We are wired to be our best when we feel connection to others in a secure, loving relationship. We long to feel understood and accepted at home, in our marriage and with our parents and children.
The people that mean the most to us have the tendency to shut us down in a heartbeat with word choice. It’s important to understand how you are coming across when using the following sentiments. We’ve all said them; But with some time and attention you can break these bad habits.
Starting a phrase with "Why" typically conveys judgement. We want our loved ones to think the best of us, not the worst.
Said: Why are you angry? Heard: You shouldn’t be and it’s wrong/crazy that you feel that way.
Instead say: You seem angry, what’s up? Heard: You matter to me and I want to be there for you.
Said: Why did you do that? Heard: You are in trouble.
Instead say: Help me understand what happened. Heard: I will be patient with you.
Said: Why can’t you just _______? Heard: You are impossible and I am unhappy with you.
Instead say: I need you to ________ and it would mean ________. Heard: I need you, you are important to me.
Trying to fix feelings
Remember: Feelings aren’t for fixin'. Feeling heard and understood is the best thing that we can receive from our loved ones each day. Validating a feeling is actually soothing, not pot stirring. No one likes to feel crazy for what they are feeling.
Said: You shouldn’t feel that way. Meant: To fix. Heard: Your feeling is wrong/crazy and I don’t care about it, or you for having it.
Instead Say: I get how you are feeling __________. That makes sense. Tell me more about it.
Said: You are being too sensitive. Meant: To fix or deflect responsibility. Heard: It’s not safe to come to me and share your feelings.
Instead say: It sounds like I really hurt you, help me understand what happened.
Said: If you would just _________you wouldn’t feel so ____________. Meant: To fix. Heard: You are handling this wrong, you are wasting my time. Result: Disconnection and shame.
Instead say: I’m here if you want to talk about this.
Stay tuned for more scripts to help out with avoiding relationship scientist John Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of The Apocolypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.
What are some other phrases you’d like scripts for? Bad habit phrases you need help with? Please share in the comments, I'd love to address these in a follow up post!