WHAT Did You Just Say? Communication Differences of Men and Women

off-the-mark-on-men-vs_-women“He should just KNOW what I want if he loves me,” she exclaims.

“I TRY to solve her problems, but she gets mad when she’s upset and I give her advice,” he declares.

And both of them think they are right. And both of them have a right to see it that way.

And both of them would be wise to learn to see it from another point of view.

Individuality notwithstanding, the stereotypes are somewhat borne out by research: men are generally problem solvers and women generally want intuitive, compassionate responses. To put it another way, when we approach our partner with a problem, we Continue reading

Living A Masquerade – Hiding Your True Self

Scarecrows

Michael & I dressed as scarecrows last year

Here is a blog I wrote for Polish: Refining the Details, a summary of my presentation on living a Masquerade…

Growing up I always loved Halloween, I loved scary movies, haunted houses, trick or treating and especially dressing up. I would agonize over my costume every year wanting to have a great one. I still love Halloween and dressing up to go to a costume or masquerade party. There is something very liberating about hiding your true self & pretending to be someone else, rather than who you or who others believe you “should be”.
One mask-maker in California, Carla Almanza-de Quant says “Once you put on a mask you’re cheerful, you’re playful, you’re a more wonderful you,” she says “You become a fantasy character and you interact with others in a more outgoing way.”

What does that look like on a daily basis? What’s the mask or masks you wear when you are hiding your true self from others? Continue reading

Keys to Talking Well – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Last week we covered the keys to listening well, this week we are covering the other side of communication…talking (which by the way should be done less than listening). 🙂

When working to improve our communication it’s important to be aware of what we are saying and how we are saying it, so again remember your non-verbals, facial expressions, tone/volume of voice & body language.

Keys to Talking Well

Great communication leads to deeper intimacy.

  1. Know thyself – take ownership for your feelings and plan how to communicate them clearly to your spouse
  2. Avoid over-generalizations – these sound like “you always____” or “you never ______”  these types of statements are very rarely true of someone (did you see how I avoided using an always/never there?)
  3. Stay in the present, avoid bringing up the past  it can be so easy, especially in the heat of the moment, to bring up other situations from the past that trigger the same feelings you are currently having, don’t do it!  Stay in the present and deal with this one situation so you don’t pile on other stuff.  Once you’ve worked it through, you have to choose to let it go and not continually bring it up.
  4. Utilize “I feel” statements – this is a very structured way of speaking that helps you to do the above recommendations.

(Check out how to have difficult conversations for more on this)

How do we construct a solid “I feel” statement?   It’s a 3 step process.

Step 1: “I feel________________” this is where you identify your feeling, “sad”, “lonely”, “happy”.  This is not “I feel when…or I feel you…”  Those are just blaming statements cloaked as an “I feel” statement.

Step 2: “when _________________” this is where you provide a specific example of when you felt your feeling.  Be very careful not to use this time to bring up several incidents from the past here.  This is one event.

Step 3: “because_______________” this is where you express why you feel the way you do.  Be very careful not to over-generalize here by making always/never statements.

Example: I feel neglected when I’m at home alone in the evenings because I miss spending quality time with you before bed.

If this process is new to you, it may feel unnatural, or potentially engenuine………I know this can feel forced and stiff but the more you practice the more natural it will become.

There’s nothing wrong with planning out exactly what it is you want to say.  Think about a work presentation…do you just walk in the day of and say whatever you want?  Yeah right!!  You spend hours prepping for the project, researching your audience, creating statements and examples that express exactly what you want.  If we go to that extent for others, why wouldn’t we do this for our life partner, the person we love and cherish above all others?  How many conflicts would we be spared if we did this more often?  I, for one, do better when I plan what I want/need to say rather than just speaking off the cuff.  It has prevented many hurt feelings and miscommunication between Michael and I.

Our challenge for you is to try using these keys to talking well in conjunction with the keys to listening well and let us know how your intimacy is impacted.

