I’m reprinting a brief article I received from the Gottman Institute about how to approach your partner with a complaint without the complaint getting experienced as a criticism, or an attack on their character. This “softened startup” is an approach I’ve been advocating for years to couples, but I thought it was very succinctly captured in the Gottman’s article. Here it is:
In the last Marriage Minute, we talked about Criticism, the first of the Four Horsemen. To review, criticism is an attack on your partner’s character or personality, often starting with “you always” or “you never.” Or you can be more direct with criticism: “You are so lazy,” or, “That’s just like you, finding any excuse not to spend time with me.”
Fortunately, it’s reversible.
The antidote to Criticism is what we call The Softened Start-Up.
To soften your start-up means to approach a conversation with how you’re feeling about the situation, not your perception of your partner’s flaws or behavior. There’s a difference between complaints and criticism. A complaint addresses a specific instance or action and acknowledges how it made you feel.
A good formula to remember is:
“I feel [your feeling]”
- left out
“About [the specific behavior, not a pattern of behavior]”
- “when I’m not invited to virtual happy hours with your friends,”
- “when you don’t read the articles I send you,”
- “when we don’t have dinner together.”
“And I need [state the positive need].”
- “to know what your preferred evening schedule looks like and how I can be a part of it,”
- “to feel like you’re interested in the things I care about,”
- “to spend some quality time together this week.”
Practice softening your start-up.
You can even practice together with your partner, giving advice to an imaginary couple who struggles with criticism. For example, how would you soften “You always leave dirty dishes in the sink”?
You can also apply this formula to positive things—”I feel cared for when you check in to see how my day is going!”
Due to technical issues with BlogTalk Radio, unfortunately last week’s episode never aired, and has been rescheduled to Wednesday, September 23rd at 8:30 PM. My apologies for any inconvenience.
DO tune in to the rescheduled episode if you’ve experienced conflict at work and have felt dread and indecision about what to do. Or, if you have a manager who doesn’t handle conflict productively, you end up getting the short end of the stick, and again, dread dealing with the issue, then this show is for you!
My co-host Pattie Porter, The Texas Conflict Coach, is an expert in the field of conflict management, and will share her insights about the issues, along with some critical tools you can use to manage these situations more confidently and effectively.
Call 877-497-9046 to join us live on the air with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the recording afterward at your convenience at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
If you live in New England as I do, unless you’ve been hanging out under a rock, you’re probably aware of the enormous drama playing out between the employees of the Market Basket supermarket chain and the corporate players who orchestrated a hostile takeover of the company, away from Arthur T. Demoulas, the beloved CEO of many years.
Apparently, a relative, Arthur S Demoulas, was instrumental in the takeover, playing out an old, generational financial feud with the Arthur T. side of the family. The feud has unfolded now into the current vision for the supermarket chain, with Arthur T. representing a more humanistic, personal, more employee-friendly and neighborhood-friendly mission for the company, while Arthur S. is viewed as the embodiment of corporate greed, planning to radically raise prices, and streamline employee policies, among other things.
What has been amazing to watch as a consumer and as a therapist, is the level of love, loyalty and support this ousted family-friendly CEO has garnered from not only employees, but shoppers all over New England. The unfolding “strike” among non-unionized workers, and the boycott of all the stores, lobbying for Arthur T.’s reinstatement, has been an awe inspiring example of what can happen when people have felt respected and cared about – how they will risk everything to stand up for people who represent ideals which are important to them, especially when those values are now threatened. This unfolding drama also illustrates how much difference one person can make in a system, how much impact we all potentially can have!
I would think it would be a wake up call for all employers about the huge impact treating their employees well can have, not only on morale, but also on the profitability of their businesses. Happy employees = good business. Employers who think they can motivate their staff with bullying, intimidation, and punishments are themselves relics of the Dark Ages. Inevitably, they will fail because employees need to feel appreciated, respected and defended, otherwise they will understandably be disloyal and unproductive.
And so, hats off to Arthur T., and to all you Market Basket employees for your courage, tenacity, and loyalty, in standing up for what your deserve and what you value. May you and Arthur T. prevail! ….And may all the rest of us take inspiration from your example.
In this 45 minutes episode, Susan Lager co-hosts with Meredith Richardson, a collaborative lawyer, mediator and conflict coach on the Southern New England coast. Hosting other events together, such as couples retreats, the two women bring their own spin to the issue of conflict in marriage as well as in friendships and in the workplace. Lager and Richardson explore the different conflict styles, and explore how each of us learns to manage conflict based on earlier experiences and adaptations to those environments.
- Find out what triggers you and why, and how you manage it well or badly.
- Take one of the recommended Conflict Quizes to find out more about your own conflict style
- Get some ideas for avoiding the “same old fight'” with your partner! Get a head’s up on getting along better with your spouse, friends, and co-workers!
Call in toll-free 877-497-9046 at 8:30 EST to just listen in, or to join the conversation on the air with questions or comments. Don’t miss this one – it should be lively!
Have you ever placed an order for something, then when it arrives you feel nauseous, because it’s horrible, and you’re afraid you’ll have to live with it for the rest of time? In my case, the culprit was a giant mound of supposedly “dark brown” garden mulch. What kept staring at me instead, was a mountain of orangey, tannish chips which looked like it escaped a Walmart parking lot. I spent some time spreading it in the flower beds, trying to convince myself that it was sort of exotic-looking, or that I was too fussy, and getting carried away with this gardening stuff. Then it occurred to me that I might call the supplier and ask them what they could do about it, that maybe I didn’t have suffer with it all season just because I had opted for dark brown, not black. I was respectful, and clear that they had misnamed it, even when a guy came out to look at it with me, and tried to convince me that the mulch lightens up in the sun. I calmly pointed out that the pile was under a thick canopy of trees where no sun had ever shined, (with a smile), and that I was sure we could come to some resolution. One hour after he left, assuring me he wanted a happy customer, a truck showed up with a four additional yards of deep, dark beautiful mulch. The company earned my undying loyalty for valuing my concern, and it was a lesson in the benefits of saying what you need, instead of feeling like a victim and silently stewing. It’s the same in any relationship– consider your complaint, if it feels valid, voice it, then state the request embedded inside. Commit to assertiveness in your relationships, (even with your landscape supplier), presume a mutually satisfying solution, and chances are you’ll get to one.
P.S. Look for my new article about couples and intimacy at: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Susan_Lager