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communication

Technology and Relationships: To Connect Or Disconnect

Technology is neither helpful nor hurtful for relationships; it is how we choose to use technology that determines whether we harm or help our relationships. We need to examine whether we are controlling our use of technology or we are allowing technology to control us. If we allow technology to monopolize our time and attention, our relationships will suffer from disconnection. Technology can be a tool that challenges relationship in the following ways:

Technology
Technology

Miscommunications happen all the time in relationships, but miscommunication is exponentially increased via text message. It is too easy to misinterpret or assume the tone of the message.

It is far easier to be cruel to a loved one via text or email. Angry, hurtful words can be sent off in seconds, without the opportunity to see the effect those words have on others.

Not being present when we are with our loved ones is a dangerous use of technology. When we give more of our attention to our computer, phone, television or electronic games, than we give to the people around us; we are seriously eroding our relationships.

If we choose to control our use of technology it can help us connect with our loved ones. Technology can be an aid to strengthening relationships in the following ways:

Facetime, Skype, ooVoo and others can help us feel close, even when we may be half a world away.

Electronic calendars and reminders on phones can help us remember important events, dates and times. We can help ensure that our loved ones feel remembered and cared about, by setting reminders ahead of time to send cards or purchase gifts.

Receiving and sending a kind, thoughtful, funny or loving text, email or phone call throughout the day can help us feel connected when we are busy and apart.

Technology makes it easy to display photos of loved one; photos of fun and treasured moments, as screen saver or phone background, can bring a smile to our face and help us feel close.

As wonderful as technology is for helping us connect; virtual intimacy can never replace actual intimacy. We need the eye contact, the touches, hugs, smiles and time together. Take a few moments to evaluate whether your choices around the use of technology are helping or harming your relationship. Choosing to use technology wisely can help build and strengthen our relationships. Allowing technology to consume and distract us from our time together has the opposite effect.

Triple Filter Test = Safe Words

Wisdom

I think making use of Socrates Triple Filter Test, could prevent a lot of drama, frustration, hurt feelings and mistrust. Before you share a juicy tidbit, critique your partner or lash out in anger; apply the Triple Filter Test. Too often we open our mouth before we think and then when we stop and think we wish that we could pull back what we said. Somehow, saying “I didn’t mean it” does little to undo the damage done. Most of us have a fairly good filter on what we say when we are in public. However the more comfortable we get with someone, the more we remove our social filter. This may help explain why we often treat those we love worse than we would treat a stranger.

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

“Hold on a minute”, Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?”

“That’s right”, Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it and ...”

“All right”, said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

“No, on the contrary.”

“So”, Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well”, concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Triple Filter Test:

Is it true?

Is it good?

Is it useful?

I would also like to add, when you are deciding if what you are about to say is true, to stop for a second and remember that just because you think it is true, does not make it true. I have frequently, in my life, jumped to conclusions that I later discovered were far from accurate. The filter is “have you made absolutely sure that [it is] true?”

Using this filter would mean a lot of things would remain unsaid. But considering how hard it is to unsay something, I would suggest that this might be a good thing.

Change Your Perspective

I had an interesting experience the other day while driving with my husband. I happened to notice that the side windows of my car had a mottled smokey pattern and I asked my husband why the windows were like that. He looked at the windows and said he saw no pattern there. To which I replied it was so obvious, could he not see. It was right there. We went back and forth like this for a while, him trying to convince me that there was nothing to see and me trying to convince him that there most definitely was something to see. I was tempted to ask him if he was blind, when I happened to notice that he was not wearing sunglasses and I was. I took off my sunglasses and handed them to him. He then said, "Oh, I see what you are talking about."

perspective

That experience started me wondering how often we may misunderstand our partner simply because we are not able to see as they see. If it were possible for us to put on a pair of glasses and see things from our partner's point of view, many disputes would be much easier to resolve.

How often do you find yourself trying to convince your parter that something is so, just to have them try to convince you that the opposite is true? In those situations both of you could benefit from exchanging glasses, so that you could each see from the other's perspective.

Instead of getting frustrated, like I was when I wondered if my husband was blind because he could not see what was so obvious to me, try to find a way to express yourself that helps your partner see what you see. Find a way to hand them a pair of glasses to help them see. You may have to put what you are saying in terms that make sense to your partner, try relating it to something that they have experienced. Remember that to appreciate what salt tastes like you first need to taste it. But this is not only about helping them see what you see, it is also about you seeing from their perspective.

