Connecting Families: A Relationship Enhancement Program

is Unstuck
¡ Think only of yourself
¡ Push, shove, or slap one another
¡ Throw things when upset
¡ Put one another down and often
escalating into telling and yelling
¡ Threaten one another
¡ Exerting control over another’s
decisions, actions or life
12. Evaluating your relationship on an on-going
basis is a step to keeping it on track. Frequently,
it takes crisis to stimulate review. Use Slide 12
to review the indicators that a relationship is
becoming “undone.” Some of these are extremes
that couples never experience, but these are
strong indicators that the relationship is in
serious trouble and needs help.
Taking time periodically to think about the health of your relationship is necessary. (Be
sensitive to non-verbal reactions of any group members. If some group members appear
to be uncomfortable, find time at the close of the session to make a personal one-on-one
inquiry if they would like any additional information). Be sensitive to the issue of abuse
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Planning for Success, Session 4 43 2004
in any form. Be prepared to refer to appropriate agencies or services within the
community.
Build in Good Times
¡ Spend Time Together
¡ Express Care and Affection
¡ Have Fun
¡ Enjoy Each Other’s Differences
¡ Think of “us” rather than “me”
¡ Invest in the relationship
13. Relationships generally start out having “good
times” but this is a necessary aspect that needs to
be permanent. Use Slide 13 to review the
positive aspects of relationships. Making time to
have fun, to be together and express care and
affection are the aspects of a relationship that
everyone values. However, some couples seem
to lose this dimension of their lives together.
Investing in your relationship has the biggest pay off in the long-run. Like everything
that is alive and growing, your relationship needs constant care.
¡ Anger in relationships is fueled by specific
negative behaviors.
¡ Recognizing these behaviors within one’s
relationship assists in developing more
positive coping strategies.
¡ Using negotiation to address issues of
disagreement in a positive strategy does
not damage the relationship.
¡ Setting goals as a couple will increase the
success of the relationship.
¡ Building in positive actions will increase the
quality and success of the relationship.
14. Summarize the key points of the session using
Slide 14. Emphasize that is it through skills such
as using “I” Statements, One Minute Gripe,
Speaker–Listener Technique, Negotiation and
Goal Setting that relationships can flourish and
grow. However, of critical importance to having
a happy marriage is being able to prevent
negativity escalating out of control.
The silver bullet is to use respect and love rather than criticism, contempt, defensiveness,
and stonewalling. The cycle of naming and blaming, starting up in a negative accusatory
manner, leads to marriage meltdown. What this type of communication creates is a
flooding of negativity. Negative perceptions add to negative expectations. When
negativity overcomes and is the expected, the marriage becomes overwhelmed with
negativity. Happy couples focus on the positive, share a deep sense of caring, support
each others hopes and control their disagreements by not using criticism, contempt,
defensiveness, and stonewalling. The key to a happy relationship is remaining positive,
caring and respectful.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Planning for Success, Session 4 44 2004
Handout 1
“I” Statement Summary
“I” messages are used to effectively communicate with another person when we need to let them know that
something they are doing is causing a problem for us. They are very effective in problem solving, conflict
negotiation, and in general, letting another person know what behavior is expected.
“I” messages are different from “you” messages.
“I” MESSAGES “YOU” MESSAGES
• show respect for the other person • do not show respect
• tell how you feel • blame, cause hurt and anger
• tell what you want to happen • accuse, ridicule, criticize
“You” messages cause other people to become defensive and cut off communication, but many of us are in
the habit of using them. Examples:
“You always leave your coat on the floor.”
“You are a slob!”
“You never call when you’re going to be late.”
“I” messages may help motivate another person to change behavior when the individual becomes aware of
how it affects you. They give the speaker a chance to express feelings and ideas in a positive manner.
“I” messages have four parts–the fourth is optional”
1. When you
Describe Specific Behavior
2. I feel
State Feeling
3. Because
State How It Affects You
OPTIONAL:
4. I would like
State Desired Behavior
Some very concrete-thinkers need more guidelines than just knowing how their behavior affects you, so the
fourth component lets them know what behavior you would prefer.
Examples of “I” Messages
“When you leave your dirty clothes on the floor, I feel frustrated because I’m trying to keep the bedroom
looking neat. I would like you to put it in the dirty laundry basket or hang it in the closet.”
“When I got home and found you had begun to fix dinner, I was so relieved because it really saved time for
us.”
Positive “I” messages, such as the second example, give feedback about desirable behaviors that do not
always require the fourth component. They have a positive effect in getting others to continue a behavior.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Planning for Success, Session 4 45 2004
Handout 2
Speaker-Listener Technique
Listening
Listening is a difficult skill to learn to use effectively. Listening requires clearing one’s
thinking processes to focus upon what the other is saying. Opening the channel to
listening means not thinking about what you will say next, not jumping to conclusions,
not tuning out ideas you disagree with and not trying to get your point inserted into the
conversation. It means listening to hear what is being said in a non-judgmental manner.
Speaking
Speaking in a clear, concise voice without using criticism, contempt, defensiveness and
stonewalling will assist your partner to hear your comments. Start up in a soft manner
with no criticism or complaint in it. Starting in a harsh manner leads to sarcasm and
cynicism being voiced. Name-calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery and hostile humor
are forms of contempt and poison the dialogue. These types of communication put the
individual on the defense that leads to stonewalling. The old saying that “it is how it is
said” is very true.
Speaker – Listener Technique
Prior to starting, as a couple decide upon the ground rules for talking together and on
what object will represent who is the speaker. The individual who has the object has the
right to speak, while the other individual is listening. The object is passed back and forth
to give each individual an opportunity to talk while the other

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