communication is key

Communication is key

You need a communication key. It’s true. And so many people say it when they come to me for help.

But lots of people think communication means more words. And usually it means exactly the opposite.

Use fewer words; say more.

Here’s how this works.

Listen, you already know the words you say are a small percentage of what you communicate (no matter the context of relationship. This goes for that texting conversation too.)

Energy, body language, tone, timing. It all matters. Plus, it communicates so much… way more than the actual words you choose.

It allows and invites and incites inference. (You’re smart, so you already know this.)

It’s how you interpret what the other is going to say next and how conversations become a patterned dance you repeat over and over and over and over.

Stop talking.

I’ve invited many of you to do this. Okay, for some of you , I’ve invited you to stop talking so much. You’re wearing your partner out and giving them WAY too many rabbit trails to follow on your “verbal processing fest.” Honestly, there’s just too much for one person to track sometimes when you’re going at it like that.

One thing at a time, grasshopper.

Ever heard of single-tasking? It actually takes more concentration than multi-tasking. It requires focus, showing up and paying attention. The speaker must practice conscious presence.

This is a GOOD THING.

Doing a verbal dump on your partner (or anyone else for that matter) is a little disrespectful anyway and a lot self-serving. So, literally, stop talking.

It’s hard, right?

Good. It should be a little hard. You’re doing something different than you’re used to. And now that you’ve closed your mouth, go the next step and really listen.

Get curious about what the other person is saying. Not like “why are you saying that?” or “why does he think like that?!” but curious like, literally, “hmmmmmm, that’s interesting.” And then think about it instead of plan the response.  That kind of curious.

Become a quiet observer.

Sometimes what you’re observing is what’s going on with you. Notice this. (You are super interesting.)

Are you feeling defensive? Is something else rising up in you? Are you noticing you want to argue? Do you want to show what you know?

Just notice that. And let it be. Go back to listening.

I know you have a point to make.

And I know you think it’s super important and it’s THE THING that is going to make the difference and that THIS TIME the other person HAS TO HEAR what you are saying and UNDERSTAND you for once.

But they aren’t going to. So get over that. Breathe. Go back to listening.

Someone wise once said

“I never learn anything new by hearing myself talk.”

After all, it’s stuff you already know. So, take a weird risk and actually get quiet. See what happens.

Yes. People worry all the time about talking about those super important issues. There ARE really important topics and hard conversations to have sometimes. Don’t worry.

You will talk about the important stuff.

Most of you don’t have the skill to handle that right now. You’re too entrenched in your usual patterned dance, your regular, tired way of seeing things.

Listen, you’re stubborn for very good reason.

It makes PERFECT sense to you. And it’s very logical for the way you’re made, the way you think, and the way you move through the world.

AND…

you think some things that aren’t exactly true or at least something that isn’t exactly serving you right now. Maybe it’s not healthy…and it’s certainly not HELPFUL.

Those beliefs (we call them limiting beliefs) are not easy for you to spot all by yourself. You might want the help of a qualified and trained specialist. (I’m one, in case you forgot… and there are others too. You might like to spend more time with one of us.)

Find someone who can help you clarify your message.

You want minimum verbage, and maximum inpact. Low potential for arguing or for “trigger language,” for escalating conflict, for taking the conversation out of productive zone and into the fight zone.

You also want to say the very important thing. This includes telling the truth, your truth. Laying it on the line. Really revealing yourself. Getting open and vulnerable.

No one likes that, right?

It feels risky.

You might feel exposed when you actually tell the truth. There’s no telling how the other person will respond, right?

That is the nature or risk, by the way. You step out. You do your thing. No telling what will happen next.

That’s good. It’s a start.

I have couples (in particular) all the time who want to talk through the hard stuff but they have proven that they have no skill, no means, no history of success talking through the hard stuff. But they insist on doing it. If not in my office, then definitely away from my office.

And they usually have “some productive conversation” and very little real movement.

They have just enough “productive” in the conversation to keep them coming back to do the same old dance. Don’t keep doing that.

Tell the truth.

