islandparent Parenting Well-being The Relationship Saboteur

The Relationship Saboteur

Communication is 90 per cent body language. Our tone of voice or that look on our face can say more about how we are feeling than words. A look of disgust, disapproval or disdain can put people on the defence in seconds. Now add some words to this body language, and messages can become lethal.

During times of stress or being confined in close quarters is an opportunity to become more aware of the power of your communication. Doing this is taking personal responsibility for creating harmony in your home.

Where to start:

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Check-in with your story. Are you being overly critical? Are you projecting your negative feelings onto the person in front of you? Is your anxiety sending you into an oppositional position? When stories start, we tend to cherry-pick evidence to suggest that our story is correct. Can you find a neutral or more realistic point of view?

Take a moment to assess your body language. Are you showing contempt? Do you look disgusted? While your body language should be congruent with the feelings you have, the more toxic emotions need checking. Catch these harmful expressions and correct them.

Watch out for fighting words such as never and always. Those words are always, never true! Instead, be specific about what is happening now and give your loved one the benefit of the doubt.

Instead of criticizing someone’s character with negative labels, stick to describing their actions. Doing this is how you safeguard their self-esteem. You are also much more likely to be heard if people don’t feel like they need to go on the defence.

If you are complaining about something that has already happened and can’t be changed, why do it? Move into the present and think about what you want. Make an explicit request about what you would like now or from now on. Remember that a request is not a demand, so check your feelings if you get a counteroffer or absolute refusal. Do you go to anger or curiosity about the other person’s needs?

While you may be aware of communication skills, become more interested in the times that you can’t use them. When you feel defensive, critical or helpless, pay attention as this is a time when all of these skills go out the window. Become aware of the saboteur within you. Give it a time out, breathe and put it in its place. When you can, go back to those great skills of yours.

Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees is a parent educator, counsellor and coach at LIFE Seminars (Living in Families Effectively).