Politeness in close, romantic relationships.

By David Joel Miller.

Is politeness in short supply?

Polite child

Polite.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

You don’t have to look far to notice a decline in politeness. Rude behavior seems to be the order of the day. We might be able to blame this decline in politeness on the media. Reality TV, politicians, and talk shows set an extremely poor example. It would be easier to forgive these public displays of incivility if the rude behaviors were spilling over into our close relationships.

Family counselors, particularly those who do couples counseling see a severe lack of politeness within the family. Research tells us that most people are far more polite to strangers than they are to those described as their “loved ones.”

Distressed families, couples headed for a breakup, are the ones who have run out of positive feelings for each other. One way to keep your close relationships positive is to practice your politeness closer to home. Here are some tips for improving politeness with your family and friends.

Give genuine compliments, not backhanded ones.

Say you did a great job, not “well you finally did something right.” Make it a point to notice when those close to you do something praiseworthy. Commenting on the accomplishments of your loved ones should be a time to build them up not an opportunity to try to make yourself feel better by putting them down.

Say what you can or will do.

Avoid focusing on what you can’t or won’t do. Constant negative expressions poison relationships. Rather than always being on the defensive, look for ways to express things positively. If someone asks you to help them today, avoid the temptation to assert yourself by setting boundaries in a negative manner. Rather than complaining that they are always expecting you to do things, consider a polite reply. Instead of saying “no, I can’t do everything for you,” say “I can help you with that this weekend.”

Be considerate.

Avoid self-centeredness. Before responding think first about their needs and their feelings. Avoid defensiveness and try to see things from others point of view. Look for ways to create positive interactions.

Focus on the new.

Let go of the resentments of the past. Continuing to rehash the resentments of the past damages relationships in the present. The way to get over past hurts is to create pleasant experiences in the present. Look for ways to strengthen relationships rather than ways to get even. Think of your relationship as being part of the team. The team doesn’t win by fighting each other. It’s a hollow victory if you win by hurting your partner in destroying your relationship.

Notice the positive in people and situations.

Be careful to avoid putting those close to you down. Whatever you pay attention to, you will get more of. Always picking on the faults of those close to you, turns the relationship negative. When people conclude there’s no way to please you, that everything they do is wrong, they learn to be helpless and give up trying. Focusing on the positive creates a happier relationship.

Show appreciation whenever possible.

Do not complain, nag or berate others. Avoid the attitude of expecting everyone to always do what you want. Show them some appreciation. Make it a point to notice all the helpful things others do for you every day. When you show appreciation, you make it easier for others to appreciate you.

Let them finish talking.

Do not interrupt. Especially when you think you’ve heard this before, practice patience. When you hear people out, you may be surprised at the things they say you were not expecting. Being willing to hear someone out is a sign of respect. If you want to be respected, you need to respect others.

Listen to them. Do not monopolize the conversation.

It is more important to understand other’s points of view than to sell yours. Do not monopolize the conversation. It’s not a conversation if one person does all the talking. Listening involves more than hearing the words. Pay attention to the feelings behind the words they are saying.

Evaluate ideas, not people.

Do not put yourself or others down. Lots of ideas look good on paper. It’s natural for people to think their ideas have merit. When you disagree, stay focused on the idea. Avoid calling people stupid or ignorant. Trying to win arguments by attacking others damages relationships.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Trapped in a bad relationship?

By David Joel Miller.

Hate your relationship but can’t leave?

Can't stop fighting?

Trapped in conflict?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you feel trapped in an unhappy situation? You know this relationship is not meeting your needs, but you’re not sure that anything else would be any better. One thing we find in marriage or relationship counseling is that people tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you don’t discover what the problem is, it will keep happening.

Sometimes the problem is one partner or the other. If it’s you then you need to change. If at your partner, well, in that case, your options are limited. You can’t change someone else; only they can change themselves. What you can do is change the situation, change yourself, or learn how to accept the situation. You may decide that this situation needs to end.