See if you can boil your point down to the very gist of it, the core, the most important and central, integral, bottom-line expression. See if it can be ONE thing that fits this format:

1. I feel… (and ONE emotion word.)

2. I want (or I don’t want) in ONE sentence. Form it without using the word “you” and let it be about what you want or don’t want in your own life and experience.

Get to the bottom line. Go to the heart of every matter.

And make it actually TRUE.

Here are some true and hard things people are actually dying to say to one another:

I feel scared. I don’t want to lose relationship.

I feel anxious. I want to please my mate. I don’t want to feel rejected or disappointing.

I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to get 10 years down the road and regret staying together.

I feel petrified. I don’t want to have to forgive something I thought I’d never face.

I feel ashamed. I don’t want to live with the weight of what I’ve done.

There’s a lot of power in telling the truth.

Most of us want to fix it. But don’t. For now. Just let the truth (your truth) be the thing. And listen while the other tries to express theirs. See if you can hear the feeling and the want or don’t want in all the words they’re using.

It’s a start. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the first thing.

And let me know how it’s going.

REPORT

You can read more about communication here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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make the most of your holidays this year

Holidays…Again

Here we go. The holidays again. If you’re in a relationship, it can feel like major testing time.

And for those of you alone for the holidays, I know that’s its own separate challenge.  Don’t skip this article because if you have tension with ANYONE in your life over the holidays, the process I describe below will help!

(If you’re bumming about being alone, here’s some comfort: You can read another article here  and there’s a podcast episode or two on the topic as well.)

How are your holidays shaping up?

Maybe you’ve been on this ride so many times you almost sleep-walk through them. Or about mid-October you start dreading them and adopt “survival mode.” You want to hibernate and wake up after January 2nd.

Perhaps you just love this time of year and you’re consumed with projects and plans and parties and people. It’s all so yummy for you, it’s one big winter fun fest.

Of course, those are two extremes and you might fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever your take on this time of year, it’s a deal. And it affects everyone. For some relationships, (honestly, this can apply to a love relationship, a child, a sibling relationship) this is a prime time when the same conflicts come up again and again. You could almost script them verbatim.

People make meaning of Holidays

even if the holiday itself means nothing to them. They’re a hot-button of expectation and personal, historical significance. When you and your mate have a sizeable gap in your Bah-humbug score, holidays can feel like a landmine of disappointments and endless, fruitless negotiation and “compromise.”

Holiday conflicts

Do you and your mate have a long-standing seasonal conflict? What are your normal conflict conversations? Is there a recurrent fight? What bugs you about your partner that you just know is going to happen again this year?

And hey, if you’re in a new-ish relationship is there a conflict you’re hoping to AVOID as you head into the season?

Maybe someone else in the family is on your naughty list or you rarely see them and now you’re dreading having to deal with them. Grrrrrrr.

It might seem redundant or superfluous or just painful to actually think about the looming conflicts. But what if preparing for them could help you avoid them all together? Skeptical? Read on.

A new Holiday list

This year, instead of making a wish list or a gift list, indulge me and create a sh*t list. (I can’t think of a better thing to call it! Call it cr*p if you don’t like the word sh*t. Or if you think of something else, leave a comment and let me know!)

Yes, I mean, sit down and actually write the major areas of contention. What do you already know is likely to come up or happen?

Is it that you want him to go help pick out the tree and every year it’s like pulling teeth? Is it that she gets moody before going to spend time with your family? Is it that she zones out and whirls into DO mode while she harps on the kids to get everything in shipshape before guests arrive? Does he always shop at the last minute…like on Christmas Eve day and it just makes you frantic?

Does she expect you to be happy when you show up for yet another boring office party? Does he really expect you to talk to the ridiculous office mates you have nothing in common with? Do you set a budget for spending and then at the last minute, she goes over it or he pastes a hundred dollar bill in cards on the tree for EACH one of the kids?!

Write it all down

It might surprise you that you feel a little resistant to actually doing this. After all, if you write it down does that mean it’s more likely to happen?

Um, no. Writing it down gets it out of your head and out of worry zone where you can actually take a look at it and DO something constructive with it.

You write it down so you can acknowledge that you’re carrying worry and tension around inside you because of the impending doom associated with any areas of contention.

