Thursday, August 28, 2008

ARE THEY DEAF OR IS IT YOU?! (Trust me…it’s you) by Terri Cole

Hello Gorgeous Posse of Peeps-

Do you feel heard? When you interact with your spouse or kids do you get the results you seek? How about with your family of origin? Is there satisfaction and understanding in your communication? Or do you feel like you have the same frustrations and complaints about these relationships over and over again? Well it’s time to shake it up people!!

Did you ever consider that when you change, the people in your life have no choice but to change as well? Human relationships are a dance. When you change your steps, your partner cannot do the old dance. It won’t work. Think about all of your relationships; you do this and inevitably they will do _________ (fill in the blank), right? We know the dance, but can we change it? Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is also true for the change you wish to see in your relationships.

So the answer is yes to the possibility of changing your relationship dance. Let’s start by breaking it down. Effective communication is a key component to healthy relationships and it starts with you. What is your style of communication? Do you speak your truth or act it out? Do you deny what you need or secretly wish your partner had a crystal ball? If you have a desire to communicate with integrity, the first step is to acknowledge what needs to change within you.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think. How do you communicate in all of your relationships? Are you passive? Do you withhold in anger instead of saying what is on your mind? Do you exaggerate and shout using ALWAYS and NEVER statements that can’t possibly be true? Do you minimize your own feelings? Is everything OK with you…always (again, not possible)? Do you have the disease to please? Were you taught that being honest is the same as being rude or mean? Are you a martyr who never says anything to change the unfulfilling interaction? Remember, you alone are responsible for how you interact in your relationships.

There are only two ways to communicate: effectively and ineffectively. Below is a comprehensive list of communication characteristics compiled by author Phil Rich, EdD, MSW, DCSW. Take a look and see what resonates.

Ineffective Communication:

Indirect-not getting to the point, never clearly states purpose or intention
Passive-timid and reserved
Antagonistic-angry, aggressive, or hostile tone
Cryptic-underlying message or purpose obscured and requires interpretation
Hidden-true agenda is never stated directly
Non-verbal-communicated through body language and behaviors, not words
One way-more talk than listening
Unresponsive-little interest in the perspective or needs of the other person
Off base-responses and needs of the other person are misunderstood and misinterpreted
Dishonest-dishonest statements are substituted for true feelings, thoughts, and needs

Effective Communication:
Direct-to the point, leaving no doubt as to meaning or purpose
Assertive-not afraid to state what is wanted or why
Congenial-affable and friendly
Clear-underlying issues are clear
Open-no intentionally hidden messages or meaning
Verbal-words are used to clearly express ideas
Two way-equal amounts of talking and listening
Responsive-attention paid to the needs and perspective of the other person.
Honest-true feelings, thoughts, and needs are stated

Now can you create a snap shot of your communication style? Is it what you want it to be? If not, what right action are you willing to take to make it better? Are you motivated to be vulnerable or to try something different in your relationships? If so, what stops you?

I had an epiphany about my power to change relationships when I was in college. I had always been sorely disappointed with my business like relationship with my father. When I got a card from him I used to tell my friends that he sent me an inner office memo because that’s how it felt. He was very successful and dutiful, but distant and chilly. He was a star athlete who had four daughters and I was his last shot for a boy. His communication style looked like this: if we were on a four hour car ride and he wanted you to close your window, he would point at you and motion the “roll up window” sign. We were all afraid of him and he rarely spoke. After blaming him for years with no satisfaction, I found a wonderful therapist who helped me realize that I was the only person I could change in that dyad. So I faced my fear of being vulnerable and spoke my truth.

Trust me, it was awkward at first, but with time things changed. We changed and I am forever grateful. He responded positively to my shift and my fear fantasy of abandonment was not realized. We developed a relationship that thrilled me and puzzled my sisters. The therapist helped me realize that my father did love me and although his love did not come in the warm and fuzzy package I had fantasized about, it was still valid. She challenged me to feel loved by things like college tuition, a used car, and his inevitable final shout to “Buckle up!” as I drove off. I learned to ask him for what I needed emotionally. This is not to say he could always do it, but my healing came from my right action of honoring my truth. My father died suddenly at the age of 61, ten years ago, and I was left with no regrets and a mountain of gratitude.

So what relationships would you like to transform? How do you want to communicate in your life? Now that you have a place to start, make a list of what is not working for you in what relationship. Then make a list of what right action YOU need to take to change that relationship…and DO IT! You taking care of you in relationships=self-love. This right action creates the possibility of real intimacy. Being dishonest separates us from the people we love.

Explore your truth then speak it LOUDLY.

I know you can. I am here to help if you need a nudge. As always I want to hear all about it!

Love Love Love,


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