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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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.

Criticizing, complaining and asking for change.

By David Joel Miller.

Criticizing, complaining and asking for change.

Communication skills part 3.

Communication Problems

Communication Problems
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Ed Yourdon)

When something bugs us what should we do? When we are unhappy we are likely to react in one of a very few ways. Will you say nothing, become angry or take a middle road and try to talk about the issue?

Some people say nothing and suffer in silence. For those people, we recommend assertiveness training. If you do nothing about a problem then you become part of the mechanism perpetuation the problem not part of the solution.

Some people react to annoyances by becoming angry and acting out. Even if the violent approach works in the short run it is likely to result in long-term undesirable consequences. An excessive response to a problem may wind up in you having to do an Anger Management class, going to jail or permanently damaging the relationship.

In between is the “let’s talk about it” approach. Some ways of talking with the other person are more effective than others.

Criticizing is not communication.

Criticizing is the method most often used and least likely to be helpful. This method attacks the other person. You call them names for not doing what you think they should. Statements get made like “you don’t respect me, you are a slob or other personal attacks.

Criticizing does not make any friends. When we are criticized we are likely to become defensive and reply with our list of all the things the other has done. Criticize someone too often and they may stop listening altogether.

Criticizing cuts off communication rather than improving it or getting things to change.

Complaining does not help communication.

Complaining involves talking about how the issue is affecting you.  While a slight improvement over criticizing it rarely gets anything to change.

This is a recurring behavior in work settings where people complain about how they have to too much to do and saying other do not help and so on. It can become the standard operating procedure in some settings.

People who work as professionals in a complaint department know, or should know, the importance of listening to the customer’s complaint. Until the person feels their complaint has been heard nothing much is likely to happen to resolve that complaint. But eventually, the process needs to move beyond complaining.

Some relationship skill building programs suggest combining the complaining behavior with the next step, problem-solving or asking for change. While complaining may be a way to tell the other person what is upsetting you, moving to the next step and stating the specifics you want to change is most likely to improve the situation.

Asking for change improves communication.

Of all the ways of dealing with problems, this is the most likely to improve the situation despite seeming to be the hardest thing to do.

Use good problem-solving skills. Ask for change and stay on the problem and how to solve it. The greatest chance for an improvement is to find a solution in which both parties win rather than a win-lose situation. There needs to be genuine two-way communication, hearing and being heard.

Making things better.

Make sure that when you have a problem with another person that you avoid the name calling and the personal attacks.

Clearly, state the problem as you see it. Ask for specific changes such as not interrupting you when you speak rather than global things like being nicer.

Listen while the other person describes how they see the problem. Work towards understanding their point of view. Look for a solution that meets both of your needs.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest        

Criticism, complaining, asking for change.

How are your communication skills? Are you criticizing, complaining or asking for change?

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.

Just being honest – 5 times telling the truth is a bad thing

By David Joel Miller.

Not all “truth” is created equal – Communication Skills part 2.

As children most of us were taught we should always tell the truth, even when we knew the adults around us were not being truthful. In relationship counseling, we spend a lot of time on communications but improving communication does not always improve the relationship.

People who say they are “just telling the truth” find that their relationships suffer. Truth and honesty can build trust in a relationship but there are times when telling the truth can be both harmful and misleading.

Some people can say the most hurtful things, only to excuse what they have said by reporting “I am just being truthful.” People who use the truth defense are usually not so very receptive to having their partner reply with similar truths.

While telling the truth is a very desirable characteristic here are sometimes when the truth may damage relationships and may not be the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

When your version of truth is an exaggeration.

Common statements, especially during arguments are “You always – You never, you are totally.”

Categorical statements are rarely, if ever, true. This way of saying things is meant to put the other person down and is criticism for criticism’s sake.

Criticism is a way of being hurtful and may cause permanent damage to the relationship. You don’t get to do this and then play the “I was only being truthful” card.

When you say it out of anger the truth is you are angry.

Things said out of anger are meant to hurt. Even if you avoid the exaggeration trap you are likely to say things laced with sarcasm and personal attacks. “Truths” said in anger, are going to damage not improve the relationship.

Having hurt the other person they have no incentive to work on changing anything. When you are saying things in anger you are lashing out not looking for constructive resolution. Even if the statements were true, when you are full of anger, this is not the time to have that frank talk.

The truth telling was all about you.

Sometimes “being honest” is about pointing out all the possible flaws in the other person in order to make yourself feel better about you.

Being honest is one thing, but there is no reason to blurt out every single defect you see in the other person. No one needs or wants that much honesty all at once. Think about the purpose behind telling someone the things you see wrong with them.

