When dating someone new, have you heard comments like “don’t be negative or your new boyfriend won’t like it and may end your relationship”? Or how about “put your best foot forward” because if you don’t he or she won’t like you and could easily dump you for someone else.
Sarah (not her real name) is 21 and has been reserved and shy throughout her life. Sarah likes her new boyfriend Tim (not his real name) 22 who is more outspoken and comes up with things to do on the weekends and evening when they can be together.
Sarah thinks she is being self-centered if she talks about what she likes to do. She likes Tim to initiate activities. Slowly after three months, Sarah is feeling less reserved and now telling Tim what she likes to do on weekends.
It was the first saturday in June and Sarah suggested they drive to the beach for the day. After they arrived at noon, it was cold, windy and rainy. Sarah loves the beach rain or shine. Tim did not like to walk in the stormy weather as it was too cold and windy. Tim was quiet. Sarah was talkative about past beach memories with her family.
Finally Sarah asked to go to her favorite restaurant for some clam chowder. He agreed. Tim really wanted to go home, take a hot shower and relax at home but didn’t say anything. As they were eating their soup Sarah asked Tim “how about shopping at the mall next”?
Tim said, “Can’t you just call it a day, all your chatting is driving me nuts”. Then Sarah blurted out “you don’t seem like you want to do anything fun anymore”.
Sarah was deeply hurt and withdrew from further conversation. Sarah’s worse fear surfaced, “if I take initiative and say how I feel people will not like me and will go away”.
This was their uncomfortable situation together. They both wondered if their relationship was going to last.
Speaking your truth in a caring way to another person can bring about understanding, compassion and change behaviors.
When I was in graduate school, I had a class from Dr. Brown (not his real name). He was very punctual and very organized. He had the whole semester of classes, quizzes, mid-term, final, papers due and weekly reading assignments all outline. I was overwhelmed reading it the first day. There was only ten of us in the class which make it easier to ask questions.
The week of final exams was two weeks before Christmas. On the last day of class before finals I was the spokesperson for the group who asked “Dr. Brown, most of us are sick from the flu that is going around or we have other pressures and we request to take our final exam on friday the last day of finals at 2:00 p.m. Would this be O. K. with you? Dr. Brown, hesitated a moment then said, “this would help me too in my busy schedule, OK”.
It was difficult to ask Dr. Brown because he did not stray from his schedule but as students it gave us the extra time to study. After the final exam, Dr. Brown brought food and drinks to celebrate the end of class. That was a nice surprise!
Tim and Sarah after finishing their meal at the beach finally drove home. The first thirty minutes was in silence with the radio playing music. Then Tim said, “I don’t like walking in the cold and wind on the beach like you do. You seemed to enjoy every minute. I just want to go home and take a hot shower and relax with you in watching a movie tonight.
Sarah feeling like she can breathe a bit deeper now that Tim finally said something replies “Tim, I am really hurt by your comment that I talk to much. That is my worst fear.
Tim brighten up a bit and said, “Look, I’m sorry what I said about your chatting too much. I was cold and wanted to go home. I get short and irritable when I’m cold and not having fun”.
Sarah blurted out “well, actually, I was cold too and wanted to go into a restaurant and warm up with some hot soup. I thought you were having a good time on the beach and I hated to interrupt our beach walk”.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to get a relationship reestablish and back on track if you can use “I statements” about what you notice, what you assume, how you feel, what you need and what you want from the other person.
5 steps towards reestablishing a relationship after a disagreement or conflict
1. Notice when your partner seems more quiet than usual and tell him or her what you notice and observe (“I notice”). For example: Sarah says to Tim “I notice you have been quiet for the past two hours is there something wrong”? If “yes”, then ask, “do you want to talk about it now”. If “no”, then you could ask “when would be a good time to tell me”?
2. After you tell what you notice then you can say (“I assume”). What do you assume about their behavior or what they just said. For example: Sarah could say, “I notice you are not very talkative, I assume your too cold and not having fun out here on the beach. Is this true”?
3. After this you could say how you feel (“I feel”). For example: Sarah could say “I notice you are not not very talkative and I feel scared you don’t like it when I talk to much”.
4. Its important to include what you need personally (“I need”). For example: Sarah could say “I need to warm up by going to get some soup”.
5. Finally, “I want” is important to say too. For example: Sarah could say, “I want to go home and relax too”.
6. These are five effective tools to help you communicate with your partner next time you run into a conflict for disagreement.
In choosing someone to date that has a different personality can help you develop what you are lacking in your personality. Even when conflicts or disagreements arise you can reestablish your lines of communication with “I statements”.
What works for you in reestablishing your relationships. Send a comment.