Very often, however, the reason the relationship is unhappy lies in the space between two people, the way they relate to each other. There are certain things that people do, which keep the relationship an unhappy one. Therapists often see people who end one relationship, subsequently, start a new relationship, only to find they’re having the same problems in their new relationship.

Here are some things that may be happening in your current relationship which you need to learn how to handle if you are ever to have a happy relationship.

Avoiding conflict does not resolve the problem.

In some relationships, one or both partners are conflict avoidant. They don’t want to argue about things, and as a result, nothing ever changes. Conflict avoidance is an especially difficult problem when the conflict avoidant partner never tells their partner what they want.

Conflicts are part of life. A lack of conflict in a relationship does not mean it’s a perfect relationship. It’s not disagreements that damage relationships, but the way in which two people resolve those disagreements. Work on being able to express your disagreement with your partner in a way that they can hear. Work on finding win-win solutions rather than engaging in protracted disagreements over who is right and who’s in control.

What attracted you, may be pushing you apart.

Finding someone with the qualities you lack can be very attractive. Being with a person who is different from you can be exciting. But after you have been in the relationship a while things change, your needs change, and the qualities that brought you together may be the very things that are causing the problems.

That strong partner made you feel safe in the beginning but ends up being controlling. Your partner may have seemed like a lot of fun and helped you get out of your shell. But now you realize you have always been very responsible, and that fun person now looks irresponsible.

You don’t ask to have your needs met.

Don’t think that if your partner truly loved you, they would do things to make you happy. Very few people can read minds. Being deeply in love does not make you a mind reader. People who will not ask for what they want, create impediments to a good relationship.

You can’t win by beating up your teammate.

When aggressive, achievement-oriented people get together, they often end up competing with each other. When you are both hostile and want to win, you end up locked in a constant struggle for dominance and control.

When one partner assumes the one up position, there’s a high risk that the other partner will become resentful. The best solutions to partner disagreements are learning how to create win-win situations in which both people get their needs met. Compromising does not mean both people need to give up or lose something.

Playing the blame game and finger-pointing damages relationships.

Couples in unhappy relationships often begin to blame each other. When one person is criticized, their response is to criticize their partner for other issues. If you want to have a good relationship, learn to tackle one issue at a time. If you did something wrong admit it. Work on making it right. Pointing out all the things your partner has done wrong does not excuse your error, and mutual recriminations poison the relationship.

Needing to be right requires your partner to be wrong.

Insecure people need to always be right. They never want to hear that anything they have done was less than perfect. They often have lots of excuses as to why it’s not their fault. This “right fighting” can lead to endless episodes of arguments. Often there is no resolution. Many couples argue over things for which there is no correct answer. One person prefers one beverage while the other prefers a different beverage. The inability to allow your partner to have a different opinion than yours has resulted in couples locked in an eternal mortal combat.

Needing the last word keeps the argument going.

Once you’ve had your say, stop talking. Trying to always get in the last word doesn’t make you right. Keeping at it results in a relationship with only one topic, “who is right?” Make an effort to hear your partner out.

If you can’t hear what your partner is saying or feeling, there’s no communication.

Lots of couples show up for marriage counseling wanting to improve communication. What that often means is one of them wants the other to do something. Communication is not about being right or about arguing your partner into doing what you want. True communication in relationships furthers understanding. Make sure you’re listening to understand what your partner means. The missing part of communication is often a failure to understand what the partner is feeling.

If what you been doing or saying has been making your partner feel unloved or disrespected what’s needed is not to prove to them how much you love them or how correct you are. The best way to improve your relationship communication is to listen for the feelings behind the words that are being said. Once you get the feelings, the exact words are less important.

How many problems do you have in your relationship?

In distressed relationships, it is important to take a good look at the things you could do to improve your current relationship. Until you have learned good relationship skills, whether you stay or leave, any relationship you get into is likely to have the same problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Does your communication destroy your relationships?

