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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Some things are simply better left unsaid.

In the past few months I’ve been building a collection of some of the silly, outrageous, hurtful, and goofy statements people sometimes make. Here are a few of these foolish comments.

Upon seeing her husband, a wife says, “You look nice. You must be planning on going somewhere.” The husband, not to be outdone, retorts, “Why, yes, I’m going out to chase women.”

We’re in church. The congregation is following along in the prayer books and every once in a while the people intone Alleluia. The woman behind me, however, instead of saying Alleluias shrieks AMEN. With that I hear another voice say, “That’s okay, Grandma, you can say whatever you want.”

Someone calls my office and asks for an appointment. I offer three possibilities. His response: “Business must really be bad.”

It’s early morning and the wife walks into the kitchen. Her husband is reading the paper. On seeing his wife the husband says, “What are you doing up so early?”

A friend tells me that he ran into one of our mutual college friends. He then says, “I asked the guy if he remembered you…and he didn’t remember you at all!”

A woman notices that her friend has obviously put a color on her hair. Her comment to the friend: “What color is your hair anyway?”

It’s noontime and I’m standing and eating a pretzel in my office. This woman comes in, sees me, and says, “Is that your lunch?”

One man asks another where he is going. The fellow responds that he is going to the store to do some shopping. His compatriot’s comment: “On a beautiful day like this?”

A woman is talking to her friends about plastic surgery and she says, “If I had $4,000 and could take a month off work, I’d seriously consider having my neck done.” At this point, her friend responds, “It would take a lot more than $4,000 to fix you up.”

How about this one? An elderly friend has been working outside in the garden almost the whole day so I say, “Come on in and take a rest.” Before he has a chance to answer, a woman visitor jumps in and says, “He won’t come in, he’s afraid he’ll miss something.”

Then there is the woman who is definitely looking for sympathy from her husband when she says, “I think I’m coming down with the flu.” Instead of sympathy her husband says, “Oh, no, now I’ll get it.”

A husband and wife are at a party, and she is telling everyone about her birthday the week before. As she’s telling the story, the wife looks at her husband and says, “He sent me the nicest card. I was shocked.”

At another party a man asks his wife, “What time is it getting to be?” His wife’s response: “You’re the one who has all the watches.”

As I said earlier, some things are simply better left unsaid.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” www.doriswildhelmering.com

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When you look your partner in the eye while you communicate, you are less likely to spark a negative discussion.
Think about the last conversation you had with your partner. What do you recall about the way he or she looked? Did your partner raise his eyebrows, puff out his cheeks, look disbelieving and smile incredulously? Did his hair lie a bit differently than usual? Did your eyes ever meet? Did she have on lipstick? Was she wearing earrings? Were her eyes twinkling, or did she appear tired?

I see a lot of couples for marriage counseling, and one of the things I’m continually made aware of is that couples frequently do not look at each other when they are talking. In fact, they spend more time looking away and avoiding eye contact than actually looking at each other.

When I point this out to the couple, the partner who is not looking often becomes defensive and says, “I was thinking and that’s why I was looking away.” What he doesn’t realize, however, is how seldom he looks at his partner.

One reason a partner does not look at his mate when talking is that he is paying attention to something else. The radio or television is on, and he is half listening to a program. Or the children are fighting, and she is trying to hear what’s going on with the kids. Also, people speak only about 120 words a minute while we think at light speed in comparison. So it’s easy to become distracted, think of something else, half listen and not look.

In one study, a group of college students in a classroom purposely looked away from a visiting professor as he lectured. His speech soon became monotone, and he lost almost all facial expression. Then, at a predetermined time, all the students sat up and started looking at the lecturer. Within 30 seconds, his face became animated, his body posture changed, he started moving his arms about and his voice became stronger.

At another prearranged time, the students again stopped looking at the professor. Within minutes, he again lost his enthusiasm and started to drone.

