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Copyright 2010 by Relationship Coaching Institute All rights reserved.
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Welcome! This newsletter is designed especially for YOU if:
- You have met someone and are wondering if s/he is the "Love of Your Life"
- You are about to get married and want to co-create a fulfilling life partnership
- You have a good relationship and want to make it great
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Ask Our Coaches:
Communication Skills: How can I improve them?
"...what can I do to be a better communicator, and
what can we do, as a couple, to communicate better with each other?"
This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
I'm not a great communicator and that creates challenges for my wife who is much more skilled in that area. When we have disagreements, when we're trying to work thru relationship things, I have difficulty feeling heard, expressing my ideas, etc. Because of that, I get defensive and either close down or get angry which just escalates into an argument. That, of course, doesn't work well for either of us and leads to hurt feelings, regret for saying things we shouldn't have and the like.
I need a better way for us to communicate and I need to learn some better skills. I love my wife and I want her to be happy, and I know I need to understand what I can do to create a better situation for both of us. So my questions are -- what can I do to be a better communicator, and what can we do, as a couple, to communicate better with each other? Thoughts?
Craig from Costa Mesa
Murray responds …
Communication between intimates can be difficult for even the best communicators when dealing with differences or relationship issues. However, we always have the capacity to script and direct our conversations productively, rather than do what is "natural."
We will often shape conversations at work to have productive outcomes. Here are some tips:
• Approach disagreements as an opportunity for you and your spouse to learn, grow and get closer to each other rather than as a problem to fix
• Agree to go slowly when preparing to talk about issues that may present a challenge. It is important to breathe and be thoughtful in your responses, rather than speedy and defensive
• Rather than focus on being understood and heard, try focusing on listening and understanding your partner. Explaining yourself is often less effective than working to listen and truly hear someone else.
• Shape your responses to maximize a successful process. For example, you can begin your responses to your partner with. "I am glad you are asking me," or "I am glad that we are having this conversation." Shaping your script positively helps you to continue the conversation in a way that is more productive, more welcoming, and less defensive.
Murray Dabby | www.atlantarelationshipcoach.com | 404.633.3282
Randy responds …
Here are the three most important communication skills. They should be used throughout any conversation, and especially during a disagreement.
1. Frequently say what you like and love about your partner. Be specific. This maintains her self-esteem and assures her that you love her -- even though you may not be happy with something she is doing or saying.
2. Listen to your partner with curiosity and empathy. Try to understand her before saying what you feel. Put yourself in her shoes. Say what it is you have heard in her statements and what you perceive about her feelings. She will be more open if she feels understood. This usually requires quite a bit of restraint on your part, so practice it often until you can learn to do it.
3. Ask your partner to help you understand her and help you to both arrive at common ground or a win/win. Asking for help creates an atmosphere of mutuality instead of one where each person is trying to impose his or her will.
Role play these skills with your partner over and over using simple, non-threatening situations. This will reinforce the skills until they become second nature.
Randy Hurlburt | www.partnersinloveandcrime.com | 858.455.0799
Cheryl responds …
It sounds to me like you are a good communicator as your question was quite well stated. Since you don't feel heard or understood when you express yourself to your wife, ask her to get into the habit of paraphrasing what you said. This is a technique known as "mirroring." Since she is a good communicator, she will quickly grasp the importance of you feeling heard.
When she paraphrases you, you will know immediately whether you stated your point in a clear way or not. If not, you can restate it and clarify. If she did hear it correctly, you will receive instant acknowledgement. It will take some effort and may seem awkward at first, and it's a good technique for both of you to learn in order to polish your communication skills.
As both of you learn this skill, and because of the immediate feedback you recieve, you will also learn better and more efficient ways to express yourself. And your wife will learn how to slow down her own responses, and how to guide your communication in a way that causes you to become closer. Practicing these skills together will allow your relationship to grow.
RCI has developed a great tool called "The Communications Map" that anyone can learn to use and improve their communication skills. You can access it here: www.TheCommunicationMap.com
Cheryl Walters | 310.384.5462
Debbie responds …
A lot of couples face the same issue as yours. Your willingness to change this situation is a great attribute. One of the best places to start is to listen intently for the points your wife is making to let you know what she needs from the relationship. When needs are not met, they become the ongoing issues in your relationship. It doesn't mean that you are doing something wrong.