Men and women may have difficulty communicating because they lack a common experience to draw from in order to make sense of what is being said. Even when they have the same experience, because of the different ways the male and the female brains work, they may still lack a common experience. In general women integrate emotions and logic; where men tend to compartmentalize. Men tend to think in a focused and linear manner and women to think broadly, constantly interconnecting and linking everything together.

The next time you find yourself thinking that perhaps your partner is blind, because they cannot see the obvious, pause and take the following challenge. Give each other 2 minutes to explain your thoughts and position as clearly as you can to the other. Make sure you each repeat in your own words what your partner has said. Allow your partner to clarify any misunderstandings. Then spend the next 5 minutes taking the other person's position. Discuss the issue, as if you each were doing your best to convince each other from your partner's perspective. When you change your perspective, so that you are looking through their glasses understanding grows, and you may become less concerned with being right.

Evaluating Expecations

If you were expecting your partner to get home at 12:00 midnight and they got home at 10:00 pm you may be pleasantly surprised. If however you were expecting them home at 4:00 pm and they got home at 10:00 pm you may be furious, especially if they had not let you know that they would be late. They would have arrived home at the same time in both instances, what is different is your expectations. At times our expectations can cause us a lot of unnecessary distress. Expectations, especially if they are unrealistic, will lead to frustration and disappointment.

If frustration and disappointment are feelings that you are frequently experiencing in your relationship, then it may be helpful to take a look at your expectations. A good place to begin is to actually get your expectations out into the open. Often we have hidden expectations of each other. Things that we expect our partner to know and do, just because that is the way it should be. At times it can be as simple as, we are not getting what we want and need because our partner is unaware of that want or need. It is important to clearly communicate your expectations to your partner. You can only do this when you are clear on what your expectations are.

Before you communicate your expectations to your partner try writing them out and asking yourself, “How realistic are these expectations?” “Do I expect the same kind of behavior from myself?” “Might there be another way to look at this?” “How can I make my expectations more realistic and at the same time remain true to myself?”

You will want to remain firm when it comes to expectations arising from your values and principles. For example it is always reasonable to expect to be treated respectfully in your relationship. It is also reasonable to expect your partner to be honest and open with you. However when it comes to expectations based on preference it is important to be flexible. Which route to take to get from a to b, where you go to eat, what entertainment or activities are all examples of expectation, which if they are causing frustration and disappointment, may need to be adjusted or better communicated to your partner. Remember that, if you have trouble agreeing, you always have the option of taking turns when it comes to decisions based on preference.

Susan Page said, “The expectation that you can have everything you want in your marriage will always be frustrated. If you can accept your spouse, be grateful for what you have, and be gracious about the things you don't get from your spouse, you are more likely to thrive as a couple.”

Improve Your Self-Disclosure Skills

Self-disclosure is a necessary part of getting close to another person. Unless you are willing to share who you are with your partner, you will never be truly intimate with them. In order to be able to open yourself completely to your partner, you need to be able to trust that they will honor and respect you and your secrets. Fear of rejection or punishment can stop partners from sharing and may even create an environment that encourages lying. It is interesting to note that we may inadvertently teach our partner to lie to us by punishing them when they are honest with us. The benefits of self-disclosure are many. Couples who share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, as well as hopes and dreams tend to stay together longer. People who self-disclose, or are open and sharing in appropriate ways, are healthier and less susceptible to illness. Self-disclosure also helps us to learn about ourselves (did I just say that out loud) and to see ourselves more clearly. When your partner graciously accepts what you share you will feel more inclined to share. Self-disclosure helps us gain self-acceptance and makes for closer relationships.

Distancing occurs when couples stop sharing. If a long enough period of time passes without self-disclosure, couples will begin to feel like roommate or strangers.

Self-disclosure may not always be a positive. Ask yourself before sharing something with your partner: What is my motivation for sharing this information? Some positive motives for self-disclosure are wanting to share, express yourself or help your partner understand you. Some negative motives for self-disclosure include wanting to produce guilt or shame, trying to hurt or control your partner.

Self-disclosure is reciprocal. If one of you is sharing and the other is not, an imbalance is created in the relationship. Successful relationship have a give and take; a balance of sharing and receiving. The message your partner is getting, if you are withholding the personal part of yourself, is that you do not trust him/her.

It is important to note that self-disclosure should be a voluntary process. Do not allow your partner to push you into disclosing something that you do not want to disclose. Be assertive and change topics.