When partners look at each other, they are less sarcastic and less likely to respond negatively. In addition, partners who learn to look at each other report feeling less annoyed and more concerned for their mate.

Why not look at your partner today when he or she is talking? Find out how much you’ve been missing.

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When you let little irritations become a big issue, best rethink how to deal with them.

Some years back a woman came to me because of her mother-in-law. She and her husband had been married for four years and had two small babies. The problem was that when her mother-in-law came for a visit, she would go through her daughter-in-law’s dresser drawers and medicine cabinet.

When the woman talked with her husband about what to do, he had shrugged and said his mom was just nosy and because his wife had nothing to hide, what did it matter?

Instead of confronting the mother-in-law head on, the wife had a lock put on her bedroom door. When the mother-in-law came over on Sundays, as she often did, the wife would simply lock the door.

Recently this daughter-in-law contacted me to help her deal with one of her teenaged daughters. During the session I asked, “Whatever happened with you and your mother-in-law, who used to rummage through your drawers?” The woman was surprised I remembered. I said her story was a bit unusual. She laughed, shrugged, and said everything was fine. Over the years her mother- in-law turned out to be a big help to the family, and as far as she knew, she had stopped going through the woman’s dresser drawers. In fact, she hadn’t used the lock in years.

Several hours later I got a telephone call from a friend who had a question. Apparently his friend is ready to give up a job he likes because of the engineer in the next cubicle. It seems that this engineer has a rather tumultuous relationship with his wife and argues on and off with her throughout the day. This same engineer kicks his wastecan rhythmically all day long. His fights and repetitive tapping are so irritating that my friend’s friend is seriously thinking about throwing in the towel.

My friend wanted to know if I had any solutions besides talking to the man, who was impossible to talk to, and going to his boss, who would think the problem petty.

I said I thought the friend had gotten himself sensitized to the man’s noises and he was attending to them instead of ignoring them. What he could do was to decide to focus on his work and learn to ignore the man in the next cubicle. It would take about six weeks of determined concentration, but it was possible.

Another option was for him to buy a white noise machine or humming fan which would help dull the racket. A third option would be to get some ear buds and start listening to music as he worked.

My friend thanked me for the advice and said he’d pass it on.

The session with the woman followed by my friend’s telephone call got me to thinking. There are so many nuisance problems that come into our lives. Instead of making a big deal out of a problem and rushing to confront someone, often an adjustment in our own behavior would solve the problem.

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Learn to put limitations on your whining. Whining can be acceptable in some situations, but your friends and family don’t want to listen to it forever.
We’re told we’re a nation of whiners. True. But is it good to whine? Does whining have any value?

Yes, some of the time. Suppose you’re overwhelmed at work and then your boss asks you to attend a meeting for him. A little whining to a co-worker may be all you need to dissipate your irritation before you gear up for the meeting.

If you lose a job or find your mate has been having an affair, initially you’ll cry, squeal and yelp. It hurts! As the weeks go by, you’ll probably settle into a steady whine. Eventually you’ll move to an on-again, off-again whine.

Whining phrases include: “I can’t believe he did this to me.” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I can’t stand it.” “People are stupid.” “Doesn’t anyone give a darn?” “Nobody’s trustworthy.” “I could lie down and die and nobody would notice.” “Life’s crummy.” “I’m so tired of this whole thing.”

Note that most of these phrases place the whiner in a victim position. The whiner feels at that moment in time that he has little control over his life and what other people are doing.

If you have a mate or friend who’s a whiner, here are some tips. Start by listening. Listen for 5 minutes and make a few sympathetic comments such as, “That’s awful…I can see why you’re upset…It’s frustrating.”

After 10 minutes, you might make a suggestion as to what the person could do differently. Or ask if there is anything you can do. If you get nowhere, try switching to another topic. For example, to your friend you might say, “Well, how are your other children doing?” Or, “How do other people in your department cope?” To your mate you might suggest, “Let’s have a nice dinner in spite of….” Or, “Let’s have a nice evening. Why don’t we start by going for a walk.”

