WHY CAN'T WE TALK                  TO EACH OTHER?

What we have here is a failure to communicate?  AND Communication-help-for-couples is sorely needed.

Relating means trying to understand the experience of another, trying to get into that other person's shoes.

Communication is a give and take interaction which is supposed to lead to deeper understanding, respect and intimacy between two or more people

Resolving conflict has nothing to do with "being right".  Many times people just do not know the basic principles of communication.  If they knew how, I'm sure almost everybody would want to understand and be understood.

Poor communication is the number one problem identified by couples when they come in for relationship therapy.  Without communication help-couples JUST CAN'T RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES.  NOR CAN THEY LEARN TO SHARE THEIR MOST INTIMATE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS.



Before YOU even open Your mouth to speak, Your brain has been working to evaluate what someone else has said, make sense of it, and respond.

Communication-help-for-couples must start with examining your own patterns of thinking.  Perhaps change must first occur on this thinking level before you can make changes in  your communicating patterns. 

1.  Filtering: Selectively attending to the negative details, while ignoring or downplaying the positive and neutral aspects of situations.  Subsequently, the negative things that happen remain fresh and seem dominant in memory, while the other details are forgotten or seem less important.

2.  POLARIZING:  Viewing things in extreme:  black or white, good or bad, success or failure, useful or useless, perfect or totally unacceptable, nice or awful, etc. 

3.  OVERGENERALIZING:  Jumping to conclusions on the basis of little factual information -- sometimes based on just a simple incident or piece of evidence.  This becomes more of a problem when the conclusions are negative -- for example, concluding that one failure means you'll never succeed, one rejection means you're not adequate, etc.

4.  Mind Reading: Assuming that  you know other people's feelings, what they're thinking, or why they do what they do without trying to verify that youR assumptions are correct.  This also occurs in the other direction:  Assuming that others know (or "should" know) what you're thinking, feeling, etc. 

We are especially inclined to assume that spouses and others closest to us should be mind readers.  With communication-help-for-couples, we can begin to see the need to speak out directly.

5.  Catastrophizing: Dwelling on the worst possible outcomes of a problem or risk to the point that even remote unlikely disasters preoccupy your attention.  Often, objectivity becomes clouded, and you may gradually begin to feel or aCT as though these unlikely events are really happenING. 

Excessive worry about the potential for bad outcomes with lots of "what ifs" is a good indicator that objectivity is slipping.  

6.  Personalization:  The tendency to assume that other people's actions are always a reaction to you.  This amounts to an overestimate of the amount of power and influence that YOU have on others, although it rarely seems that way to the personalizer.. 

It often leads to unreasonable feelings of responsibility for other's feelings, happiness, etc.  Ironically, often this is particularly a problem for people wITH LOW SELF-ESTEEM.

7.  Displaced Control:  Problems in distinguishing where to draw the line between what you can control and what you can't. 

People usually go in one direction or the other.  (a) always seeing yourself as a victim of fate, bad luck, and the actions of others; or (b) feeling personally responsible for everything and everyone.  I

8.  Shoulds:  Any thinking or self-talk that evokes excess guilt, or includes words such as "should", "must", or "have to", is likely to reflect distortion by an underlying belief that is so rigid and extreme that it is"irrational." 

Examples are:  "Life should be fair"; "She should know  how I feel"; or "I should have known."  These may be quite reasonable as desires, but thinking and feeling as though we demand that they should be so sets us up for chronic disappointment and unrelenting pressure.

9.  Emotional Reasoning: Acting on the basis of feelings, assuming that they are valid and reasonable, without scrutiny.  Feelings are always important and real, but they MAY BE based on thoughts that ARE IRRATIONAL.

Examination of our feelings as "truth" short-circuits our problem solving, reasoning capabilities.

10. Inflexibility: Blaming, resentment, long-standing anger, and difficulty in forgiving or "rolling with the punches" are common signs of an excessive rigidity that may severely restrict personal effectiveness.  "Shoulds" are usually dominant.

Let's See How Dawn and Bill Use Distorted Thinking.

Dawn and Bill are a married couple who have been together for 12 years.  They are a prime example of why communication-help-for-couples is so important.

Bill walks into the house.  Sits down on the couch and starts reading the paper.  His wife, Dawn,comes FROM THE KITCHEN into the living room.

Dawn:  "Are you  home?  Why don't you ever tell me when you come in? (Generalization). what are you upset about NOW? (Mind Reading).

Bill: "I'm not upset.  Don't you have anything better to do than jump on me the minute I come in?  You should pay attention to getting dinner ready, not worry about me reading the paper. (Shoulds). You always overreact to the smallest things." (Overgeneralizing, Polarizing, Filtering).

Dawn: "What?  I've been working my butt off all day to get the house looking good and dinner started! What do you think I do all day, sit around and eat bon-bons? (Filtering,Mind Reading, Polarizing, Overgeneralizing, Personalizing).  Nothing I do is ever good enough for you, is it?  How about if I never fix dinner, never go to the store, and never clean?  How would you like that?"(Personalization, Polarizing, Catastrophizing, Overgeneralizing,Filtering).

Bill:  "Well, if you think you can just do nothing while I'm working 12 hours a day,I'm outa here."  (CatastRophizing, Emotional Reasoning, Displaced Control, Overgeneralizing, Inflexibility).

Dawn:  "Fine with me.  I'm not going to put up with this crap.  You should be thankful that I'm still with you.(Shoulds, Inflexibility, Emotional Reasoning,Catastrophizing). As hard as I try, nobody ever appreciates me anyway. (Displaced Control).

Bill:  "You're nuts!.  You'll never find anybody that treats you as good as I do." (Inflexibility, Polarizing, Overgeneralizing, Catastrophizing).  

It didn't take very long to get this communication off track.  This dialogue demonstrates how quickly a discussion can escalate into a full-blown argument with threats of divorce.  In my clinical experience in communication-help-for-couples, this example is not that far-fetched.  UNFORTUNATELY, Couples really do talk to one another like this.  It is a realistic example of communication at it's worst.

This couple is just one short step away from name-calling, tossing in the "kitchen sink" of things they think will hurt the other, the silent cold treatment, or perhaps physical and emotional abuse.  That is why it is so important that these two seek out communication-help-for-couples before it is too late.