To improve your self-disclosure skills try doing the following: 1. Own your opinions. Speak for yourself. Offer your own thoughts, feelings and opinions. 2. Use sense statements. Sense statements describe what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. 3. Use interpretive statements. Describe what you are thinking, believing and assuming. 4. Use feeling statements. Describe what you are feeling. 5. Use invention statements. Describe your wants, wishes and desires. 6. Use action statements. Describe what you do and how you behave.

Just as any other skill, your ability to self-disclose will improve by doing. Practice sharing with your partner and the sharing will become easier.

Ask For What You Want

If you want to improve your communication by over 60% then there is the simple, although not always easy tactic of asking for what you want. It would seem simple to ask for what we want, however it is amazing how many people are reluctant to do so. Some feel they should not have to ask for what they want; that it somehow makes it less romantic or meaningful if they have to ask their partner for what they want. This applies to what kind of movie they want to see as well as to what they enjoy in bed. They feel that their partner should know what they want and should be offering without being asked. Granted it feels really good when your partner gets it right, but most of the time disappointment is the result of the hope they figure it out approach.

Some people either do not know what they want or they do not want to admit what they want. They may not have had a lot of experience with self-awareness or they may be reluctant to express a want since this may set them up for disappointment or make them feel vulnerable. Some may even feel undeserving or that it is not okay to ask for what they want.

Some say that they have asked, repeatedly, to no avail and have given up asking. They feel their partner just tunes them out and does not care about what they want or need. If this is how you are feeling you may want to read “The Art of Being Heard.”

Most people have learned to communicate indirectly in their family of origin. They learn to hint or suggest, rather than ask for what they want. Some have even learned to deceive and manipulate rather than be up front about what they want.

You can choose to be more direct. You can choose to be honest with yourself and with your partner. You can give yourself permission to ask for what you want. When you say what you mean and mean what you say, communication becomes much clearer and miscommunications happen far less frequently.

Don't Avoid Tough Conversations

People often avoid tough conversations as a way to avoid conflict. The problem is that avoiding tough conversations simply lead to more conflict in the long run. You may momentarily avoid the unpleasant, but it will come back to bite you hard.

It is easiest for us to talk about things that happened in the past or that happened to someone else. It can be especially difficult to bring up a problem that has just occurred with the person who, in your view, has caused or contributed to the problem. It is so much more difficult to say Sherry, “I am upset with you right now.” than it is to say, “I was upset with you a few months ago.” It is also so much easier to talk about how either of you is upset with someone else. Hence the reason that many people talk about others rather than talking to them.

Even though it may be difficult, it is important for you to own your feelings and take responsibility for being honest with your partner. If you want to have a meaningful relationships, it is necessary to find your courage and have the tough conversations.

The following are some tips to help you make the most of difficult situations:

1. Remember that avoiding the problem just creates more problems. You are not keeping anyone happy, least of all yourself. 2. Honesty is the best policy. When you are not honest with your partner about what you have done or what you are feeling you create distance between the two of you. Accept responsibility for your part in the problem and for your thoughts and feelings. Avoid blaming. 3. Remember, all feedback is good. Even if you are not happy with your partner, it is better to be gentle and honest. You cannot solve problems that you do not acknowledge. Be willing to listen to your partner's side as well as sharing your own. 4. It is okay to agree to disagree. You do not have to convince your partner that you are right. Share how you feel and allow them to have their own opinions and feelings. You are looking for solutions, not victory. 5. Watch your timing. Trying to have a tough conversation when one or both of you is under time constraints or overtired will likely not end well. Setting up a time that is convenient for both of you will get the best results. 5. 6. Whenever possible have tough conversations in person, definitely not via text.

Anniversary Blues

Have you ever had an Anniversary, Birthday or Mother’s Day be a huge disappointment?Anniversary My husband’s worst fopa in this regard was the year that he asked me to buy cards and presents for Secretary’s Day (which happens to fall shortly before my birthday) and then he forgot to even get a card for my birthday. That was years ago and it was the only time he “forgot” my birthday. Most of the pain resulting from important day disappointments comes from the meaning that we attach to what has or has not happened. In my case the meaning I attached to what happened was that my husband cared more about the secretaries than he did about me. In reality he had been bombarded with reminders of Secretary’s day from the secretaries and on the radio; there were no such reminders for my birthday. And although it should have been important to him make that day special for me, there was no mal intent on his part.

Things to consider: Have you set yourself up to be let down?