By David Joel Miller.

How you talk to each other matters.

Old phone

Bad Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Faulty communication is a major relationship destroyer.  Unfortunately, many people try to use communication like a magic wand to get them what they want.  Couples often come into relationship counseling and describe their problems as poor communication.  What they often mean is that one of them is not getting what they want.  Getting what you want, as in getting your needs met, involves being persuasive, assertive or learning negotiating skills.

Good relationship communication is about growing and developing relationships.  The way in which you talk and listen to other people either builds positive relationships or destroys the ones you have. Be careful that the way you’re communicating is not sabotaging your relationships.  Avoid using the following communication tools if you want to maintain positive relationships.

Stonewalling prevents closeness.

Stonewall it is the art of not communicating.  People use this technique often give others the cold shoulder.  It’s almost impossible for humans to interact without communicating something.  Giving someone the silent treatment neither improves that relationship nor the communication.

Blaming weakens your connection.

Blaming is one of the ways of communicating their results in a relationship where one person is above the other.  Think about what it looks like when a parent is scolding a child.  Often this is accompanied by finger-pointing and yelling.  When adults resort to this method to communicate with other adults the effort to blame and shame the other person damages the relationship between them.

Placating reduces communication.

Placating is the way a little child might talk to an angry parent. You would hear them say, yes mommy; I’m so sorry mommy.  Among adults placating takes the form of saying you will do things but never doing them.

Passive-aggressive behavior builds hostility.

The passive aggressive of the world spend their lives slamming doors and muttering under their breath.  Rather than directly expressing their displeasure in an adult way they go to great lengths to display their anger.  Seething with anger that they go out of their way to get even.

Saying you’re not OK harms your relationship.

Couples, where one person is constantly telling the other partner they are defective, are headed for disaster. No one likes to repeatedly hear that they are not okay. Constantly criticizing your partner for who they are, conveys the message that you don’t think they are capable of change. If you find yourself telling your partner that they are not okay, you need to ask yourself why you picked this partner in the first place. If your partner is struggling with an emotional problem or an addiction, encourage them to seek help. You also need to be willing to look at the ways in which you are contributing to this problem.

Saying I know better damages relationships.

They are your partner, not your child. Relationships, good ones, should be partnerships, not parent-child relationships. Successful relationships require listening to the other person’s point even when you don’t agree. Trying to act like your partner’s parent curtails communication and makes for an unhappy relationship.

Telling them having a child will fix your relationship.

Many troubled relationships make the mistake of believing that they just have a child everything will turn out okay. Having a child while in a shaky relationship can be catastrophic. You can break up with a partner, but you will forever be in a relationship with your child’s parent. Both pregnancy and the early years raising an infant can be extremely stressful. Don’t try to make your child the adult in the family.

Avoid quoting what your family and friends say.

A piece of fruit with a hole in the skin starts to rot. A cell with a broken membrane soon dies. Your relationship needs good boundaries, and you need to keep family and friends out of your disagreements. Resolving conflicts is not about proving who is right. Learn to discuss and resolve problems between the two of you. Stop quoting others who agree with you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why can’t you say something?

By David Joel Miller.

Do you find it difficult to speak your mind?

Afraid to Speak Up

Afraid to Speak Up.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

For good or bad some people have little or no difficulty saying what is on their mind. Others find it next to impossible to speak up even when they have something really important to say. Not expressing yourself can impair your relationships, both personal and professional.

Inability to speak up can be the result of a number of things you have been telling yourself. It is often a case of low self-esteem or it can be a sign of a more serious anxiety disorder. Try the corrective tips below. If after you try these things you are still struggling with speaking up consider working with a counselor to reduce your anxiety and improve your self-confidence.

What are some of the common reasons people hesitate to say what they are thinking and how can you overcome these issues? How many of these excuse do you use to keep from saying your piece?