(And I know some of you have things to write down like “hibernate until January 2 while (s)he pressures me to do everything, eat too much, watch Uncle Harry drink like a fish, drop into my winter coma, put on ten pounds, get a cold I can’t shake, try desperately to avoid the same conversation with my mom about my life going nowhere and when am I ever going to…)

It’s not funny.

But when you write it all down and LOOK at it, you might think it’s a little funny, or pathetic, or absurd, or terrible. I don’t know what you’ll think of your own list. This much I do know: you will see patterns emerge.

I’m interested in those patterns. You can get interested in them too. Note them. Is there an underlying drive for control? Do you sincerely think everyone else should just stop their complaining and enjoy it. (“We’re having a family photo taken and you are going to like it!”)

What else do you notice? Are you trying to correct your holiday experience from childhood? Are you trying to recreate it? What else can you learn by seeing your pattern?

Then you can decide what to DO with each reality on the list. And those things are reality if they’ve happened…even once! But if they’ve happened several times, they are a pattern, not just for you but for the other people involved as well.

We’re secretly hoping something will be different this time around. We hope and hope and hope and then DO the same things in our approach and it never changes. Try something new this year.

Allow, Enjoy, Plan for the holidays

For each item on the list, make a decision about it. Your choices are to Allow, Enjoy, or Plan it.

Notice that your options are NOT Avoid, Fix, or Plot your new approach. (Allowing, Enjoying, and Planning for “that thing” to happen are your new approach, by the way.) Read through the examples below:

Allow the holidays

So let’s say your mate goes over budget every single year. Is it really the end of the world that he pastes hundreds into a card for each kid at the last minute? I mean it. Literally, has the world ended because of that? No. Allow it.

You know it’s going to happen again. You know the kids love it. You know it has nothing to do with you; it has to do with your mate. And the kids might also love that there is no tension and no daggers thrown because of something that’s pretty cool for them. This is a thing you can’t control anyway, and all your efforts to do so help you feel powerless, right? But allowing this thing to happen takes the power out of the thing (the area of contention) and it actually gives you power.

You are NOT at the mercy of someone else’s behavior even when it’s patterned behavior. It’s not your job to control it anyway, so you can just allow it or, maybe, sit back and…

Enjoy the holidays

Crazy as it may sound, enjoying Uncle Harry’s over-drinking is possible. I know for some of you that feels like a dangerous stretch for all kinds of reasons associated with substance abuse and expectations in those relationships. But expectations in relationship with Uncle Harry when you know he’s going to drink himself into a near-coma are, well, a waste of energy.

Honestly, I learned this one from my youngest son. He has an uncanny ability to enjoy whatever is happening. And if Uncle Harry is overdrinking, my son is able to sit back and find amusement in the sad, pathetic fact that this happens every year, Uncle Harry says stupid stuff to offend people every year, and Grandma predictably gets her feathers in a dither.

It may be an annual event fit for a sit com or movie, and if it is, I say, why not make plans to enjoy the show? Which brings me to the next option:

Plan the holidays

I don’t mean plan a way to avoid it or fix it or make something else happen. I mean plan for the thing that’s going to happen. Is it that you and your mate are going to bicker over whose fault it is that the gifts are not wrapped and it’s time to open them? Okay. Plan for it.

Is it that Christmas morning he is going to want to sleep in and the kids come to your side of the bed eager to wake you up and it spurs a battle that turns snippy all through your first cup of coffee and until the kids have opened their gifts and have the play Dough and remote control helicopter flying through the family room and then escalate into an argument over what time the car needs to get packed for Grandma’s in order to be there on time? Okay. Plan for it.

Planning for the unpleasant things takes the sting out of them. Then when they happen, you won’t be surprised. In fact, you’ll shift your expectation away from the thing that’s NOT happening. And it will put you in a lovely position to “allow” and ENJOY what does happen.

You might even be able to observe, with a sense of humor… “see, right on time. I knew that was coming.”

How will you Allow, Enjoy, and Plan for your Holidays this year?