How much whining should you allow yourself? It depends on the situation. With a major problem such as a layoff or a cheating spouse, feel free to whine an hour a day. But do it in your head. If you’re whining aloud to a family member or friend, a half-hour goes a long way. If the problem is ongoing, for example, you have a difficult boss or difficult child, allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes of whining. After 10 minutes, make yourself change the focus of the conversation. Ask the other person what’s going on in her life. What happened with her today?

Another suggestion: Get up and do something physical. Sweeping a floor, taking out the trash, or sorting mail will change your focus of attention.

Everyone who whines, and most of us do from time to time, should keep track. If your whining is on the increase, perhaps there is something you need to change in your life. Also, play a game with yourself. Decide that Wednesdays and Saturdays are no whine days.

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If someone tells you about a problem they are facing, think about your response before responding.

Your husband tells you he is disgusted with his job. The people he works with are idiots. You immediately respond, “Why don’t you tell the boss what you’re up against; how they don’t pull their weight?”

Now your husband has two problems. He still is disenchanted with his job. And he has to fend off your knee-jerk suggestion of talking to the boss.

——-

Your wife says, “What a great day. Let’s pack a picnic basket and take the girls to the park.”

Your knee-jerk response: “I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound good to me.”

Your wife says, “Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.”

You again say no.

To this second turn-down your wife shrugs and says okay.

About 20 minutes later, after some thought on your part, you go back to your wife and say, “Okay, let’s go to the park.”

——-

You leave a meeting hopping mad. You meet your friend and tell her you are furious at the way your co-worker Jim behaved at the meeting. He acted as though your committee had done nothing constructive. He cut you off when you were talking. He made one sarcastic response after another.

The friend you are spilling your guts to says, “Maybe he’s just had a bad day. Maybe he had a fight with one of his kids. Don’t be so hard on him.”

Why is your friend taking Jim’s side? You wonder. This woman is supposed to be your friend. In fact, she doesn’t even know Jim, so why would she be defending him?

——-

You decide to join a gym. You tell your mother you’re working out three mornings a week. Your mother says, “That’s ridiculous. You need your rest. You don’t need to be getting up at the crack of dawn three mornings a week to go to some silly gym.”

You feel deflated and annoyed. You told your mother because you wanted to share your new endeavor and you wanted her support.

——-

I have just presented four typical knee-jerk responses.

First I described the wife who jumps in and tries to solve her husband’s problem instead of simply listening to him complain. This is the problem-solving knee-jerk response.

In the next story, the husband immediately says no to his wife’s suggestion of going to the park. His is the “no” knee-jerk response.

In the third scenario, your friend defends Jim and starts making all kinds of excuses for him. This is the “let’s make it better” knee-jerk response.

In the fourth incident, Mom is unsupportive and critical of your early morning workouts. Hers is a “devil’s advocate” knee-jerk response.

Unfortunately, all these responses are inappropriate. The person who started each conversation wanted only to be listened to, to get some sympathy, and to get some approval.

Ask yourself, Which knee-jerk response do I usually have? Do I need to do anything differently?

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Making your marriage better can be one of those “Best things I ever did.”

No longer in love with your husband or wife? Feeling bored or irritated with marriage? Yearning to go back to an earlier time when you had fun and looked forward to being together?

With some adjustment — thinking about things differently and changing a few behaviors — you can fall back in love. In fact, when you talk to long-time happily marrieds, most of them admit to periods of discontent.

Often people have so much on their plate with job demands, children, friends, relatives, household chores, sports, and hobbies that they forget to spend time with their mate. Then they report not having anything in common. True, because they’re not doing much beyond coordinating schedules. If this is you, what will you do differently? Nail down an evening or two each week where you spend time together. Write it down._________________________________

Next step. What will you do when the two of you are together? Will you take a walk, bike ride, go to a movie, watch television, go shopping? It doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as the two of you are doing it together.

