Integrity & Communication

Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

In my practice, I see so many couples who say they are seeking help

for improving their communication skills. They work so hard adding to their

communication tool belt, but typically feel disappointed that their

relationships don’t seem to improve consistent with the number of communication

techniques they’ve acquired.

Well, that’s because there is so much more than at play than communication skills, per se.

For example, the next time you and your partner tell each other you want to

improve your communication, rather than adding a new skill, link communication

to  integrity.

What does that mean?  It means being honest about what you feel,

and taking responsibility for reducing your own emotional

reactivity instead of blaming your partner for it when you’re in conflict.

If you take the stance…”why should I have to change?  He/She is the

one with the problem,”  then youare not taking responsibility for yourself.

Only you can change you, and only your partner can change your partner.  So, improving your

communication starts with changing your thinking about relationships in general,

and changing your thinking about  how you communicate under stress in particular.

Consider this:  relationships are actually about  2 limbic systems,

or two emotional brains, trying to get along.

Your emotions play a crucial role in your attempts to communicate effectively.

If you don’t keep reactivity at an acceptable level,  the point you so want to make will

probably get lost in an uproar.

After all, the emotional or limbic brain, will  almost always take priority over the

logical brain, the pre-frontal cortex. When the emotional brain is

activated, it wants one thing:  RELIEF. that’s just the way we are all wired.

And most of us will do just about anything to get that relief.  And that’s when the going gets rough.

So, the idea of better communication is not about using the so-called “I” statements.

It’s about living with the integrity to take responsibility for your emotional states, and effectively taking charge of

finding relief without demanding your partner makes a change in order for you to feel better.

How do you do that?

First, acknowledge that you’re feeling activated, rather than acting it out.

For example, instead of calling your partner a name, instead express feeling angry, or frustrated,

or what ever it is you are feeling.

Second, rather than blaming your partner for what you feel, try using  the following


When you do “A” in situation “B” I feel “C,”  and that then I (insert behavior) “D.”

Here’s what it sounds like:

“Honey, when you (A) interrupted me in (B) our discussion, I (C) felt frustrated and irritated,  and I (D) shutdown.”

Third, as a listener let your integrity and credibility show. In response to the above, find some truth in

your partner’s complaint, and offer the following:

“You’re right, sometimes I do interrupt you, and I know it leaves you feeling mad and frustrated, and then you shut down.

In fact, sometimesI feel that way too. I am sorry.”

That, my friends, is how integrity and communication are linked.

Try linking them, and I trust both of you will be pleasantly gratified by the results.

Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT, ©2010

Wishing you a satisfying relationship.

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1 Comment »

  1. I’ve listened to you and I’m going to try mt best at controlling my frustrations.I’m married to a man who states he doesn’t listen to any woman.I feel I don’t have a partner.Most often I feel I’m alone with dealing with any problems that arise with our young adult children.I’m not respected by my husband so therefore my children take advantage of that.When I say I’ve had enough my husband tells me to go see a lawyer.He’s away during the week because of the career he has and he’s only here with us on the weekends but life between us hasn’t changed.There are alot of conflicts unaddressed.I quite often feel very unloved yet he tells me he loves me.I feel he doesn’t show it then he reacts by telling me I have a roof over my head and he pays the bills – what more do I want?! I’m ready to walk if the situation doesn’t change.I find myself very lonely and unhappy most of the time. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and most gratful!Thank-you,Sincerely,Karen

    Comment by Karen — November 23, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

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