If You Want To Be Heard, Filter Your Words!
Kid’s say the darndest things.
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher put on a play for the parents. Along, with several other children, I was an egg underneath a towel awaiting my cue to get up and hatch. When the cue came, I was the only egg to hatch. I looked around and spoke loudly, “Get up you dumb chickens!” I was told later that my mother was mortified, but the rest of the audience cracked up.
Kid’s say the darndest things. They are adorable.
Unfiltered adults? Not so adorable. When adults do not filter their words, they doom themselves to not being heard.
It is important to be heard. Dr. John Gottman’s research on marriage shows that accepting influence is key to a happy, lasting marriage. When you don’t filter your words you are not likely to give or receive influence.
In other words, you won’t be heard. You won’t get your wants and needs met. Your unfiltered words will sabotage your efforts to influence your partner. And it is unlikely, your partner will feel like they have influence either.
Filter your words and you are more likely to influence your partner to meet your wants and needs.
Easier said than done? Here are three tips for how to filter your words yet still say what you need to say.
Tip #1: Take a moment before you speak.
Honor the right of others to have a different opinion or perspective. People don’t have to agree on everything. If you are someone who rails at other people for their opinions and behavior, you are more likely to speak unfiltered to your partner.
It starts with a change in perspective. For example, Because of COVID, I wear a mask. A couple months ago, I shopped at Home Depot and roughly a third of the people were not wearing masks. I had to fight my feelings. I had to have the perspective that not wearing a mask doesn’t mean they were whatever judgement I wanted to make about them. When I can accept that they are probably good people, but with a different perspective than mine, my feelings calm down to a rational level—a more caring level.
If you believe that your partner has a right to their perspective, you are more likely to filter your words during conflict. You are more likely to remain rational and caring.
When you want or need to say something to your spouse or you are reacting to something they said, take a moment. Measure your words. If you are flooded with feelings of anger or irritation, it may not be the right time to speak. Step away and calm down.
Tip #2: Use a soft startup.
Dr. Gottman also found in his research that he could predict outcomes of conversations depending on how they started. A harsh startup includes accusations, volume, tone, and negative body language. A harsh startup leads to negative outcomes.
Soft start up speaks from feelings, not accusations. “I felt sad and lonely when I came home excited to see you and you were out with your friends. I was looking forward to spending time together.”
Soft start up requires taking a moment to collect your words. It is speaking your feelings in a way that your spouse is more likely to be able to hear. Though you can’t guarantee a good response, you can almost guarantee that your partner will go to fight or flight if you you use a harsh startup. Over time, your partner will resent you.
Soft startup comes from a position of rationality and a caring heart. It is putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and using empathy to carve your words.
Tip #3: State clearly and succinctly what you want and need.
Many couples have arguments and can’t even remember what they were arguing about.
Many couples dump a list of complaints on their spouse without ever stating what it is they want and need.
Many couples stack their case by reaching back through history to bring up every incident that proves their point. Oftentimes arguments devolve into nothing but he said-she said with very different memories of what was said or done in the past.
Don’t go on and on. Don’t stack your case with all kinds of logical or emotional arguments to convince your partner. Don’t say the same thing three different ways.
Get in and out quickly.
It helps no one if your partner gets bored, irritated or flooded.
When flooded, your partner may go to fight or flight. Either way, your point is no longer being made in an effective way. And you may be in an emotionally escalated situation.
What additional steps can you take?
• If you go to my blog at rcochran.com, you can read other articles that will give you guidance for how to have a better relationship.
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