I recently posted a status on my Facebook page. It was after I had a slight disagreement with a friend and he took it over the top, in my opinion. So I posted, “When a misogynistic man doesn’t want to hear a woman he attempts to marginalize her by ignoring what she is saying and labeling her behavior as: controlling, demanding, manipulative, crazy, bitchy, evil, etc. If that still doesn’t shut her up he resorts to insults. Usually she just wants to be heard. To have a chance to air her grievances as much as he airs his.”
Then a girlfriend messaged me saying her boyfriend was doing the same thing. I had to quickly rethink. I knew my friend was misogynistic, and I also knew her boyfriend wasn’t, in fact, he was the opposite! The two common elements between these men? They were both very stressed out.
Unfortunately, men AND women often don’t maintain relationships very well when dealing with fear, stress, frustration, anger, etc. They may attempt to marginalize the other person by ignoring them, labeling their behavior, or even resorting to insults. Whatever the reason, it damages your relationship, and it just plain hurts!
Good Communication is the most important element to any relationship, whether friends, family, coworkers or “significant others”. Generally, each are doing the best they believe that they are capable of; not intentionally trying to hurt the other.
The problem is that we each have a unique relationship matrix in our minds, and those don’t always match up with the other person’s matrix. Beyond that, we are just not taught good communication or negotiation strategies.
So how do you start over?
First, use a third party, such as showing him/her this article, and come from a respectful and caring place to ask if s/he’s willing to work with you to re-establish honest, open and loving communication.
Before starting the conversation, agree to some ground rules. Print them out to reference during the conversation.
Set an overall time limit on the discussion. Your communication difficulties probably didn’t happen overnight, nor will they be re-solved in an hour or a day. Life is a work in progress, so keep it brief (an hour max) and set up a regular discussion time to keep communication flowing.
Here are a few suggested ground rules:
- Recognize that both of you love/ care about each other, and that both are doing your best.
- Agree to re-negotiate. Often we fall into relationship “ruts” based on hidden or explicit rules we have set for ourselves, or our relationship(s), rules that aren’t working or need to be updated to keep up with our changing lives.
- Be direct and state what you want, rather than what is NOT right.
- Agree to not insult the other person.
Use a talking stick and a timer to keep track
Agree to a short time limit (1-2 minutes) for each of you to speak, with no interruptions, except for requests to pause*.
Pauses are used for the listening party to take notes, or cool off if they’re having an emotional reaction. Pauses are not about explaining how you were insulted or them defending why they said it, so the person who feels insulted needs to simply say “That felt insulting. Can you please restate that a different way?
*Note: Pauses should last a maximum of 2 minutes, and extend the talking person’s time by the same amount. .
Set aside a short amount of time per person to ask the other for clarification after their turn.
Have a short negotiation time after each person has spoken and clarified.
So your discussion would look like this:
- Person A talk
- Person B asks for clarification and Person A answers.
- Person B talks
- Person A asks for clarification and person B answers.
- Person A & B negotiate and make an agreement*.
*Note: the agreement may just be to agree to disagree, or continue discussing, or table for another discussion later.
Agree to release your fears and move forward to heal the relationship
Fear (of something; known, assumed, or unknown) IS the root cause of all conflict. A good talking point is to open up and confess your fears to each other. Fears are usually obscured, so making a conscious decision to share, rather than trying to control your fear through the other person, is a great new start!
It can help greatly to have a communication coach around for your first few meetings. Take the next step to reestablish your love, and book a Free Strategy Consultation.