I always like to ask people, what made you pick up the phone and call me? Not surprisingly, Communication is the #1 reason people give me. Be it trouble communicating with a spouse, parent, child, or even sibling, not feeling understood by a loved one is incredibly painful and frustrating.
Here's the big secret about communication: You are always communicating. In fact, it is virtually impossible to NOT communicate. We communicate through words, body language, facial expressions, lack of facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, how we sit, stand, lie down. We send vibes without even doing so consciously. This is the human condition. Our ability to send and receive important messages to each other in times of danger or stress is what has allowed the human race to evolve into the Facebook and Pinterest addicts (guilty!) we are today.
|Me with my sister in 2009 atop the Pyramid of the Sun. Look how tiny!
Prime example - earlier this week I may have had a bit of an emotional breakdown. I may have freaked out at my husband for the 900th time about the issue of weight. I used to be this tiny little twig of a thing without even having to try. Unfortunately, I got old and my metabolism slowed down. The addition of medication for my awesome panic disorder sealed the deal. Weight gain was unavoidable. And here I am today. There were some other issues I was holding onto besides weight but that's the one that usually gets me where it hurts.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to listen more, talk less. If the person you are trying to communicate with is a loved one, give them a break and assume they are not trying to hurt you. I know, it's incredibly hard to do. I get that you don't want to be hurt but shutting down or flipping out guarantees you will be hurt. Lashing out at your spouse when they're trying to give you feedback may allow you to avoid what they have to say for a little while but it's not going to make it go away. Even if your spouse decides not to push the issue with you and lets it go for the moment, they are still carrying that hurt or concern inside of them. This wears them down and eventually they will lash out at you for making them swallow their feelings.
When you shut your partner down, you get to avoid the icky thing you didn't want to deal with but you're also shutting down the good, loving messages your spouse is actually trying to send you. If I had let myself go down into my shame spiral the other day instead of sticking it out to hear what Jacob had to say, I would have missed the meat of his message. I would have missed the main point of his argument which was actually, very loving and a reality check to boot.
Me: "I hate my body, I look at old pictures of myself and I want to die. I was so tiny and I didn't even appreciate it when I had it! I want to be that girl in the pictures again!"
Jacob: "Hun, remember who you were in those pictures? Were you happy? Would you want to go back and re-live that part of your life? When you had little to no control over your anxiety and panic disorder? And you were married to a guy you didn't even like? Did you have what you have now? A healthy solo private practice, financial security, real friends? No? Then that's what you need to remember when you look at those pictures."
Sigh. I hate when he's right.
The real trick to communicating isn't in the sending. It's in the receiving. The ability to listen without adding our own emotional baggage to the message. Emotions are powerful things and sometimes they can get in the way of really hearing someone. We can be triggered emotionally without even knowing it consciously and before we know it, find ourselves defensive and shut down. It isn't until we take a step back and really look at our response can we see where we were really reacting from.
|We are adorkable!