Archive for the 'Couples Communication' Category

Jul 06 2011

Rehearsing: Probably The Most Common Way to Say, “I’m Not Listening to You.”

How do you like it when you are upset about something and your partner won’t even let you finish your train of thought.

They already have their denial or rebuttal already organized and “come at you” with their rationale about why you are wrong.

This is called rehearsal, and it means exactly what it sounds like. The person you want to understand you isn’t really listening.

Rehearsing is a very common listening mistake.

It’s pretty easy to spot too. The listener’s eyes tend to trail off and you can almost see their mind sorting through how they can defend themselves from what they feel is your attack.

Of course, you are only expressing your thoughts and feelings, which ultimately is more important to both of you than who is right.

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Jul 06 2011

Blaming: A Common Communication Mistake in Relationships

If you are blaming your partner, it’s time to find a new way of understanding and explaining your thoughts, feelings and wants.

Blaming damages relationships. It’s pretty simple.

I remember hearing a story about a couple who started therapy. After the first session, the therapist met with each partner individually to get a chance to hear each person’s story more fully.

When the therapist met with the husband, all he could do was complain his wife was the cause of all his problems.

She was “this and that and then some more.”

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Jan 05 2011

Use of Cognitive Restructuring for Evaluating Alcohol Use

If you are reading my blog or know me, you realize I like to use the cognitive restructuring exercise a lot. It is a great tool to help clients evaluate their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behavior.

It works great in evaluating alcohol problems. Here is how it works…

A- Activating Event: you or someone you know worries about your drinking…this may cause an internal or inter-personal conflict.
B-Automatic Beliefs: so, when you or someone worries about your drinking, you have automatic beliefs that may or may not be rational.

If they are irrational,then they will cause you to continue to behave in the same way over and over.

Your wife may complain about your drinking, especially when you drink and pass out on the couch. When she complains, you may have the following automatic thoughts:

  • I do not have a drinking problem
  • I do not drink any more than any of my friends
  • I don’t drink and drive
  • You (the wife) are hypersensitive about my drinking
  • I am really sick of hearing you (the wife) complaining

As you can see, these automatic thoughts are quite negative and usually lead to one of two options:

  • flight (avoidance, disconnection, running away, discounting, running away from the problem)
  • or fight (yelling back, blaming the (wife) for false judgments, arguing, denial, tons and tons of unresolved fights)

C-Consequence: The consequence is the flight or fight described above…all in all, not a good outcome.
Many people who are confronted about their drinking feel defensive and angry. This often leads to fighting or running away from confronting whether or not there is a problem with their drinking.
D-Debate (with yourself): this is the best strategy. Challenge your automatic beliefs and any defensiveness, anger or other strong feelings you experience.

To make any progress here, you MUST start to be realistic and rationale about the role of drinking in your life.

Go back and do the 3 Step evaluation process…be scientific about this…

Maybe your (wife) is right about this…there are many ways to look at the use of alcohol that may be a source of good information about yourself.

Just because all of your friends will drink 5-8 drinks when out may mean your friends drink too much, not that you are all normal drinkers.
When embrace someone’s concerns for you and really look at the way you drink more objectively, you and your partner are entering into an intimate and helpful problem-solving process.

So,here are some of the key questions you can use to debate and challenge yourself:

  • What is the role alcohol plays in your life?
  • Why do you drink?
  • Are you able to stop drinking easily or does one lead to more?
  • What would you miss if you stopped drinking?
  • How would your life change if you stopped drinking?

E-Effective Plan: Answer these questions as best you can, and then develop an action plan with more effective coping behaviors to address this issue.
For example, if your drinking is not a problem, you will have plenty of evidence to argue your case.
If you need to reduce or cut back, you can work on a strategy to do this.
Maybe you need to stop completely…again, you can develop a plan that fits you.

Approach this scientifically, using research based methods. It will help.

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Nov 29 2010

Communication

We all make many, many mistakes in the way we communicate.

Unless these mistakes are corrected, we can go through life fighting all the time,or avoiding and ignoring each other.

Either way, it can be pretty unpleasant.

In the next series of posts,  I will begin to explain all the
mistakes we make so anyone who is willing to spend a few minutes each
week can become more knowledgeable and effective in helping their
relationship be a little warmer, friendly and fun.


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Nov 27 2010

Learning the Speaker-Listener Exercise: An Essential First Step in Making Marriage and Commited Relationships Work

The first goal in my work with couples is to teach a method of speaking and listening using research based communication concepts. These concepts include “I” statements,  non-defensive or active listening, and asking clearly for what you want.

It’s more difficult than it looks. The key problem is most of us did not grow up in families where effective communication was either taught or modeled.

As a result, we learned some very bad lessons which keep us unhappy in our relationships.

These bad lessons are called “cognitive distortions” or unhealthy rules/beliefs about the way we should relate to each other, including blaming, criticizing, mind-reading, and black and white thinking. Click here for more examples and definitions.

In the exercise, the speaker only makes “I” statements, identifies and expresses feelings and says what they wish for.

The listener only active listens, reflecting what the speaker is saying, using the speakers words, and helping them say more about their thoughts, feelings and wishes.

It works.

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Nov 22 2010

Yes, Rage And Fear Are Automatic Responses Triggered By The Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for triggering the “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction in human beings.

As you can see from the image at left, the sympathetic nervous system functions to activate the major organs identified, especially the heart, lungs and adrenal glands.

As you may know, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline (its other name is epinephrine).
Adrenaline is only our friend when we have to fight, escape or hide from big scary things, like our ancestors.

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Nov 20 2009

Why You Become So Upset During Arguments: The Role of Adrenaline In The Survival Of The Species

Ok. I am suggesting your intense fighting is related to the evolutionary role of adrenaline or as it is also called, epinephrine, in helping our ancestors survive.

Whenever we feel threatened or excited, the complex workings of our brains trigger the production of adrenaline.

This sets of several reactions, including increased heart rate, dilation of pupils, and a rush of energy to respond to the perceived threat.

This adrenaline enhanced readiness to “fight or flight” was absolutely necessary for our ancestors to kill the saber tooth tiger and escape. However, so much adrenaline is really not necessary for two people living together and trying to settle some differences.
So, you or your partner aren’t crazy, although you may be a little dangerous. Too much adrenaline can lead to a “blind rage” or an “emotional hijacking” which results in more and more damage being done to your relationship.

The key learning goal here is that the intense physical reaction during arguments is caused by a complex neurological process involving the eventual production of adrenaline.

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