Language and words have power and can diffuse a situation or set off a bomb. They can bring about transformative experiences, or cause repetition of the same old negative patterns that tear asunder partnerships.
Learning to communicate truthfully with love and respect is primary to the success of any and all relationships.
In my twenties, I loved playing with language. I used puns, allusions, parody, satire and irony to amuse myself and serve as a status symbol to demonstrate my intelligence and wit.
I learned a lesson I shall never forget when I made a satirical comment to a six year old. She took it literally, and I realized with horror that saying the opposite of what is intended can be misunderstood. I vowed never to do it again.
Do not encrypt your message and hope the listener has the key. Always use plaintext.
There is a world of difference between saying “You make me so anxious when you don’t call,” and “I feel so anxious when you don’t call.” The crucial difference is one of blame vs. responsibility. “You make me X when Y” makes it the other person’s fault, with the implication that they must change their behavior to correct the situation. “I am X when you Y” carries no such implication. In both cases, you are revealing something about yourself, and as both people do this, the situation changes and by continuing in this way, a resolution is nearly always possible.
Most of us have learned to filter our words, to have enough social grace not to offend others. We’ve learned that our internal thoughts and feelings can upset people. Yet in a personal relationship, we must change this pattern and reveal all; if we keep something hidden, we cannot feel fully seen and accepted. Social mores may be so ingrained that this is difficult, but for a successful relationship, it is critical that we reveal ourselves as we come to trust the other person.
In all this forthrightness, do not let the flood of the self injure the other person. If there are words that hurt, let them be words of truth, and phrase them no more harshly than necessary to be clear. Words of attack are never justified; instead examine the pain that provokes them and use it to learn about yourself.
Don’t Push Buttons
We all have buttons that set us off; words or phrases that bring up old associations or meanings that are not really in the present. They reside in us for so long that we may not even be aware of what they are. Learn what these areas are for yourself and your partner. Avoid phrases and words that will push buttons. The goal is not to injure with our words, but to show acceptance, acknowledgement and appreciation.
When you are communicating, always bear in mind you are both on the same side. You may have differing opinions or ideas, but you both want the best for each other and a resolution of problems that makes both of you feel good and happy. Seek mutual solutions and use language that is supportive and reminds you that you are both together working to solve something.