12 – Communication challenges. – 5:15

Communication between two people will never be easy or perfect. Consider the following, trigger words. These are words that people use with spouses, children, customers, fellow employees, their boss, or anyone that they interact with that cause the other person to react in either a positive or negative way. Trigger words in and of themselves are not positive or negative. A positive trigger word for one person could be a negative one for someone else. For example, I use the word negative in the following sentence, I thought what you said was negative. What are the potential reactions, depending on whom you say it to? It could cause the person to become defensive. It could cause them to stop and think. It could cause them to get angry. It could cause them to go into denial. These reactions are a function of many things, and it is therefore difficult to predict another person’s reaction to what you say and how you say it.

Their reactions could be caused by the time of day, their general feeling, are they tired, stressed, or happy? How they feel about themselves when hearing your words, their general self-esteem, their education and vocabulary proficiency, their mood. What has just happened in their life just prior to your words, their perceptual or life outlook, their attitudes about you. There are many more, but it’s suffice to say that no matter what you say, it can be misconstrued. No wonder there is so much conflict, anger, frustration, anxiety, misunderstanding and difficulty in relationships today. What’s the answer? You have two choices when communicating with other people. Stop communicating completely with others, not a very practical option. Or learn that no matter what you say, it can be perceived differently from what you intended. Accept the fact that sooner or later you will have to deal with misunderstanding by another person and understand that what is really important is how you handle the conflicts or misunderstandings, not that they exist.

There is no way to prevent them. Here’s another one, how about all those little irritating conversational corrections that people feel are necessary or so important? I have been observing couples in their conversations recently, and I’ve made an interesting discovery. One, I am sure that applies to you and your partner. If it doesn’t, your relationship is truly one in a million. I call this tendency the correction syndrome, and it goes like this. He says, “About three weeks ago,” she corrects him with, “It was just last week.” She says, “That movie was at least two hours long,” he corrects her with, “It was only an hour and a half.” Today, there are millions of conversations that will mimic this conversational tendency. Consider two thoughts. Does this trivia really matter in the end, no matter what is being discussed? And what are the long term consequences of this need to correct others in the mundane and unimportant conversational details of life? Well, in the end, I don’t think that most of these mild corrections really matter. In the grand scheme of things, what difference does it really make whether the movie was 90 or 120 minutes long?

During a recent social dinner outing with another couple, I decided to count. During this two hour meal, each partner corrected the other a total of 35 times. We are not talking about rocket science stuff here, where the need for accuracy is critical. We are talking about simple and often unimportant life details that in the end really don’t matter one way or the other. I started thinking, why was this necessary? Why do people feel the need to correct their partner? Is it ego, the need to be right or control or some other hidden psychological motive? Since I don’t have a degree in psychology, I can’t answer that, but I can tell you as the recipient of many of these relentless corrections during my life that I soon arrived at the point that I wanted to be around my partner as little as possible.

I can hear some of you now, “Tim, you are making a big deal out of nothing. It’s just life’s trivia.” Maybe yes and maybe no. All I can tell you is how this persistent behavior makes me feel. Why contribute? Why talk? Why engage when sooner or later, the need for correction from the other person will emerge? As an interesting sidebar, I’ve also noticed that when a group of guys or gals get together, this same conversational tendency isn’t followed. There is no need for her to correct one of her friends nor he one of his. It seems that this tends to only happen when two spouses are sharing either in private or when they’re among friends at a social gathering. I’m not an expert on anything, but I do know a little bit about a number of subjects, and one of my expertise on a simple point of detail on one of these is corrected by someone with less knowledge on the subject that is being discussed, I do tend to get somewhat annoyed.

Do I fight back, make a stand? Do I let them have their way? Do I pick my battles? Do I just shut up and forget it? Do I suck it in and smile? Do I make a big deal out of nothing? I know I’m not being much help here. All I can tell you is that over time, this consistent need to correct will take its toll on the intimacy, respect, openness, and vulnerability in the relationship. From personal experience, I can tell you that if every time you open your mouth, your partner interrupts, invalidates, criticizes, corrects, or doesn’t listen to you, the communication in your relationship will tend to be either very superficial or non-existent.

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#13 It’s the little things that matter. – 02:11

As relationships mature, grow, and develop, people can sometimes forget that it’s the little things that can have the greatest positive as well as negative impact on the overall quality of the relationship.

I put these in four categories. Little courtesies, little pleasures, little words, and little invalidators. Let’s look at each of these in a little more depth. Little courtesies, these are the common courtesies that many people fail to do after a relationship has reached the taking you for granted stage, such as saying thank you and please and opening doors. Remembering special dates, events, needs, wants desires and dreams. Doing what you say you are going to do whether it is a telephone call or being on time for anything. Being late says what I was doing is more important than you are. One of my pet peeves is people are always late. What an insult. I know, I know there is traffic, last minute somethings, but let’s let these be the exceptions and not the rule.

Little pleasures such as sending flowers, greeting cards, giving inexpensive gifts for no reason than to say you are special. I was thinking about you. Warming up your spouse’s car on a cold winter morning before they head off to work. A back rub and a foot massage. There are a million ways you can say you are special. Get creative, get outside of yourself for once and put the other person in your life first.

Little words, saying I’m sorry, I forgive you. It will be okay. I know how you feel. I believe in you. I have confidence in you. You can do it. I’m there for you. This list is endless. Little invalidators. Things like forgetting to say thank you when your partner goes out of their way for you. Feeling like it is unnecessary to use the word please when asking them for something. Interrupting them while they answer a question you have just asked them or being late for a simple event like a lunch.

How often do you go out of your way for that special person in your life? Why not call someone today and thank them for something? Tell them you care. They are special. You are thinking about them. Why not send a small gift, anything, a greeting card? These acts do not guarantee successful relationships, but they can go a long way in improving them and maintaining them on a positive basis.