You are silent because you don’t have the facts.

It pays to be sure you have your facts straight. Telling yourself this too much inhibits your ability to communicate with others. Unfortunately, people never have every possible fact. Sometimes you need to form an opinion based on the information you have. You also will have times when you need to express your preferences and feelings. There is no such thing as the “correct” way to feel or think. Some preferences may make your life easier but your preferences are, after all, your desires. If you don’t express them you make it unlikely that your wishes will be taken into consideration.

Negative self-talk inhibits expression.

Do you have a running commentary going on in your head? One that questions your judgment, tells you to stay silent because you could be wrong? Negative self-talk can lower your self-esteem and reduce your ability to take action. Tell those runaway thoughts to stop running away with your self-esteem.

Early in life, many people fell into the habit of calling themselves “stupid” or “dumb.” You may have developed this habit because others called you names or this may have arisen because you felt embarrassed about making mistakes. Repeatedly calling yourself names results in your brain trying to make these things come true. This self-created commandment “though shalt not express your thought” gets to be the default setting in your brain.

Positive affirmations can help alter this mental conversation. Tell yourself that your thoughts matter. “I have the right to express my feelings.’ Look for positive affirmations that improve your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Thought-stopping can also be used to get those unhelpful thoughts to leave your head. When your child does something that you do not want them to do we quickly tell them to “stop that.” Learn to tell that voice in your head, the one you are creating through your negative self-talk, to be silent and see what happens.

Your need to be liked gets in the way of being you.

People who only like you when you agree with them are pretty shallow. Mature relationships leave plenty of room for two people to disagree and still be friends. People who matter will like you for you. If you start speaking up in an assertive not aggressive way, you will find that others will respect you and want to hear what you have to say.

If your life is full of people who are only your friends if you agree with them, take another look at how healthy these friendships are. Some people, family, in particular, you may need to just accept that is the way they are and leave it at that. Other people are not worth you’re being fake to yourself to be liked by them.

You don’t believe what you have to say is important.

You are an important person, just like every other person. You will never know what kind of valuable contribution to a conversation you might make until you make it. Those people in your life should want to hear what you have to say. Some of those closest to you have been waiting for you to express yourself. Close friends and partners may have been wondering why you were not willing to share what you thought with them.

Become a part of the conversation and see how much closer and more connected you will become.

You are deathly afraid of conflict.

Avoiding conflict by not being and not feeling is no way to be. You won’t avoid conflict by not expressing yourself you will just hide it. How would others know what you wanted and liked if you fail to express it?

Unexpressed differences of opinion keep people from connecting on deeply personal levels. Let others know how you feel and who you are deep down on that essential level. The way to resolve conflicts is to get them out in the open, work through them and find solutions that work for all involved.

You are afraid of rejection.

Some people will reject you if they don’t like the things you have to say. Are those people really worth the effort if you need to be a fake person to be around them?  People who matter, the kind you would want for friends and intimate partners are unlikely to reject you because of what you say.

Test this out. Start by expressing small things, what you like and where you want to go. See how others respond to you. You may well discover that others in your life will appreciate this new, more communicative person you are becoming.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

5 Ways to Sabotage Open Communication.

By David Joel Miller.

5 steps to destroy communication.

communication

Communication
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are your actions destroying communication between you and the important people in your life? When things are going wrong between people the way we respond to these conflicts either opens up the communication or it can kill the relationship. You may be responding to communication conflicts by doing exactly the things that destroy what little communication has been going on.

Do you wish you had better communication with the important people in your life? Whether it is with a partner, your family, or the people at work, communication destroying behaviors will make your life more difficult. These communication destroyers come up repeatedly in couples counseling. Once you adopt these ways of handling conflicts they can carry over into the rest of your life and damage all your relationships.

Here are some ways that you may be damaging communication with the important people in your life.

When communication is bad you leave.