Instead of waiting and knowing that he will forget, choose to be proactive. Do what my daughter does and circle the day in red and write in a reminder. It may, in some distorted way, be satisfying to be proved right that he would forget, but what is the price of being right. Sometimes it is wiser to choose to be happy rather than right.

Do you have unrealistic expectations?

Are you expecting your partner to do something far beyond their inclination and ability? If for example you love to entertain and create fun parties, but your partner will not or cannot pull that off, then hoping that he is going to throw you that special big bash may only lead to disappointment. I know a woman who badly wanted a nice party for her 30th birthday, but she knew that her husband would not have time to plan it. Instead of being hurt and upset, she decided that she was going to have an absolutely wonderful birthday and planned the day herself with the help of her children. The result was that she had a great birthday because she was realistic about what she could expect.

Do you have secret or hidden expectations?

If there are certain things that you would really like, whether it is ideas for presents or activities or whatever, SHARE THEM with your partner. Some of you may think that if you have to ask then it doesn’t really count. Again the question: is it more important to hang on to a romantic notion that somehow he will figure it out or do you want to be happy? If you want to be surprised, give him several options to choose from; but the reality is that the more information that your partner has about your expectation, the more likely you are to get what you want.

Love MEANS Having To Say I'm Sorry

You have probably heard the saying, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I think the logic behind this saying is the idea that love is about acceptance. While it is very true that love is about accepting your partner for who and what they are; it is also true that when you love someone you must be willing to say, “I’m sorry.” When you live together day in and day out; you will inevitably hurt one another, hopefully not on purpose. But whether the hurt was intentional or not, a sincere apology helps to heal the wound.

If you have been hurt, take responsibility for clearly communicating your feelings to your partner. Don’t look for offense, score-keep and wait or insist that your partner apologize.

I'm SorryThis is one of those areas where you need to row your own boat. You need to control what you can control—your own behavior. If you hurt your partner, accept responsibility for your words or your behavior and be big enough to genuinely apologize.

Saying the words, “I’m sorry,” can be hollow and useless if you do not also attempt to understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Why was what happened hurtful to them? What need is underneath their upset? Try to step into your partner’s shoes so that you begin to understand what is going on for them.

Try seeing your words and behavior through your partner eyes. What is your behavior saying to them? When you make an honest attempt to really see things from each other’s perspective wonderful things can begin to happen in your relationship.

He Says, She Says

Men naturally tend to lean more toward problem-solving types of conversations and women tend to lean more toward feeling-sharing conversations. This can lead to frustration on both parts. Women may say things like, “He never listens to me. He just tells me what I should do.” While men are saying, “I don’t understand I was just trying to help.” When we see our differences as problems rather than just what is, we can set ourselves up for constant disappointment. The fact is that men and women tend to approach conversations differently. Recognizing and accepting this fact can allow us to side step the usual frustration by clearly communicating our needs up front. couple Let your partner know what direction you want the conversation to take early on. If you just need an opportunity to talk things through and process how you are feeling, you could say something like, “I just need you to listen to me right now.” That lets your partner know that you are looking for reflective listening. You need them to listen carefully, validate your feelings and empathize with your experience.

If you are looking for advice or help solving a problem, you might say something like, “I could use your help.” Or “What do you think I could do about . . .” This lets your partner know that you are looking for their thoughts, advice and problem solving expertise. It is still important to listen, but the door is now open to suggesting possible solutions.

Being clear about whether you are looking for a listening ear or help solving a problem can reduce the frustration of receiving unsolicited advice. It is not the men cannot listen empathetically or that women cannot problem solve, it is just that their natural tendencies are different.

We need to accept that different is not bad. We can celebrate and enjoy the differences.

Power of Thoughts

Power of Thoughts

It is also important to remember that within your relationship everything that you do or say will either help or harm your relationship.

You may think that you can hide your feelings from your partner. However, emotions have unique vibrations and whether we are conscious of it or not we can perceive emotions such as hostility, joy, anger or excitement. What we think and the emotions underlying our thoughts send out a vibration just as speaking does. When we have strong emotions attached to our thoughts our partner will get the message more clearly than if we say the same thing without emotion. We talk about being able to “cut the tension with a knife,” to explain what we feel when we walk into a room full of emotional tension.

