Tag Archives: Communication

“I feel that you are selfish.”

“Baby I love your way” detail by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

The good thing about “selfish” people is that they take care of themselves — so you don’t have to. They can also be full of passion and vitality because they do things out of interest rather than out of obligation or guilt.

This same tendency, however, can make them less aware and concerned about other people’s needs. It’s important, therefore, that your expectations match the reality of a person’s character. So enjoy the positive and protect yourself against the negative. Make sure you express and go after your own desires and needs — in a positive, life-enhancing way!

“I feel that you are selfish” expresses a negative judgment or complaint, not a feeling or request. When people hear negative judgments, their defenses come up and their hearts close down.

The most effective way to deal with people who seem a little selfish is to take care of your own needs and to pursue your own desires. Don’t expect them to stop what they are doing in order to take care of you. You will produce better results if you engage and entice the person rather than criticize and complain.

For example,

“Let’s do something that we both enjoy. Do you want to watch the game and then go to dinner?”

Or

“I left you some dinner, and have to go pick up the kids. It would be great if you could clean up. See you in a little while.”

Or

“Let’s go to the beach. I have a nice bottle of wine.”

Or

“I am going to see a band in town tonight with Damian and Corey. It would be fun if you’d join us!”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD


Mind reading:
“You just don’t like spending time with me!”

"Convergence" by Mimi Stuart

“Convergence” by Mimi Stuart ©

People often assume that they know what another person is thinking — and most often those assumptions are negative and wrong. “Mind-reading” causes people to become defensive and avoid sharing their thoughts. It pushes people away because it feels intrusive to be told what they’re thinking.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Mind-reading is usually a result of your own fears. When you allow your insecurity to take over, you’re likely to scare people away, which is not a good way to promote dialogue. Moreover, when you project your fears onto another person, those fears are more likely to become realized – a self-fulfilling prophecy! If you repeatedly proclaim your worry that another person doesn’t like spending time with you, you create the very situation you fear, because you become less enjoyable to be with. Our perceptions have a tendency to materialize.

Dialogue

While part of you may feel worried and insecure, there is probably another part of you that wants to have an honest dialogue and is hopeful and curious about what the truth might be. Mind-reading assumes that you have all the information, which is rarely the case. To have a real dialogue, you need to focus on the other person and find out where they are coming from. Only when the goal is to gain understanding and not to assign blame can you find out what’s really going on.

To get truthful, relevant information, you have to engage others so that they won’t get defensive. Otherwise they’ll attack back, withdraw, or twist the truth to avoid your negative judgments. You have to ask questions in a way to get them to talk openly. This requires being able to actively listen without being reactive.

Connection

If you lose your connection, the other person is likely to go into a protective mode, which puts a stop to openness. You need to keep a connection to convey your desire to be understanding.

1. To avoid implying blame or self-pity, it helps to use a tone of voice that implies honest curiosity.

2. The best way to get information is to ask open-ended questions that get the other person to describe his or her side of the story. Open-ended questions include where, who, how, what happened. Beware of “But why did you do that?” because it sounds accusatory. When people feel blamed, they’re likely to skew the information to boost their self-esteem and avoid incrimination. It’s better to ask how something happened, followed by, “what happened then?”

3. Avoid leading questions, such as, “You’d rather work than spend time with me, right?”

4. Avoid “yes or no” prosecuting-attorney-type questions, such as, “Just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — did you even think about calling me?” Even police investigators have moved from methods of cross-examination to open-ended questioning.

We are more likely to discover the motivation of the other person when we use compassionate curiosity rather than aggressive interrogation. Also, we are likely to find that others’ actions usually don’t stem from intent to harm us. From a position of compassionate understanding, we can then continue the dialogue and express our own desires or intent to change the situation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Compassionate Confrontation: ‘He said he’d spend more time with me, but has not followed through.’”

Read “Negative Projection: ‘I never had children, because my husband didn’t want to, and now it’s too late.’”

Read “Five Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘There’s nothing we can do to stay in love.’”

Mind reading:
“You just don’t like spending time with me!”

“Julia and Larry” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

People often assume that they know what another person is thinking—and most often these assumptions are negative.

Not only are the assumptions usually wrong, mind-reading doesn’t make people want to openly share their deepest thoughts. It often doesn’t make them want to spend time with you either. Instead, it feels intrusive to be told what they’re thinking. They feel annoyed and defensive.

Projecting Insecurity

When you allow fear and insecurity to dominate your personality, you’re likely to scare people away—not a good way to promote dialogue. While part of you may feel worried and insecure, there’s probably another part of you that wants to have an honest dialogue and is hopeful and curious about what the truth might be. Although it is important to share your vulnerabilities with people you’re close to, it’s best not to let insecurity take over with accusatory mind-reading.