Repeatedly leaving when communication is difficult damages or even destroys the ability to communicate. For effective communication, you need to keep working on things even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. Running away from conflict may seem the easy way out at the time but progressively the communication deteriorates.

Communication avoiders may leave physically, walk down the hall, head for the other room or even leave the place altogether. Some people avoid the hard conversations by checking out mentally. They stop listening altogether.

If one of you finds that you are becoming overheated or triggered, you may need to call a timeout and take a break from this conversation. Be careful that repeated timeouts do not become a way of avoiding conflicts. When taking a timeout be sure to let the other person know that you will return later to finish this conversation. Try to plan a mutually agreed upon time-out signal beforehand.

You stonewall to keep the communication from getting through.

When people get angry, hurt or resentful it makes sense to them in the moment to cut off communication with the person they see as the cause of their pain. Eventually, this builds walls and leaves you isolated. Cutting off communication does not make the relationship less painful, it leaves you living in pain all alone.

When the conflicts arise, emotionally healthy people, find ways to work through their conflicts and hurts without walling themselves off from others. Work on making this wall removal part of your relationship maintenance. If you lack the skills to take down walls or to solve problems without the walls, consider working with a professional counselor to develop more open and congruent communication.

When the communication gets uncomfortable do you attack?

The saying that a good offense is the best defense does not work in relationships. You can’t prevent pain and hurt by hurting your partner, friends or family. In the moment pulling out all the faults of the other person to rub their nose in them may seem like a way to win the disagreement.

This initial reaction, to try to protect yourself by inflicting pain, is unproductive in a close intimate relationship. In other settings, work and friendships, this behavior may cost you the friend or even the job.

You are feeling hurt so you hurt them back.

When in the heat of battle, do you go for the jugular? Trying to inflict the maximum of pain on your adversaries makes little sense if you ever hope to get close and intimate with that person again. Hurts are cumulative. Add enough of them and the relationship fails.

Being able to absorb some emotional pain and still stay focused on what you see as good in your relationship is a skill that will make your relationship whether a severe storm.

If you have left a trail of wrecked relationships, with friends, family, co-workers, and lovers, take a look at the way you communicate. Have you inflicted a lot of needless pain in an effort to even the score for the pain others have caused you? Has that two-person pain made you happier?

You go along but save up the resentment for a rainy day.

Are you the one who goes along with your partner in the moment and says nothing all the while accumulating your resentments for use at a later date? We call this human characteristic “gunny sacking” a process of holding on to resentments, tucking them away in a gunny sack and then let the least little thing go wrong and you will dump the whole list of past grievances on the other person.

Gunny sacking is a common practice in couples but it extends to all manner of other relationships. In friendships and work environments this accumulation of grievances can poison the place you spend your time and leave you the sicker for it.

Have you been practicing these communications killers? If so it may be time to decide to work on your relationships. Have that talk with your partner, family, friends or important others in your life. See if you can improve the communication between you two. It may be time to seek the services of a professional counselor, couples or marriage therapist.

Communication improvement can be best done when the two people with the conflict can sit in the room and work together on the issues. But if you can’t get them to counseling the counselor can still help you change the way you communicate and the result will be that the other person will need to change in response.

Are you ready to improve your communication?

You can find more posts about Relationships and Couples therapy at:

Relationships

Couples Therapy

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Being verbally blunt can be a good or a bad thing.

By David Joel Miller

Saying what you think can get you liked or it can get you hated.

Telling the Truth

Telling the Truth
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are you one of those people who find they can’t help saying what they think? This can be a blessing or a curse. If you have this trait and it has gotten you in trouble or damaged relationships read on for some tips on how to make this characteristic work to your advantage.

Some people who are blunt, speak their mind, are perceived as rude and irritating. Others get the reputation of being frank and honest. Telling the truth, being extremely straightforward, comes with risks. Holding back on information makes people question your honesty.