Don't get hung up on the words she uses to express herself. She is trying to give you vital information. Even though the words seem to be directed toward you, it is her way of expressing the feelings she has deep inside. Look at these conversations as an opportunity to understand the woman you love. Ask her to tell you more about what she just said until you both feel you fully understand the message. The next part of this better way to communicate is to let your wife know what you need. You have a right to be heard as well. Remember, the key is a mutual resolution to finding the solution.
Debbie Rivera | www.facesoftheheart.com
Managing In-Laws – Dealing with Out-Laws
by Ann Robbins
How do you know if you're getting into in-law trouble territory? If you're already married, hopefully you've got healthy family relationships on both sides of your family. If you're in a relationship and contemplating marriage, just know you're not only marrying your future spouse – you're marrying their entire family.
Recently, I've coached couples and singles, alike, on this touchy topic. While we don't want to look for trouble, we have to look for clues and signs early on that might suggest there could be future problems in in-law territory. And, if you're already in trouble territory, you know it's not a good place to be.
So what's a couple to do? How do we manage these relationships without alienating our partner's parents or siblings? What do we do when issues arise? Whose responsibility is it to handle the confrontations, remarks, butting-in, or boundary issues?
Let's begin with the end in mind. Ideally, your in-law relationships will be healthy and devoid of conflict or contests. This is what you should envision as the perfect situation – wow, wouldn't that be nice? We know we don't live in a ideal world, and no situation is perfect. Indeed, no relationship is either.
If you're new in a relationship and are meeting the future in-laws for the first time, look for clues. One of the best ways to spot potential trouble is to observe how your partner responds to his/her parents or siblings. Do they over-communicate, sharing personal or private information about your relationship? Do they say things to you like, "Well, my mother always did it this way," or, "In my family, this is what we do." Do they run to a parent or sibling when you have a fight, or even a minor disagreement, to get their opinion? If so, you've got some red flags that need to be looked at immediately.
While families are important and family relationships become a factor in your future life together, you are a couple. A new family is created when two people commit to each other. It is that family – your new family – that takes precedence over all. Have the conversation with your partner early on to be sure you agree.
But, suppose you've tried to keep things running smoothly and in spite of your efforts, there is genuine conflict, or criticism, or butting in. (By the way, I define in-law butting in as someone giving you unsolicited and unwanted advice or opinion with the intent to alter or change the way you and your mate are doing or intend to do something.)
Here's an example:
A client of mine, Sherri, is married to Andy. Andy's mom, while meaning well, continued to make comments about Sherri's full time job, asking Andy things like, "Why are you ironing your own shirts? Why isn't Sherri doing that for you?" or, "How do you expect to have a family when Sherri is working so much? As it is, she doesn't even have time to cook you a decent meal, how will you raise a family?" Or, in front of Andy, she would say, "Sherri, I don't think you should be working full time when you have a baby. It's not fair to raise a child in day care. That's why I stayed home raising Andy. It was my duty as a mom." OUCH!
Needless to say, Sherri was incensed by these comments and it caused a lot of trouble between her and her mother-in-law, as well as between her and Andy.
What did they do? Well, they made one big mistake. Rather than Andy addressing the issue, which was his job to do since it was his mother making the comments, Sherri defended herself to her mother-in-law. Sherri would say things like, "I don't see where it's any of your business. Andy's not a baby – he's perfectly capable of helping with the laundry or the cooking." Or, worse, "Why don't you just butt out? I love my career! How can you insinuate I'll be a bad mother?" This was the equivalent of throwing gasoline on the fire.
Things spiraled out of control until, finally, Sherri and Andy sought couples coaching to help them figure out what to do with all the butting in, comments about Sherri's capability as a wife and mother, and how to handle the mother in-law who was quickly becoming the outlaw. Both Sherri and Andy wanted a good relationship with Andy's mom, but she was making it impossible.
We came up with the following strategies to help calm the situation, defuse the explosive encounters, and give Sherri and Andy the freedom to behave as a couple --free from criticism or unsolicited opinion.