Take a minute to comment here and let me know what you are doing to enter into the season? Anything about what I’ve said seem hard or particularly challenging? Leave a comment here or on Facebook and let me know.

I always want to hear how it’s going for you.

And if this was helpful in anyway to you, please share it with a friend…or all your friends. It feels really good to help! Let’s do it together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

Communication Matters

Communication. It’s key. People coming to me for help in their relationships (alone or together) tell me all the time that they

“just need to improve their communication skills.”

Most people strive really hard to do just that.

They work on being kinder and having a softer approach. They work really hard on analyzing correctly so they can get their point across clearly and “be heard.” They gather evidence and examples. They keep an historical record, sometimes verbatim. They submit the hypothetical to their partner “how would you like it if…?” They make appointments to have big talks and get to the bottom of things. Sometimes they even use “date nights” as a time for those big talks. They work really hard to hold it together even when things get tense.

Sound familiar?

Yikes.

Even people who specialize in relationship and couples work often don’t help effectively. They teach people to “attend to listening” or “pay attention” when it’s their partner’s turn to talk. Eye contact. Body language. Turning toward, not away. Leaning in. (No eye-rolling, sighs, or other displays of impatience.) They teach “reflective listening” and hope each person can “issue an empathy statement.”

Huh?

It’s good stuff… if you can do it successfully.

But sometimes it’s so much work.

Especially when, as a listener, you are seething and you already know the next thing your partner is going to say because she’s said it a hundred times and you are being forced to override every cell screaming to get away from this confrontation.You are, after all, in the counselor’s office and you are paying to do this conversation in front of a professional!

Or maybe the words coming out of your man’s mouth feel scathing and you just want to break down and cry but you’re being forced to “hold it together” long enough to be seen as “rational and logical.”

That kind of communication doesn’t truly work.

And by “work” I mean it does not get you what you want: connection, feeling understood, feeling like a team, solution and resolution. That’s why I regularly tell people to stop talking.

Now I don’t mean literally to stop talking entirely. I mean STOP TALKING so much. Stop talking like that. Do something entirely different.

I teach people to use my Clean, Non-blaming Communication (CNBC)™ framework.

It’s nifty. It diffuses huge issues. It’s simple. But not necessarily easy. And it’s usable and useful in so many situations and with all kinds of relationships. I mean that. With kids, bosses, underlings, acquaintances, potential dates, friends, siblings… you name it! Of course, it’s productive and helpful inside relationship!

I love it and I talk about it all the time. That’s because it has changed my life and the lives of so many clients. It grew out of years and years of my own experience, pain, hard work, broken heart, study, research, investigation, trial and error, and finally, complete transformation!

If you’ve signed up for my FREE Coaching Club, you already have a PDF copy of the framework.

Use it. Keep the framework handy because, of course it will feel strange and unnatural at first. It’s very different from what you’ve been doing! You will slip back into the pattern of the The Usual Subtext ™. That’s what’s natural. We’ve been conditioned to use that way of communication and try harder and harder, believing that our efforts have to yield results!

Or, worse, that there is just something wrong with the other person. They’re a bad mate, (we chose the wrong one!) or a bad employee, or bad sales clerk, or aggravating, troubled, difficult son (or daughter.)

We try and try and try and yet, all our efforts fail to get us what we want: cooperation, compliance, respect, connection, empathy, RESULTS!

If you want to learn more about the specifics of how Clean, Non-blaming Communication works, do one of three things:

  1. Sign up for my FREE Coaching Club if you haven’t already. (Under the arrow on the side if you’re on a computer, below here if you’re on a phone or tablet.) You’ll get the PDF plus more info reserved for the Coaching Club and receive Love Letters from me about once a week.
  2. Listen to this episode of my podcast.
  3. Watch the TEDx talk from spring, 2017 in Minneapolis. (I tell a lot of my own story and how CNBC developed.)

Either of the last two will give you a good overview of the framework and insight into WHY it’s time to make a change. Plus, you’ll get some examples of what that might sound like.

Then, jump in and start using it. Try it out and let me know how it’s going. I LOVE, love, love to hear from you! Comment here and let me know how it’s going.

And if this is helpful, share it! We’re interested in helping more people, right?