It is hard to trust people who won’t give you a straight answer.

Being too cautious about what you say can lead to never really giving anyone an answer to their questions. Those folks who do not respond to others statements may think they are avoiding conflict. What they accomplish is to leave everyone wondering what they really think and can they be trusted.

People who change their opinion when they move from person to person do not get trusted. Get clear on what you think and want, then find ways to convey your positions in a consistent manner if you want to be trusted.

Being straightforward about your feelings and beliefs can get you the reputation for honesty if – and only if – you do it correctly.

It is not what you say but how you say it.

Think of this like cleaning the dirt off a fine old wood table. You can use a clean, soft, polishing cloth that contains some cleaner specifically made for that special wood furniture. Or you can use some steel wool. Both will get the dirt off. One leaves it healthy and restored and the other will leave scars in the finish.

If you dislike something, explaining why in calm gentle language, makes your position easier to listen to. If you express yourself in statements laced with profanity or attacks on others you turn your listeners away. Cruel words hurt regardless of the truth of your statements.

Learning to slow down what you are saying so that it comes out the way you mean it is an important skill. You need to learn to prevent collateral damage from the way others may interpret what you said. Much of the poor communication people talk about is the direct result of ambiguous statements that get interpreted in ways the speaker never intended.

There is a right way and a wrong way to convey bad news.

Saying things in a blunt way when it is done in a hurtful manner can result in lasting damage to the relationship. When expressing something that may be hard to hear, concentrate on the other person and how they feel. How would you want someone to tell you that they disagreed with you?

Work on putting yourself in the other person’s place, not on discharging your negative emotions. One technique for expressing disagreements without destroying relationships is called the Sandwich Technique. Take a look at the past post describing how this can be an effective way of delivering bad news without harming the other person.

Become comfortable with others disagreeing with you.

Think very carefully about what you believe and why. Become open to other points of view. The people who create the most wreckage with their bluntness are often those who are insecure in their own beliefs.

If you start feeling threatened when others have a different view then there is a possibility that you are shaky in what you believe. If others not agreeing with you is threatening, then work on yourself, not on forcing others to agree with you by yelling louder and attacking their thoughts.

Learn to disagree without attacking the other person.

When you disagree with someone learn to think of this as someone who has a different opinion not someone who is “ignorant” or “stupid.”  Calling people names impedes communication. Someone who makes a mistake is not any of the global characteristics people may call them.

One error does not make them “stupid.” Very intelligent people make mistakes. In fact the more you learn and think about the more likely you are to make a mistake. Calling people names or personally attacking them does not make you right or improve your situation.

You and others have the right to be wrong sometimes.

Sometimes you will believe something and later find out that you were wrong. You have the right to be wrong. We all do. Allow that in disagreements others have the right to make mistakes and be wrong from time to time. It is not helpful to believe that someone who is incorrect about something is a “liar.” Allow others to be wrong when they are and let things that are not all that important go.

There is little value in spotting someone else’s errors and pointing them all out. Rather than this being helpful, this can permanently damage a relationship.

People, who grew up in a non-affirming environment, where they were never told they were OK, grow up to be low in “self-esteem.” You do not need to destroy someone else’s self-esteem by pointing out all their flaws. Finding others errors will not do much to elevate your self-esteem. Let it go.

For more on the topic of bluntness and honesty and when it may damage relationships you might also want to look at a past post: Just being honest

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What is the Sandwich method to present bad news?

By David Joel Miller

Some ways to deliver bad news are better than others.

How to deliver bad news.

How to deliver bad news.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

If you need to give someone bad news – can you do it in a way that leaves the relationship intact?

We all have times when we need to give someone bad news.

Putting off that news may seem like the kind or safe thing to do but eventually, it needs to be done. Delaying the bad news only makes it harder.

The sandwich method of requesting change.