These strategies can help you too:
First, choose your battles. Some things just aren't worth it. Ask yourself if the comment or remark that has you upset, or that bothers you even just a little, is worth raising your blood pressure! Decide, and agree upon, as a couple, what's really important.
Next, focus on the things you can control. You cannot control what someone thinks, says, or does. What you can control is how you react to what someone thinks, says, or does. Focus on your response to the situation, figure out ahead of time what you will do and say, and go from there. You will find you will feel much more in charge of the situation if you focus on you and how you're going to handle yourself. Additionally, always take the high road. Ask yourself, "are they butting in, or are they trying to be helpful?" Think before you respond, and don't allow anyone to dictate your mood or your behavior.
Set boundaries! Do it together and be sure you agree – don't assume. Once the boundaries are set, it is up to the partner with the primary relationship to communicate the message. Do it clearly, concisely, and leave no room for interpretation. This is probably the most difficult thing to do – it's often hard for us to stand up to our parents or siblings. Clearly, in the case of Sherri and Andy, Andy's mother was way out of line with no respect for any boundaries. As it turned out, Andy's tolerance of his mother's comments was a silent reinforcement.
It was very important he defend Sherri and their relationship. Divided loyalties simply will not work. Andy and Sherri were a family now, and it was important Andy's mother saw them as an aligned couple.
One other thing we addressed with Sherri and Andy, was Andy's tendency to call his mother frequently and inform her of things that Sherri felt were none of her business. Bear in mind, your in-laws will be as involved as you let them. If you're sharing details of your life, finances, job, career or other important life areas, you're involving them. Decide as a couple your own boundaries when it comes to sharing information with extended family.
Remember that the fence is where you put it. Invite people inside the fence – they're inside! The boundaries are up to you. Set them, agree upon them, communicate them, and enforce them. Do it in a united and aligned way and you'll have a stronger relationship with each other while making the best of the in-law situation.
Copyright ©2010 by Ann Robbins. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.
Ann Robbins is founder and president of "LifeWorks Matchmaking," a professional matchmaking and relationship coaching firm. She is a Certified Professional Matchmaker, a member of the Professional Matchmaking Network through the Matchmaking Institute of New York and a professional Relationship Coach through the Relationship Coaching Institute. 954.561.4498 www.lifeworksmatchmaking.com
Communicate More, Better Marriage?
Quality Communication is Key
by Michelle E. Vásquez
If you will just communicate more, your marriage will be better. Big, fat relationship myth. Why? Because you cannot not communicate. Everything you are already doing, that is not working, is a form of communication. Here are some ways couples communicate that makes their problems worse:
Nagging: repeating yourself because you believe that if she hears it more than once (or at least 100 times) she'll be more likely to change what she is doing or do what you want. You are definitely communicating. But is it working?
Criticizing: you tell him how badly he has failed to make you happy with words that are like barbs. Nothing he does is good enough. You make sure he knows it by pointing out everything he is not doing to your satisfaction.
Yelling: you want to make sure you get heard so you have an augmented vocal contest. You scream over each other until neither of you is heard nor do you hear your partner. All you succeed in doing is frightening the dog or worse, the children.
Silent treatment: and you think by not talking to each other that you are not communicating? Please! Your silence, along with your cold, icy stares (or your refusal to look your spouse in the eye at all) communicates very clearly how angry you are. You may even slam doors or bang things loudly to make sure your spouse gets the message.
I've listed only four ways couples communicate ineffectively; there are so many more. So, if more communication is not the answer, then what is? You got it: more effective communication, both in your words and your actions. The survival of your relationship depends on how you treat each other. Communicating how much you care is a step in the right direction.
You don't have to talk until you're too exhausted to communicate love and caring. Doing small gestures of kindness goes a long way to promote good will. Speaking words of appreciation to each other soothes anger. It's not the amount of communication that creates happy, successful relationships; it's the type of communication.
Copyright ©2010 by Michelle E. Vásquez. All Rights Reserved for all media.
Michelle E. Vásquez, MS, LPC, is an RCI Relationship Coach who helps singles and couples attract the life they want and create the relationships that bring them joy. She specializes in working with couples who are experiencing relationship difficulties as well as with singles who want to find the love of their life. Bilingual, English and Spanish speaking. www.trueloverelationshipcoaching.com 714.717.5744
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