It happens every night.
It might be the man or it could be the woman, but one of you comes home and plops down on the sofa in front of the TV or hides away in the computer room. At the end of the day you or your partner or both are just whipped from the stress of work, kids, and life. That was the typical scenario when I was a kid. It happens a lot. That is just the beginning.
After a few minutes … maybe an hour, one of you gets interrupted. Maybe the kids are fighting. Maybe one of you are hungry. Maybe the phone is ringing or the doorbell chimes and then it begins.
Kids are fighting over the remote and parental intervention is needed.)
I say, “Honey, the kids are fighting.”
In a louder voice I say, “Honey … KIDS!”
I start thinking, “Is she ignoring me? I know she hears that chaos and I know she hears me calling for her.”
Kids are now screeching and someone is crying. I get up in a huff with a lot of frustration and go check on the kids. I yell at them. They blame each other. I threaten to punish everyone if things don’t quiet down. Kids get quiet (even though nothing was resolved properly). I have gone from frustrated to angry in about 30 seconds. Now I am looking for the wife and when I find her I plan to give her a piece of my mind.
The wife is sitting at the computer quietly. She is checking out Pinterest and Facebook.
I say, “What in the heck? Did you hear the kids?”
She looks up at me with an annoyed look and says, “Not really.”
(I don’t even know what that means!) I ask, “Did you hear me call for you?”
She says, “Not really … no.”
I am about to blow a gasket and she doesn’t seem to give a crap! I sense a fight coming and I am ready to get it on!
**Pause here and consider a few things:
- Do you think the wife wants to fight?
- Do you think she intentionally ignored me?
- Do you think I have every right to be angry and yell at her (and the kids)?
- Don’t I work hard and don’t I deserve a little time for myself?
This is pretty much what happens in relationships once the couple leaves the dating and newly married period (first 6 to 12 months, by estimation). It is called, “THE ROUTINE.”
Now … rewind that whole fiasco and ask these questions:
- Did I want to communicate something to my wife? Absolutely!
- What was it? Maybe it was, “Please help me with the kids because I am tired.”
- Did I communicate that effectively? Nope not at all.
- What did I do wrong? I relied on only 1 form of communication and it failed miserably.
- How can I use more than one form of communication to ensure the message is sent and received? This is the trick I have been alluding to in the title … (Pay close attention!)
We Have Five Senses
Imagine each sense working like a back up to the others. If our senses were a series of cell phone signals bouncing off of multiple towers or even satellites we could pretty much guarantee the signal strength would be best if we used all five. Heck even two or three is better than one.
Human beings are amazingly complex creatures complete with senses, thoughts, emotions, and experiences which we use to decode communication. When we yell for someone, who is not in the room, do they see us? Do they feel us? The certainly can’t taste or smell us (unless something very odd is going on). All they can do is hear us and when we yell it creates stress, anger, and frustration (emotional barriers) which can interrupt the message. If they have had bad experiences with yelling then those experiences are additional barriers. Even if they don’t intentionally ignore us (thought barriers) they will probably appear to ignore us because the communication is more painful to deal with than doing nothing.
So what can we do?
Are you ready for the easiest trick in the world to enhance communication and get amazing responses from your spouse or partner? Here it is…
Use at least three forms of communication:
1. Instead of yelling (which is audible but creates obstacles/barriers to communication) try talking in a calm and respectful tone. That means you have to be close enough for the recipient to hear so get up and move in close.
2. Just before you start talking in the respectful and even loving tone, use the sense of touch to get the spouse/partner’s attention by placing your hand lightly on the shoulder or wrist (whichever is least intrusive and most respectful). This should also motivate them to look at you.
3. Once you touch them and they look at you (2 lines of communication that show respect and love) then start talking to pass the message. They can feel the warmth of your hand. They can see your body language and demeanor. They can hear the request clearly from your respectful words.
Now some of you will think this is ridiculous, but before you give up and go back to yelling let me ask a few key questions.
1. Did the yelling work well for you in the past? If you have read this far then I bet the answer is not only a no…It is a no way…no how!
2. If the yelling didn’t work then did you get your needs met? You might be thinking that there was an interruption that caused you to get up one way or the other. That sounds like the interruption pulled you away from relaxing and so being nice with three forms of communication gets no different result than yelling. I disagree. If you can get your spouse engaged with respect and kindness then you are building trust and interdependence. In essence, your spouse will learn to respond better to you in these situations and others as well. So to answer the question…no you didn’t get your needs met by yelling.
3. When the entire fiasco was over in the yelling conditions did anyone win? Did the kids get the message that good behavior is important? Did the spouse get the message that you would appreciate some help? Did you avoid being angry and then feeling guilt later from the entire conflict? I would say, No, No, and NO!
4. Last question … If you were getting bad cell phone reception in a building and you really wanted to talk to the person on the other end, what would you do? Yelling into the cell phone never works. I bet you would either go outside to get a better signal or use a land line to get clear communication, or wait and handle the conversation in person. It would be insanity to continue trying to use a cell phone that had such bad reception that you simply couldn’t hear. Guess what … that is what yelling is. Yelling is bad communication with a lot of static in the form of anger, stress, and frustration.
It’s Worth It
Follow my advice above. Get up. Move close. Touch gently. Make eye contact. Speak respectfully.
If you follow this advice then I assure you that communications will improve. It might take a few tries to get the hang of it, but good habits are worth the effort. Don’t give up if at first it seems odd. Riding a bicycle or roller blades wasn’t easy either, but everyone gets it after a while. You are worth it and so is your spouse/partner.
Good luck and feel free to find me at Conway Counseling
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