One highly effective way to tell someone bad news without inflicting relationship damage is called the sandwich method. In the sandwich method there is a statement about what you value in the relationship, then the request for change, followed by a statement of support for the person you have asked to change.

Here are some examples of how the sandwich technique could be used to good effect. First in a work setting and then in your home life. In both cases, the bad news is coupled with a request that the other person change something.

A supervisor has to tell a worker to change.

The supervisor discovers he has to have a talk with an employee about their errors in using a new computer system. This is a common problem in most places that use computers. Some people learn new systems faster than others. Systems keep changing. A few people just never seem to get it.

The common but wrong way to deliver criticism.

The supervisor calls the employee in and chews the employee out.

Bob (or Mary, fill in any name here) you work is awful. You are hopeless, the worst person in the whole department. If you do not stop making all these computer errors I will need to write you up. Repeated failure to fix this problem will result in your termination. This is the last time I will talk to you before I start the process to get rid of your worthless rear end.

Has the supervisor been clear? Maybe. How does Bob feel about this now? Motivated to fix things? Maybe. But Bob is not likely to go out of his way to do much beyond the minimum to get by. And Bob will probably carry a resentment towards this supervisor from now on.

How the sandwich technique can help motivate others.

In the sandwich formula, the “bad news” or complaint is placed between two positive messages.

Supervisor calls Bob in and starts off with a review of the things Bob does well. “Bob I really appreciate all the hard work you do around here. Your work on the project last month was great. There is one area I need you to work on though. Your error rate on the new computer system is really high and management is emphasizing that we need everyone to get up to speed on using the new system. Is there anything we can do to help you improve your accuracy on the new system? I know all the times you have pitched-in in the past and feel sure you will find a way to get proficient on the new system.

How might Bob feel now? Is he more willing to try to improve his computer accuracy? Why doesn’t every management person use this method if this is so effective?

There are some management people who feel all workers are lazy, but then there are employees who think that all managers are unreasonable. There is a temptation when things go wrong to take our frustrations out on others. Beating someone up, standing over them, and threatening them may get the work done in the short run but as soon as the supervisor’s back is turned the effect wears off.

Using the sandwich method allows the message to come through, we need you to change or fix this, but it also conveys the message that the person receiving this bad news is still valued as a human being and that you want to cooperate on making things better.

How to ask for change from your child.

Your child brings home a test with an “F” grade.

You might “set this child straight.” Let them know that poor school work is unacceptable, that if they want to ruin their life you will not be a part of this. That no child of yours will be allowed to be this stupid. Say something like “I can’t believe you are such a moron.”

Is this likely to be helpful? Did it work with you? A few of you are saying yes this kind of treatment jolted you into working harder, but most people who experience this kind of treatment get discouraged and give up trying. Especially if they had studied and failed the test anyway.

The sandwich method would involve telling the child that you love them and are proud of them. That most of the time they do great things. That this score is disappointing to you and you expect them to study more and improve that grade. You would end this sandwich with some support and saying that you know that they are a good child and that you are sure they will put in the effort and do the best they can. Something added like that you love them no matter what grade they get would also be helpful.

Both interactions, hopefully convey the message “you need to study more and improve that grade” but in one the emphasis is on the child not being OK while in the sandwich method you are inserting the message “improve your work” in this subject area with other messages about the child being a good person and you liking them regardless. You are also expressing your belief that the child can succeed.

Does it bother you to give out compliments?

Some of you are thinking “I shouldn’t have to compliment people to get them to do what they are supposed to do.” No, you shouldn’t. But then you don’t have to say please and thank you, but those social graces, being nice to others makes interactions between other humans a lot more pleasant. Encouragement is effective and beatings, verbal or physical, stop working after a while. No one likes a person who tries to motivate by abuse. Besides making you more likable the sandwich method is more effective in motivating people to do things.

Tell someone that they are worthless and they live down to that label. Give them hope and self-respect and most people will make every effort to make the people who support them proud.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.