When I meet with clients for the first time I ask them one simple question. What do they want to improve in their relationship?
The reactions I get go something like this.
“I wish that s/he would stop yelling when we get into a disagreement.”
“I wish that s/he didn’t constantly ‘nag’ me when I was out with my friends.”
“I want him/her to not be so cold/turned off when I try to initiate sex.”
Then I take them through a scenario that instantly gets them to understand why they keep getting the exact problem behaviors that they don’t want to continue in their relationship.
Say that I am going to take you out to Dunkin Donuts and it is going to be my treat to you. We hop in my car, drive directly to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts, and I hop out of the car.
I look at you and ask, “What is it that you would like me to get you? My treat!” You think for a minute, grasping your chin with your pointer finger and thumb (deep in thought), you reply with, “Anything, but a strawberry Coolata.”.
So I run inside immediately look at the menu and order you up something that I think you will like. I run back out to my car and hand you a coconut Coolata and I then patiently wait for your response.
Instead of a grateful reply, you hurl the coconut Coolata in my face! As I sit in a cold, sticky, high fructose syrup concoction in my lap, I look at you extremely confused and frustrated.
Does this sound absolutely unproductive, chaotic, and hurtful for everyone involved?
Of course it does, but this is the exact process some couples go through in their relationship; both frustrated and completely confused/unclear about EXACTLY what the other wants and needs from their partner.
These couples are making statements all of the time about what they don’t want from each other, which is still better than nothing, but the menu of options of what they do want is absolutely MASSIVE!!!
Have you looked at the menu in Dunkin' Donuts? Seriously!
Think about how the person feels that is going in to buy you something, as they stare blankly and anxiously at the menu, hoping they choose the right item you want. Then the person who is receiving the delicious beverage/food, frustrated and aggravated, they didn’t get exactly what they wanted.
This is a sad and also all too common behavior pattern between couples, co-workers, and parents/children that creates even more problems throughout other area’s of the relationship.
If you’re reading this article thinking, “Well, they should just know what I want if they love me.” or, “It’s just common sense that if I said I didn’t want one Collata, that means I don’t want any Coolata.”, then you are new to my blog and I welcome you with arms wide open. (Cue Creed background music)
There is an article I wrote a week ago that will help give you clarity into those thoughts above. Click here to access it directly.
In order to stop this vicious pattern from continuing, there are a few strategies that only one person in the relationship to implement.
1.) Become extremely clear about what you want from your partner in a way that is sensitive and caring in tone.
This action will subconsciously make you aware about what specific actions and emotions you need to utilize to reach your desired behavior in your partner. The reason you kept getting what you didn’t want, is because this was the clearest, most easily understood path for your brain to follow, instead of some vague generalization or idea about what you did want.
Clarity = Results
2.) If you’re partner keeps reporting that they “wish you didn’t”, “wouldn’t”, or “don’t want you to do” X, Y, or Z, ask them calmly and courteously what they do want from you (This is very important).
Watch as they stop and give you 1 of 3 responses.
1.) Stare at you blankly and state, “You know what I want you to do” AKA it’s just “common sense”.
2.) Look at the ground and think for a few minutes.
3.) Be able to give you exactly what they need from you. (Caution: it may come off sarcastic if you use harsh tone or sarcasm.)
Then begin to state how you’ve been confused and want them to be crystal clear about what they want and why they want this response from you so you can better understand them. This action will open up dialogue to begin to understand your partner on a deeper emotional level, while also building on your emotional intelligence skills for future complications.
3.) Correct you response immediately after catching yourself stating what you don’t want from your partner.
Reframe a response to your partner when you state what you don’t want so that you get into the habit of stating more what you do want from them. Follow this up with clarification on why you want/need this response with how this emotionally connects to you and makes you feel closer to them. This is emotionally intelligent because it also shows that you value your partner enough to be clear and concise, not vague and unclear leaving them to feel frustrated, lost, and confused. This also works incredibly well with co-workers.
4.) Express your worry with your partner if they continue to give you directions on what NOT to do, and how unclear and difficult it is to please them without knowing exactly what they want or need from you.
This builds an empathic connection to begin a conversation, rather than an argument because it shows concern and care for your partners wants/needs. It will be much easier to have a calm conversation, stating you’re “worried”, compared to an argument if you state you’re “frustrated” or “irritated”.
A lot of couples I have worked with, and currently work with, are struggling with this strategy. If you, or someone you know is, please let them know about my free 60-minute consultation. I have recently adjusted my schedule to see more clients, and have some openings available. I am working with both individuals and couples looking to utilize emotional intelligence to enhance their relationship
Thanks for reading and please email me with any questions. I would be more than happy to answer any questions readers have personally.