When you project your fears onto another person, those fears are more likely to become realized – a self-fulfilling prophecy! If you repeatedly proclaim your worry that another person doesn’t like spending time with you, you create the very situation you fear, because you become less enjoyable to spend time with. Our perceptions have a tendency to materialize.

Dialogue

Mind-reading assumes that you have all the information, which is rarely the case. To have a real dialogue, you need to focus on the other person and find out where they are coming from. Only when the goal is to gain understanding and not to assign blame can you find out what’s really going on.

To get truthful, relevant information, you have to engage others so that they won’t get defensive. Otherwise they’ll attack back, withdraw, or twist the truth to avoid your negative judgments. You have to ask questions in a way to get them to talk openly. This requires being able to actively listen without being reactive.

Connection

If you lose your connection, the other person is likely to go into a protective mode, which puts a stop to openness. You need to keep a connection to convey your desire to be understanding. To avoid implying blame or self-pity, it helps to use a tone of voice that implies honest curiosity.

Open-ended Questions

The best way to get information is to ask open-ended questions that get the other person to describe his or her side of the story. Avoid leading questions, such as, “You’d rather work than spend time with me, right?”

Avoid “yes or no” prosecuting-attorney-type questions, such as, “Just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’—did you even think about calling me?” Even police investigators have moved from methods of cross-examination to open-ended questioning.

Open-ended questions include where, who, how, what happened. Beware of “But why did you do that?” because it sounds accusatory. When people feel blamed, they’re likely to skew the information to boost their self-esteem and avoid incrimination. It’s better to ask how something happened, followed by, “what happened then?”

We are more likely to discover the motivation of the other person when we use compassionate curiosity rather than aggressive interrogation. Also, we are likely to find that others’ actions usually don’t stem from intent to harm us.

From a position of compassionate understanding, we can then continue the dialogue and express our own desires or intent to change the situation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Compassionate Confrontation: ‘He said he’d spend more time with me, but has not followed through.’”

Read “Negative Projection: ‘I never had children, because my husband didn’t want to, and now it’s too late.’”

Read “Five Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘There’s nothing we can do to stay in love.’”

Conversation and Active Listening:
“It seems like I do all the talking.”

"Freeform Jazz" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

We think effective communication has to do with talking, although it has much more to do with listening. Yet, it is surprising how rare and difficult it is to actively listen.

We think we are listening when we are really just waiting for the other person to take a breath so we can interject our response, analogy, defense, or anticipate what’s going to be said by filling in the blanks. Planning our own responses and anticipating when to jump in is not active listening.

People assume that the person talking has all the power. But it is really the person who listens who gains power through understanding what is actually being said.

The power and enjoyment that come from good conversation and a meeting of the minds involve listening attentively, similar to how jazz musicians have to really listen to each other to play great music together.

Active Listening Do’s

1. Be mindful, that is, be present, aware, and engaged;
2. Manage your emotions by exercising patience rather than being reactive and anticipating what will be said;
3. Have an open attitude as opposed to having a set opinion and set expectations; and
4. Consider the context of the speaker’s words as influenced by his or her own background and experience, so you don’t quibble over the idiosyncratic use of words.

Active Listening Don’ts

1. Do not interrupt and debate the speaker.
2. Do not tell the speaker what he or she should be thinking or feeling. That is simply a way of imposing your judgment on others.
3. Do not use his or her story as a take-off point for your own story.
4. Do not give advice unless and only when you are asked for it.

Enhancing Relationships

You can see that active listening takes effort and your full attention. The payoff is worth it, however. The benefit is that you can simultaneously enhance relationships AND increase understanding or solve problems.

Active listening is a pre-condition for empathy and equality — keys to enhancing a relationship. It requires focusing on the other person instead of yourself. When someone sees that you are really paying attention, he or she tends to feel more alive and become more animated in the conversation.

Encouraging Openness

People feel more comfortable and open with a relaxed and attentive listener, rather than someone who is impatient, agitated, or highly controlled. Making positive encouraging eye contact without being distracted encourages the speaker to open up.

If appropriate you can repeat what you heard the speaker say and ask them whether you have understood them correctly. “It sounds like you’re discouraged about such and such. Is that right?”

Giving reflective feedback rather than advice can be very helpful because both parties become clearer about a situation, which is key in having a good conversation or a meeting of the minds.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Compassion in Relationships.”

Read “Giving Advice: ‘She never listens to me.’”

Reference: “Effective Communication Skills” by Professor Dalton Kehoe from The Great Courses.