the support she needs. If she pushes he feels rejected and turns away.

Women need to be listened to without being offered a solution or “fix” in order for her to feel understood and cared for. She needs her thoughts and feelings acknowledged. Women are not looking for immediate solutions. They want to be heard and understood, not “fixed.”

 

A Men’s Needs

Men, on the other hand, communicate to negotiate their status. They talk to preserve their independence and avoid being pushed around by others. Men value power, competence, and achievement. They need to achieve results. Men are empowered when they feel needed and trusted. Men need to receive trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement.

A man’s deepest fear is of being incompetent and not good enough. He is often afraid of giving and risking failure. It’s important that women not offer unsolicited advice to men because it would be perceived as critical, demeaning, and unaccepting.

 

An Argument

When a man feels challenged, he defensively focuses on being right and forgets to be loving or to listen to understand. He then upsets her by invalidating her feelings by trying to “fix” or solve her problem. Unless something changes the exchange can go around and around without end with emotions getting hotter, deteriorating into a fight.

 

The Communication Dance

Communication between men and women can be like a dance – A Communication Dance. We are all familiar with social dancing as a significant means of communication, where one of the partners expresses themselves through meaningful gestures and the other partner responds with appropriate or complementary movements and gestures. It does not have to be connected to music.

The communication dance is not driven by the body, but by the soul. The soul is tied to the expression communicated through each partner’s movements, expressions, attitudes, voice tone, and words, hence The Dance.

Our family of origin set our communication style and expectations. Each family has its own set of communication rules. For example, in one family a discussion, debate, sharing a different perspective, generating new ideas may look totally different from the communication style in a different family.

Perhaps, your family discussions were filled with interpreting, interrupting, criticizing, name-calling, playing the Blame-Game. Other families had very little, if any, communication or group discussions.

Honoring others: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom. 12:10). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3–4).

The Dance Begins

Millie walked in the house. The kids were chasing each other down the hallway, yelling and screaming. She didn’t pay attention to who was chasing who or who had the upper hand. When they saw her they turned and ran straight to the kitchen.

“You brought Chinese, we’re so hungry. Why are you so late?” Jack Jr. said.

“I’m starved,” Little Beth said as she crawled up into a chair at the kitchen table.

“Where’s your dad?”

“Usual,” Jack Jr. answered. “Can we eat now? I’m so hungry.”

“Didn’t you get a snack?”

“Dad said no,” he answered as Millie dished up their plates.

1st Move – Interpretation

She dished up her plate and sat at the table. She paused, thinking. “Does he think that feeding the kids and taking care of the home is woman’s work? Does he think he has no responsibilities in this house or to our family? Maybe I won’t even tell him dinner is served.” She sat for some time pondering her interpretation of the situation.

Jack walked into the kitchen, dished up his plate and began eating without saying a word or making eye contact.

Millie’s interpretation kept her from saying anything to Jack. She just knew her interpretation was right and she wouldn’t be nice and didn’t want to fight in front of the kids.

After dinner, she put the kids to bed then went back to the kitchen to clean up. She stood in front of the sink for a long time trying to decide what to do next.

2nd Move – Question or Accusations

Millie has a choice to make that will dictate the course and movements of this dance. She could go with her initial interpretation, “Jack just doesn’t care,” and go charging in with accusations, criticizing, name-calling and interrupting anything he would have to say – the blame game.

Millie’s second choice would be to calmly ask a question to understand.

Because of recent confrontations, Millie had begun studying listening and communications. She knew that if she criticized him it could easily lead to name-calling which would escalate to a blowup.

Millie decided to ask a question instead of assuming her interpretation was correct. She, again, had two options. She could ask, “How come you’re watching TV while I’m doing dishes and cleaning up the house?” or “Could I get some help with the dishes and housework?”

She walked into the living room and found him staring off into space, not even watching the TV. “Could I get some help with the dishes?” she asked.

She consciously tried to have a more neutral or pleasant expression on her face – she had been doing her homework. His body tensed when she walked into the room and stood by the couch. As he turned and looked at her face his body relaxed.

“Sure. No problem.”

He got up and turned toward the kitchen door then pulled her into a gentle embrace and planted a kiss on her forehead.

“What’s that for?” she asked with a sheepish grin on her face.

“For not being mad? I was sure you were mad that’s why I didn’t say anything at the table.”

“You’ve been acting very strange lately. Could you please tell me what’s going on?” she asked.

3rd Move – Sharing or Silence

He motioned for her to sit at the table. “I guess it’s time,” he said.

Now, she tensed. “Oh no, what’s up? Is he going to ask for a divorce, tell me about a mistress or that he lost his job?” she again interpreted the pending situation as she sat perfectly still trying not to cry.

“I have been very quiet lately. I know you’ve been carrying a heavy load with the kids, the house, and your job. That commute can sometimes be a bear, like tonight. I saw the accident on Carmenita Rd. It was terrible. Both drivers were killed,” he paused. “I haven’t said anything to you because I know what you’d say and I didn’t want your opinion to sway my decision.”

He saw her tense up again. He reached out and took her hand, “It’s not bad. Trust me.”

“Please just tell me. The stress is killing me,” she said as a tear ran down her cheek.

He wiped off the tear, “I have been offered a promotion at work.”

“That’s it. Well, of course, take it,” she said.

“That’s what I figured you’d say, but it’s not that simple. I would be traveling a lot, approximately six months out of the year.  Yes, the money is fantastic, but the kids, the house everything would fall on your shoulders. I’m not good with that. I haven’t said anything because I have another possibility that I am really considering. I’ve been asked to work for another company doing basically the same thing, but I’d be working from home. The pay wouldn’t be as much, but we could make it. I could get the kids and have dinner ready when you got home. I could shoulder more of the responsibility, but less money.”

4th Move – Find The Rhythm

Millie looked up with eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouth dropped wide open and her head tilted slightly to the side, “You said what? You want to work from home so you can help with the kids and housework? Is that what you said?”

Jack laughed, “That’s right.”

“Why the change?”

“With our recent arguments, I went to the company counselor and talked things over. He helped me see things from a different perspective. I don’t like the way things are going so I want to make some changes.”

He pulled her into his arms, holding her tight.

“Thank you,” she said in almost a whisper.

Listening attentively: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). “Those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Prov. 13:3).

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