Those of you who have read my articles know that I am always talking about the importance of good communication, urging better communication, and giving skills for being better understood. Communication is one of the most important aspects of relationships; positive and negative. However, talk is not necessarily communication; and there are lots of non-verbal ways to communicate.
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Most of my clients waste a lot of time and energy, and develop resentment by making big announcements about things “If you don't start picking up your clothes, I'm going to send them to Good Will” “If you won't help me, I'll do it myself” “If I ever catch you cheating, I’ll leave” or the classic, “We need to go to counseling.”
I am all for good communication, but if you've tried to communicate, and it's not working, it's time to adopt the Nike slogan and “Just Do It.”
My beloved Richard loves to tell this story of his parents: His mom said to his Dad “Wouldn't it be nice to remove this wall and make the livingroom bigger?” His Dad just sort of grunted assent. When he came back to the house from working on the farm the next day, she had taken a sledgehammer and smashed a big hole in the wall, which meant they had to finish the job.
Richard likes to laugh about that, because it shows what a dynamo his mother was, and that she'd get done whatever needed doing. He also says he's careful what he says “yes” to, because he knows I'm going to follow up on it.
Whining, complaining, nagging and making snide comments are not the same as asking for what you want. Yelling, pouting, temper tantrums and hissy fits are also not effective communication. If you think your partner won't or can't work with you, these techniques are useless, and usually make the problem worse. Fighting about something over and over is an excellent indication that you’re not effectively communicating.
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There’s an effective technique/skill that will work in these situations: Ask directly for what you want; then, if you’re not getting any cooperation, you can bypass all the struggle, hassle and arguing: Stop talking about it and just solve the problem.
This is probably the most powerful encouragement for your partner to join in and agree to negotiate, because he or she does not get to be part of the solution, and loses the power to stop or stall you. This is not done in a spirit of “OK, you won't negotiate, so I'll show you,” but in a spirit of “I understand that you don't want discuss this, so I'll have to solve it for myself, as best I can. When you are ready to cooperate and negotiate, I'll be available.” I have written about this before, as a technique called “solve it for yourself.” The emphasis here is on don’t keep talking about it; just solve it for yourself.
There are several benefits to this approach:
• It is liberating to assert yourself on your own behalf and to realize you don't have to have your partner's participation to be satisfied, yet you also don’t have to shut him or her out, or be unkind.
• You no longer have the problem you were concerned about.