Katie mentions to her spouse that she wants the toilet seat down, please! Her spouse, Dave, responds in a slightly annoyed voice that he’ll do it if he remembers to do it. Katie, already annoyed that he ‘forgot’ again, reacts – mildly, she thinks later on – with a comeback about the need for mutual respect in intimate relationships. Dave retorts – really heatedly, she thinks later on – that if she really wants to talk about mutual respect, she might think about getting up early and making his coffee for once! More is said, and the reactions from both Katie and Dave becomes stronger and increasingly ugly. Not long after, Dave leaves, slamming the door, cancelling the plans they had for a dinner for 2 in an outdoor café. Katie is devastated. So is Dave.
How often have you ended up in an argument that began over something so minor and then escalated out of control, leaving you confused and bewildered over how it got so big?
Much later on, Katie remembers why she was short with Dave about the toilet seat: it wasn’t really about the toilet seat, but about something he’d said earlier that made her feel dismissed and misunderstood. She hadn’t addressed it; instead she ended up carrying a seemingly small point of painful annoyance inside her that rode just under her awareness radar. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dave carried a similar tension over something that had been said earlier by Katie.
Why had neither Dave nor Katie brought up the real point to each other? Possibly because neither knew how to address it in a way that would make them feel heard and understood by the other.
I hear you. Three simple words that mean so much, if we could discover how to be that way with one another. You can learn to do this by following a very old and well-tested process:
1. Katie: Let Dave know how you are feeling in non-accusatory language that doesn’t focus on what Dave did or didn’t do. “I’m worried every time the seat is left up that something will drop into there – it has before”.
2. Dave: Let Katie know what you heard in your own words. “I can see you’re worried about that; I can understand that”.
3. Katie: If you feel Dave hears you and understands, that’s all there is to say. Now it’s Dave’s turn.
4. If there’s more to say, the process gets repeated until both Katie and Dave feel heard.
Most of the time, all we want and need is to feel heard.
How to speak so that people want to listen
Quote of the Week
““It is not important what is said, what is important is what is heard..”
– Jeffrey Fry
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