Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tough Communication

This time the article I read was in Psychology Today, and it was about communicating with someone who likes to explode when asked to change his/her behavior. Been there - on both sides of this one. My opinion is that exploding and throwing fits is very bad for relationships. I know that seems pretty obvious but apparently this type of communication is fairly common with couples. What I hear - and what I've thought myself - is that "I can't help it." "He/she is going to have to change - stop yelling at me - and then I'll be able to change." Well, that doesn't work either.

So, here's the answer according to the article: When neither of you are mad, sit down and talk about it without exploding. Just say, "I'm not willing to keep on having these horrible episodes. It's hurting both of us. I want us to have some ground rules for talking about problems: Talk reasonably and kindly. Try to find solutions that meet both of our needs. Do you agree?" If he/she does not agree, say: "I'm going to try to talk to you in a kind way, and if you explode I'm going to leave for 10 minutes to give you a chance to calm down, and then I'm going to try again. If you still can't talk reasonably, I will stop talking to you and leave again. You will have left me to solve the problem without your input, and you might not like the solution I come up with." Then the article says that you will need to solve the problem in such a way that he/she cannot do what they've done before. The example was that the husband invited guests without asking her first. When she tried to talk to him about it, he blew up and walked out - which was how he usually reacted when she asked him to change something. So, the writer of the article suggested that if he wouldn't agree to talking out the problem without exploding, she just tell him she would not be there to hostess guests if he invited people without asking her. And then make good on her promise by leaving and spending the day elsewhere if he did it again.

Well, I wonder how that would have worked with the people I used to have screaming fights with. Since I'm not in a relationship like that now, I won't have a chance to practice it. But it would certainly change the dynamics - and that couldn't help but be a good thing.

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