People get lazy and take each other for granted when they live together day-to-day. They stop focusing on each other’s goals and struggles. When was the last time you really listened to your partner’s feelings about how things are going in his or her life? Can you name two goals your spouse is wanting to accomplish?

Can you list two concerns or fears he has?

When you’re in that period of two ego states collapsing into one and you’re falling in love, you can’t see the flaws in your mate. You only see the good. As time goes on, the issue of who didn’t take out the trash becomes more important than his wonderful sense of humor. It’s easier to move toward friends and co-workers and away from your mate when entanglements with money, chores and children permeate your thinking and cause negative feelings. In order to avoid this pitfall, write down three of your mate’s strengths.

1._______________________________________________

2._______________________________________________

3._______________________________________________

During the coming week share what you like and admire about your partner. When you were falling in love, you had no trouble giving compliments and hugs and “I love yous.” It’s time to start the process again.

Feeling discontent with yourself often translates into: “I’m bored in my marriage.” It’s easier to spotlight your mate’s flaws rather than look at what you should be changing about yourself. Ask yourself two quick questions:

If I had a magic wand and could change anything about myself, what would it be?_________________________________________________

If I made this change, would I like my mate better?__________

Other action items:

-Be respectful. No pouting, name-calling, or trying to bulldoze with anger.

-Get your sex life back on track. Be loving and approach your mate. When your mate approaches you, don’t turn him or her down because of some petty annoyance.

-Don’t criticize. Remember: “You will always move toward anyone who increases you and away from anyone who makes you less.”

Ask yourself: Am I increasing my mate’s self-worth?

Can people fall back in love? Absolutely. Wishful thinking will not get you there, however. You have to get busy and do something. Following the advice that you’ve just read will make a difference.

 

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Did you know that when you fight, your fights always follow the same pattern? What you fight about with your mate or your child may change from year to year, but the way the fight unfolds remains the same.

Take for example Marge and Bill. No matter what they fight about, Bill takes the mild-mannered, logical position while Marge becomes furious and raves like a maniac. The more calm Bill becomes, the more hysterical Marge acts. The pattern is always the same.

On Tuesday, this couple fought because Bill didn’t get home until 6:40, when he usually arrives by 6:00.

As soon as Bill came in the door, Marge expected an explanation.

Bill explained that his boss had wanted to see him just as he was walking out the door, and he couldn’t get away.

At this explanation, Marge became angrier and insisted that Bill should have excused himself to call her. After all, most people live on some sort of time schedule, even the boss.

Bill countered by telling Marge in a reasonable tone that she didn’t understand the corporate world; and most people in his position don’t leave the office until 6:30. To call home hadn’t seemed necessary because it wasn’t as if he was being delayed until 10 at night.

Angrier still, Marge pointed out that she had taken time out of her life to go to the grocery store and make a nice meal for him, which was now ruined. Why was his time more important than her time? She also recounted all the other times Bill had chosen his work over her – like when he went out of town on business when their first child was due.

At the end of the argument, which lasted most of the evening, Bill felt persecuted and believed Marge was completely unreasonable. Marge felt that she didn’t count and once again Bill’s work had come first.

If Marge and Bill would take a moment to see that the pattern is always the same – Bill gets logical and Marge gets hysterical, and they rarely resolve their differences – they could change the pattern.

Instead of defending his actions, Bill could focus on Marge’s feelings. He could acknowledge that she had to wait and hold dinner and that it would have been more thoughtful for him to call. Bill should give no explanation or rationale for his decision to stay and talk with the boss.

Marge could change the pattern by stating her position and then restating it and not allowing herself to become hysterical.

The problem is, neither Bill nor Marge would get to feel misunderstood and persecuted. And who would express Bill’s anger for him if Marge became more controlled? And what about their familiar routine? What would they do if they were not fighting?

That’s why it’s so hard to give up your fight pattern.

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