Keys to Listening Well – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Our next two blogs focus will be on Improving Communication skills which will help with both emotional and physical intimacy.  Communication consists of two jobs, listening and talking.  For good communication that leads to deeper intimacy we need to do both well.

Even in the quietest homes there is constant communication going on.  Most of our communication is non-verbal, in the form of

  1. facial expressions,
  2. tone/volume of voice
  3. body language

So what do we do to improve our communication with one another?  It’s 2 fold, Listening Well and Talking Well – both of which require mindfulness of yourself and your partner.

Here are 5 Keys to Listening Well:

(Remember the non-verbals!)

  1. Make eye contact – this is one of the best ways to show someone you are listening to them as they talk.  If you are looking
  2. Direct your body to your partner – rather than facing the tv, turn toward the person talking, it shows them you are interested in hearing them
  3. Nod your head to express understanding and interest – rather than a zombie stare, nodding shows you are following them
  4. Don’t interrupt – don’t worry about trying to figure out your response, you will get a chance to speak too but your job is to listen now
  5. Reflect – Reflection requires your interpretation:  Imagine the conversation as a mirror.  Once they have finished their statement you reflect back to them what you just heard.  This is not PAROTING…Polly want a cracker.  No this is repeating their statement with a mixture of empathy and validation.

Remember that you want to be in tune with your partner and show them that you care what they are saying and you want to hear them.  After all, if I don’t show Michael that I care about him by listening well then we are

Good communication can prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and conflict.

more likely to experience misunderstandings, hurt feelings and conflict.

Now, it’s hard to listen if no one is talking…yeah, like that’s ever a problem?!  Right?!  Well stay tuned, next time we’ll be discussing the keys of talking well.

Safety Saboteurs – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Last week we emphasized how our individual differences impact intimacy in our marriage and the need for open communication to come to common ground.  That’s all great when you’re talking about the small stuff, where should we eat tonight or how do we fold the towels.

But, then there’s the stuff in life and marriage you don’t plan for or expect such as financial hardships, loss of a loved one, challenging children.  It’s hard to remain intimate when you realize you aren’t going to be able to provide financially the way you anticipated, you are grieving or you disagree on how to parent your headstrong child.  What about the other stuff in life that happens and no one really talks about?  The stuff that isn’t discussed until after it happens, such as: fertility issues, depression, severe illness, in-laws moving in, etc.

How do you invite intimacy into feelings of brokenness, hopelessness, etc.

Continually providing safety within your marriage is the key to intimacy.  When you are dating, you are trusting pieces of yourself as the relationship grows and intimacy develops.  Now that you are married, you’ve likely revealed almost everything about yourself.  Safety is everything at this point, because we are trusting that our spouse can handle everything you have revealed over the years as opposed to small pieces of you at a time, in addition to life as it happens to you as a couple.

We have identified some safety and trust saboteurs.

Safety saboteurs

  • Unspoken Expectations – read here for more on this topic
  • Secrets
    • anything that makes you experience that twinge in your gut when you may think “what if my spouse finds out?”
  • Poor communication skills – this invites circular arguments that are left unresolved and increased defensiveness for both parties
  • High levels of stress (lack of self-care) – unbalanced life and priorities will lead to burnout and allow for very limited time to emotionally and physically connect with your spouse.

Creating that safe environment

Engagement Table
Dating your spouse increases intimacy.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship.  What helped create that sense of safety between you and your spouse?  (DATING, INTENTIONALLY SPENDING TIME TOGETHER, etc.)

We want to challenge you to sit down with your spouse this week and reminisce about your favorite dates, list activities you both already enjoy doing together as well as activities you’d like to try out together.  But hey, let’s not stop there!  Get out your calendars and begin to plan out dates.  Think through the different commitment levels each will take, time, financial and energy.  Then enjoy dating your spouse again.  Who knows date night might be better than when you were dating!