If we think our partner is a jerk (or substitute any negative label), we will have two things working against us. First the self-fulfilling prophesy; if we think our partner is a jerk, we will treat them that way and they will act the way we expect them to act. Second the message we are sending to our partner—through our thoughts and feelings, whether we speak up or not, will reach our partner. It should not surprise us when our partner responds negatively. If we really want to build a lasting relationship we will have to replace negative thoughts with more loving and positive thoughts and feelings.

happycoupleIf we stop to consider that with every thought we think, we are either, sending our partner love or something less. If we are sending disdain or contempt to our partner, unless they are extremely mature and respond with unconditional love and acceptance, we will get back what we have tried to hide from them.

We poison our relationship when we begin entertaining negative thoughts about our partner, when we cultivate negative emotions of resentment, anger, or frustration. These negative emotions, no matter how hard we try to bury them, will impact our partner. They will get the message subconsciously—a kind of subliminal message.

The Art of Being Heard

Have you ever found yourself saying, "You don't listen to a thing I say?" Have you ever felt like you were talking to the wall? There are some things that you can do that will improve your partner's willingness to "hear" you:

First, words may not break your bones, but they most certainly can break your heart. Carefully consider the kinds of words you use in your relationship. Have you ever said anything hurtful to your partner? Has your partner ever said anything to you that wounded you to the core?

Avoid Sarcasm

Rude, cutting remarks, sometimes disguised as humor, may pass our lips and land on our partner. Sitcom sarcasm should not be the model for your communication. The origin of the word sarcasm goes back to the Greek phrase, "to cut flesh." The dictionary describes sarcasm as "a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain." When we use sarcasm, we make it painful for our partner to listen to us.

Humor is a wonderful part of any great relationship. But the humor should never be at the expense of someone's feelings. It is only funny if both of you can laugh and enjoy it.

Be Honest and be Tactful

Sometimes people justify what they have said to their partner by saying, "I was just being honest." The truth is that when you say things to each other that hurt, it is often much less about being honest than it is about being spiteful or insensitive. If you love and care about each other, you will take into account each other's feelings before blurting out a "truth."

Honesty is an essential element in your relationship. Respect your partner enough to be honest with them, but you need to be intelligent and tactful as well as honest. Perhaps when put on the spot with a question like, "Does this make me look fat?" you could answer with something like, "The other outfit is much more flattering."

Use Sugar not Vinegar

Think about how easy it is to listen to critical, judgmental or unkind comments. The famous psychologist, B. F. Skinner demonstrated through experiments that it was easier to train animals by rewarding them for good behavior than by punishing them for bad behavior. Further studies have shown that the same applies to people.

At times partners may repeat the same negative messages so often that their partner learns to simply tune out that particular frequency. They in fact don't "hear it" anymore. We may think that if we point out our partner's mistakes frequently enough that we will motivate them to change. The reality is that complaining is one of the worst ways to motivate your partner to change. In fact what it really does is build resentment and encourage them to tune out.

talking.jpg

It is interesting that the answer to the question, how to talk so your partner will listen, starts out with a reminder. You have two ears and one mouth for a good reason. If you want your partner to listen to you, you should listen respectfully and carefully to them. Make sure that you understand what they are saying, before you expect them to listen in that same manner to you.

When you talk to your partner do so respectfully and whenever possible positively. Hearing what we are doing well is so much easier to listen to. Positive comments make much better motivators than negative comments.

Listening: Two Ears/One Mouth

Listening Do's and Don'ts

DO:

Encourage

  • Help your partner feel safe in sharing
  • Draw your partner out

Be Attentive

  • Your body language should say, "I am listening."
  • Use short verbal responses to show interest

Clarify

  • Ask questions if you are unsure of exactly what your partner means
  • Tell them what you are hearing and ask if you are understanding correctly
  • "It seems to me that you are feeling ________."
  • "Are you saying ________ ?" "Have I understood you correctly?"

Validate

  • Acknowledge your partner's feelings
  • Validation does not mean that you have to agree, it just means seeing things from their perspective
  • "That must have been frustrating."

DON'T:

Advise

  • Keep the "why don't you" and "maybe you should" to yourself
  • Pay attention to what they are saying rather than thinking of what you should be saying

Assume

  • Don't assume you know how your partner is thinking or feeling
  • "What's really bothering you is ____."
  • "Your insecurities are showing."

Globalize

  • Avoid using global terms such as always and never
  • Stay specific to what is happening now

Judging

  • Avoid, "You are ______," types of statements
  • Avoid judging the process by saying things like, "Now we are getting somewhere."

Cheerleading

  • Avoid, "Don't worry, everything will be all right." types of statements
  • Avoid trying to pacify with statements like, "You did what anyone would do."