Is your honesty really about helping them improve or is it coming from a place of selfishness on your part. Honesty like meals needs to be spaced out over time as the need arises.

If you really want to be helpful talk only about as much of the person’s faults as they are ready to hear. Be sure you are not just doing these things to make yourself feel superior.

If the Honesty talk is all about the other person’s faults and you are not ready to own any of the faults this is not real honesty.

You can’t sleep at night or have an emotional hangover after truth telling.

If after a binge of “ruthless honesty” you find you are unable to sleep at night. If you are emotionally drained for a while after the conversation then you might be experiencing an emotional hangover.

Telling someone off, like drinking too much, may feel good at the time but it is likely to come with the cost of an emotional hangover.

If you find you regret what you have said after an episode of “being honest” You know that the reason is the damage that what you said has caused to the relationship.

Excess of negative emotions, especially anger and fear will lead you to do things while emotional that you may regret afterward.

“It was true” may be a defense in a court of law but it will not make for happy relationships.

The other person is not ready to hear it – you need to use compassion.

Yelling at the deaf and showing pictures to the blind don’t aid communication. Telling someone more truth than they are ready to hear is only going to harm your relationship.

If you really want to end the relationship you don’t need to catalog the other person’s faults to justify your decision.

Remember to practice your compassion skill first and the honesty will have a place to grow when needed.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest        

Criticism, complaining, asking for change

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.

Communication is not what you think

By David Joel Miller.

Why communication is not getting you anywhere.

Communication Problems

Communication Problems
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Ed Yourdon)

Ever feel like “We just can communicate?” Ever say that? The old standby in counseling, especially relationship counseling, is to teach people to be better communicators. Usually, the clients are disappointed with the results.

Everyone communicates all the time. If someone gives you the cold shoulder you know what that means, right? The stone wall and the icy silence speak more than words could ever say.

Fact is, it really is impossible to not communicate. Most of us are pretty good at communicating angry, hurtful messages. It is the happy, helpful messages that get lost between people.

The problem lies in what people mean when they say they can’t communicate.

Most of the time people who say they can’t communicate mean one or more of the following things, sometimes all of them.

The other person does not do what you want them to.

Good communication does not mean the other person will give in and do what you want. Improving your communications skills will not suddenly have you winning all the arguments. What it might do is increase the chances you could have a discussion with the other person and you could find a solution to a problem that works for both of you.

If there are fundamental differences in what you want or believe, better communication is not likely to change one of you. What it will do is to help you understand why the other person thinks and feels the way they do. But after all that understanding you two may still not find a way to agree.

Religious differences are a common example of this. You may think communication about your beliefs will change the other person. Occasionally it does. Most of the time this conversation highlights how we put off these conversations as long as possible and then get disappointed when the other person does not come around to our way of thinking.

They don’t like the message they are receiving.

Lots of communication is sabotaged by having so many negative messages included in the communication no one in their right mind would want to listen to this conversation.

Verbally beating your partner up and then excusing that behavior in the name of “communicating” is guaranteed to result in more problems down the line. Just being Honest is no excuse for deliberately hurting someone else and it is not a communication style that is likely to improve a relationship.

Communication is all about the way in which we send and the other person understands the message. If there is an underlying message of “you are no good” or some other negative evaluation, improving communication will likely lead to a realization that the real problem is not the communication but the feelings behind it.

There are immense differences between Criticism, complaining, asking for change. If what you are hearing about yourself from the other person is hurtful, it is hard to hear much else.

They never hear anything good.

We tell parents that they need to “catch their children doing something right.” The principle applies to adults also.

If the only messages we hear are negative, we tune out. The surest way to reduce communication is to only communicate when there is a negative message. A constant stream of negative messages makes the other person stop trying. There is such a thing as “learned helplessness.” When you begin to think that no matter what you do it will never be good enough you stop trying.

Good communication includes small talk.

Human relationships are built by time together, positive time. It is not in the huge weighty matters that relationships are built but in the small day-to-day conversations where you come to know the other person.

Small talk is not a waste of time. It is one way to make relationships closer and more intimate. We grow fond of others not because they are of the correct political party or have the correct view of the world but because we share common interests.

Take time to talk about the colors and textures of life. The best communication comes when you are able to open yourself up and talk about who you really are as a person way down inside.

Communicate to the other person that they are important enough for you to want to spend time with them. Try to do this without the distraction of other activities that need to be done. Make sure that your time together is not one where you divide your attention between the other person and the T. V. or a computer.

What do you think? As always comments are welcome. Look for more posts on communication and relationships skills in the near future.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest 

Criticism, complaining, asking for change

How are your relationships, how are your communication skills and for you are the two related?

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.