BLOG: IS IT TIME FOR A COMMUNICATION TUNE-UP?
Recently I was standing in line at the supermarket behind a woman talking on her phone in an angry and demeaning tone. When she got off the phone she turned around to the people behind her and apologized for being animated. Then she added:
“It’s okay, I was only talking to my husband.”
Most people in the line laughed. I was struck by her comment and realized that at times I’ve felt that way too. “He’s only my husband, I can be a little grumpy-he should understand I’ve had a rough day”… how irreverent I was being. I stood there deeply reflecting on this gift I had just been given-another opportunity to be an observer of my past behavior through the words of a woman in the supermarket line. A few months before I had heard a similar story from a colleague and had not really examined it thoughtfully. I may have even chuckled.
Now I thought about the entrepreneurial couples we’ve supported that work together and those that don’t. I thought about their stories and challenges in being understood, feeling respected and ultimately taking full responsibility for their own feelings and results. How easy it is to project our frustrations and disappointments on the people we say we love the most. Instead of being loving we take our lovers for granted as if it’s ok to be disrespectful in the name of being honest. Let’s face it; we have heard that if we treated our friends like we sometimes treat our family we wouldn’t have any friends. At the root of most of these challenges there seems to be a communication breakdown.
You may not believe this applies to you because you probably have done a lot of self-discovery and spiritual growth and perhaps your relationships are healthy and thriving.
That’s wonderful; however you may know someone who still has challenges or may talk about communication issues or not feeling understood by their partner.
This is for them and really for all of us because at some time we may find ourselves, like I did, standing in line and asking myself: “Have I ever behaved this way and how can I do better… how can I love my partner more?”
We can agree that our most intimate partners know how to trigger us. This is similar to how it works with our siblings, children and parents. Sometimes we get annoyed or even angry. We take the bait and we’re in reactive mode.
Because this is such a common experience for those of us in intimate partnerships, it is worth looking at and having some tools we can use. Here is the first strategy we have found helpful in our own marriage and in working with entrepreneurial couples and individuals.
Stay calm and well grounded in your own body and emotions. Sometimes that means delaying the conversations until you can be non-reactive. We have all had conversations with loved ones that escalate because we did not pause. Picture yourself stating calmly to your partner, “I don’t want to be reactive so I am going to take some moments for myself to get clear of how I do want to respond”.
If you need to delay the conversation you may also decide to physically leave the room and do something that clears your head so you can be grounded. What has worked for me is to get outside in nature and breath or walk and clear my head.
The key is to practice it in your mind before it happens much like we did in school with fire drills.
Our communication with loved ones matters. We can learn and we can improve no matter where we are starting from….
P.S.: In next week's blog we'll talk about what you can do if you take the bait and end up reacting as well as remind you about a very powerful self-communication tool.
P.P.S. If you would like more support in applying these principles, give us a call. In between our speaking and coaching engagements, we carve out a few individualized sessions each month. Schedule your appointment here.