Category: Relationships

Communication Is Key

Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. We have all rolled our eyes, sighed, or had to walk away from someone in a moment of frustration. Think about the last time that happened, and think about what was really going on inside of you as that person spoke. Chances are you were frustrated and felt you were standing in front of brick wall. If you thought you could change the situation, you would have changed the situation. So the question becomes: What aspects could you not change that solidified the irrelevance of your voice? Why could you not change the situation? And most importantly, how high was your frustration that it seeped out into a behavior?

The point here is that frustration can lead to the non-verbal behaviors we would not normally exhibit in a discussion. When the discussion heats into an argument, we are then more likely to exhibit verbal disdain in our communication. It easily flows from our lips, yet brands the heart of the other person, and we fall swiftly into the Rule of Irreversibility However, there is one thing you have as a weapon against yourself… KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is power, and if you know you are prone to hurtful words when angry and arguing, then you have the ability to stop it before it happens. Communication is key.

The first rule of verbal communication is your tone of voice. If you want to have honest and productive communication, you have to control your tone of voice. Many of us, incuding myself, wear our heart on our sleeve. Our upset comes out in our tone of voice, facial expressions, and even our eyes. Consciously add a softness to your voice. Our tone of voice can easily ignite the protective wall in our partner. Manipulating our tone of voice despite our true feelings can be the difference between a conversation and a fight. With this manipulated tone of voice, you can begin a conversation, avoiding an argument.

How can I change my tone when I am annoyed, frustrated, angry, or just straight pissed off? Take a minute and compose yourself. Think about what you want to say and how you are going to say it. Prepare yourself. With a plan in place, your emotions are less likely to take over your delivery.

The next is looking at the words you use. Are you using I statements or You statements. You statements place blame on the other person. For example, “You did…”, “You said…”, etc is putting all of the responsibility for your problem on the other person. If you change your statement to “I think…” or “I feel..”, you can also take responsibility for your emotions, your anger. With I statements, you can change from blame to taking responsibility for the possibility of miscommunication, misinterpretation, or a skewed perception.

We have all been in a situation that got out of hand simply because we needed to take a step back. It is easy to be on the outside looking in, but it is much more difficult to be on the inside and see a 360 degree view of the situation. Add on personal emotional ties to the situation, and your line of sight becomes even more narrow. Listening to hear instead of listening to give a response will greatly help you see the 360 degree view. You cannot understand someone if you do not listen to what they are saying. Listen to how they feel, what they think, and what they want. Make a plan, do your best, and if you fail, try again.

Commitment Building in Relationships

In order to build commitment, first you need to understand how your behaviors have been interpreted by your partner.  Second, you should talk to your partner about which behaviors your partner interprets as loving actions.  Third, you must work to increase the frequency of the loving actions.  In the Commitment Building Model, we use two axis to rate the behavior.  On the X axis, we determine the frequency in which the behavior occurs.  On the Y axis, we determine the value of that behavior, which is set by the partner.

The two axis are perpendicular, and cross in the middle of each axis.  Where the two axis meet is equivalent to a neutral feeling, which creates a negative and positive section on each axis and depicts four quadrants.  We can place each of our behaviors into one of the four quadrants.  The top two quadrants are behaviors that our spouse finds to be positive and loving.  The top left quadrant are behaviors that do not happen often, but are pleasing to the partner.  The top right quadrant holds the behaviors that the partner views as loving and occur with a high frequency.  The bottom two quadrants are behaviors that the partner does not value, and finds to be unloving.  The bottom left quadrant are the negative behaviors that do not happen regularly, and are easily ignored or brushed off.  The bottom right quadrant are behaviors that happen regularly, yet are undesirable to the partner. 

The goal of the Commitment Building Model is to take a look at how our actions and behaviors are affecting our relationship in the eyes of our partner.  Once we know what falls into which quadrant, we can begin to make changes to our actions and behaviors in order to move them into the more desirable quadrants.  For example, the actions and behaviors that fall into the top left quadrant can be increased in frequency, allowing them to shift into the top right quadrant.  The behaviors in the bottom right quadrant can be decreased in frequency to move them into the bottom left quadrant.  Couples need to understand that the top right quadrant builds love, commitment, and happiness.  The strongest relationships are ones that reside mostly in the top right quadrant. 

The weakest relationships reside in the bottom right quadrant.  These actions and behaviors are not valued highly, and occur on a regular basis.  These actions are similar to a grain of sand in our shoe.  Each time they occur, another grain of sand is dropped into our shoe.  At first, it seems irrelevant and easily dismissed.  However, as time goes on and the grains of sand multiply, that shoe becomes increasingly more uncomfortable and frustrating. Eventually it gets to a point where you cannot walk normally, and a limp takes over our previously smooth stride.  The only way to walk normally again is to dump out the sand from that shoe.  For many couples, when someone needs to empty the sand from their shoe, divorce becomes an option as a means to a shoe without sand.  It is important for couples to identify the actions and behaviors in the bottom right quadrant to either eliminate those behaviors or decrease the frequency so those behaviors can move into the bottom left quadrant.

One way to build up the actions and behaviors in the top right quadrant, which is our strongest and most effective quadrant, is with the Caring Days Procedure.  This exercise can be used at any stage of a relationship to build commitment and strength.   The first step is for each partner to write down five actions that make them feel loved.  These actions have no monetary value, meaning “buy me flowers” is not an acceptable action to be included in the five.  The list needs to focus on small, very specific actions, but void of anything that has been the topic of a recent argument.  For example, if the couple has recently fought over taking out the trash, then neither should include taking out the trash as one of their action items on the list.  Clients may need to be encouraged to think back to the beginning, and remember what the other did for them as they were falling in love.  Examples of these actions could include a text message during the day to say they are thinking of the other, picking up the dishes from the table after dinner while the other gets a few minutes to relax on the couch, or simply asking their partner if they need anything when they stand while the other is still sitting.  Once each partner has their list of 5 actions they would like for their partner to do, they should exchange their lists for review to ensure they can accomplish them with grace instead of resistance.  The last thing you want is for your partner to feel like the tasks are a grain of sand in their shoe. Once you both agree on what makes each person feel loved, begin implementing the requests at an interval of two actions per day.  After a week of working with those five actions, each partner should add two more to the list of requests, followed by review before implementation.  Every week following, two more actions are added.  Eventually, each partner will have a strong list of actionable tasks that they can do to show their love for the other.  The more love being exchanged, the stronger their commitment is to each other.

If you want to increase feelings of love and commitment in your relationship, think about the diagram, think about your actions, and have a conversation with your partner. The most important and strongest tool you have is communication. If communication is difficult in your relationship, we have some tools to help! Learn more…