Ever notice how quickly a conversation between you and your partner can go downhill with just a few poorly chosen words?
Are your conversations a war of words or a test of silence?
Well, there are ways to repair and restore great communication. The following demonstrates how.
FOR MEN ONLY: John, a 43-year-old management consultant, and his wife Doris, a 39-year-old illustrator, had been growing distant because of a breakdown in communication. One day during a non-conflicted time, John took Doris aside and looked at her firmly, but tenderly, and asked her, “Doris, have I ever made you feel that you were not worth listening to?” With that, Doris’ eyes teared up at this show of concern and interest from John.
When her body language, more than her words, indicated that he probably had made her feel that way on many occasions, John persisted and said, “Doris, look at me, please. Just because I don’t know how to listen to you in the right way doesn’t mean you are not worth listening to. Don’t let anyone, including me, ever make you feel that you are not worth listening to, because you are, and I’m sorry if I have made you feel that way.”
Now Doris was receptive to John, so things went well. However, if you try this with your wife and she jumps down your throat with, “Of course that’s true. You’re one of the worst listeners I know!” don’t be discouraged. Take a deep breath and reply: “I know. That’s why I’m apologizing for it now. You don’t deserve to be ignored like that.” Chances are she’ll become calmer and, one or two days later, may apologize for her hostile retort and even thank your for your gesture.
FOR WOMEN ONLY: Another example involves Nancy, a 51-year-old mother of two grown children, and her husband Ted, a 53-year-old plumber. As in the above example, they had grown distant due to a breakdown in communication. One day, Nancy took Ted aside, looked him straight in the eye and asked him: “Ted, have I ever made you feel that I don’t respect you or admire you or that I have stopped thinking that you’re the greatest guy I know and I’m lucky to have you in my life?”
Needless to say, Ted was dumbfounded and speechless, indicating, as in the previous example, that yes, Nancy had caused him to have exactly those negative feelings. Nancy persisted and continued: “Ted, just because I get stressed out and sometimes take it out on you, because you’re my safety valve, doesn’t mean I don’t thank my lucky stars for having you in my life. And I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel worse about yourself.”
Beginning a conversation this way works so well because when tension exists between you and someone else, the only thing that will not create more defensiveness is a sincere apology. Apologies also make the apologizing person feel better because it helps to thaw out coldness and bitterness in a relationship.
USABLE Insight: Love means always having to say (and mean) you’re sorry.