Stating a request or desire in a relationship can be challenging for most of us. Effective communication is difficult, and many of us do not have the tools. So try this, as January 1st rolls around, and see how it feels.
State your request in a different way. It is important to keep the truth, but see if you can remove any toxicity. Blame and finger-pointing will only serve to alienate your partner. No one wants to hear criticism or feel as if they did something wrong. It is better to start with a positive statement, then ease into a request that might set off a conflict or statement of disappointment.
Begin with a positive, sandwich in your complaint, and end with a positive again.
Here is an example.
“I love the way you help me with the household chores and clean up after I cook dinner. When you leave out your shoes, dog leash, jacket, and wallet, I get frustrated because I worry these will get lost. So I have to pick up these items to put them where they belong. I’m afraid I won’t be able to remember where they are when you need them before you leave the house. However, I really appreciate all the help you give me during mealtime and with other chores in our home.”
This sandwich plan might sound a bit simple, but I think the idea is clear. Write out a few statements in this format. Then try reading them out loud to yourself before taking this experiment to your partner. Think about a specific problem you have with your relationship, and see if you can view it as an opportunity instead. It’s a chance to give your spouse a compliment, clear up a small problem before it becomes a big deal, and be reassuring of your affection.
Shame is a corrosive emotion. It takes away our power and confidence. Most people will not be able to accept any criticism or complaint if it sets off a wave of shame. But doing something a little differently to make yourself seem even more lovable, strong, flexible, or accomplished feels heroic and creates a victorious dynamic.
Here is another, similar exercise. Think of a weakness you’ve always thought you had, and then see if you can spin it into strength. Instead of chiding yourself for taking too long to make a decision, compliment yourself for making a careful study of all the options before you act. Watch how your motivation and behavior change as you shift your thinking.
It stands to reason that a positive statement will change the emotional environment. You may find that you waste less energy on arguments and have more time to celebrate intimacy, assets, and growth.
Resolution: For the month of January 2021, I will see how many ideas, statements, and needs I can turn around in a positive way. I will also notice how it makes me feel and how others around me benefit from a positive re-frame.
Get started now and share some of your ideas in the comments.