Few things in the world are more annoying than a person who sounds certain and says very little. This person ~ especially when it’s me ~ might flail in the mud and quicksand to think of something to say once I’ve lodged my foot squarely in the vicinity of my mouth. That is the easy one.
Imagine the day that I congratulated the wife of an important client in my marketing business on her upcoming child and asked her due date? Her response “I’m not pregnant” lodged my foot in a solely southern region of my own posterior. You get the point.
According to “Your Tango” e-magazine,
“in the cannon of relationship communication theory, John Gottman is widely considered the expert on why marriages succeed or fail. His research into the predictors of relationship and marital success and failure provides great help when pondering the impact of honesty within a couple’s communication.
Though the conventional wisdom favors honesty above all else, Gottman notes that cruelty and contempt often masquerade as honesty and are reliable predictors about the end of a relationship.
So “honesty” in and of itself is not a sufficient goal for improving relationship communication. Especially when used as a battle-axe (“You are fat and stupid.”) versus a lightening rod for greater information (“I’d like to explain how this makes me feel.”), honesty can wipe out love, affection and trust incredibly quickly.
So when you’ve screwed the pooch by calling your wife fat, your husband old, your best friend a pain in the rear, or you’ve simply blown the day wide open, here are five things that you need to have rehearsed in your head, totally thought through and understood, that will save your booty from run away mouth disease.
1. “I don’t know.” It may sound like you’re a moron, but really when you don’t have the answer, people would rater hear “I don’t know.” Even your boss, who you might want to brush up for a.s.a.p. probably knows when you are full of crap. If I could have back all the hours that I’ve listened to people make up all the reasons that they think this or that, I’d be thirty again. I don’t know is not a statement of failure, it’s an admission of life progress. It takes a whole lot more courage to admit not knowing than it does making up an excuse or a “fact.”
2. It’s my responsibility. Yes, the code for “I accept the fault. It’s all mine.” If the person that you’re apologizing to is crying, you might stick the word “Fault” in there, as that seems to lessen the tears, once they know who to hate on momentarily to maintain sanity. It’s okay that you’re the shmow. You are the shmow. If you’ve hurt someone, take the balls out of the wastebasket and wear them with some loyalty. As my BFF sis, Alison, says “Man up.” Hard for we girls, but still we find a way. I love people who live continually in the quagmire of a life that they can hardly breathe in for the sake of “accepting responsibility” which also reads “my spouse is so undesirable, no one else will be interested – including me.”
3. I. Apologize. Honestly. Without reservation. I am sorry. ‘Nuff said. No defending. Gottman adds:
Be mature. No name-calling, derisive remarks, or belittling contemptuous comments should be allowed when carrying on an honest conversation with a loved one. Example: I have something important to discuss with you, but it’s a very sensitive topic for me, so could we schedule a time to discuss this?
4. No. Hard as it is to believe, sometimes the greatest thing that you can say to another person when they ask for your help or your time and they’re that deep black hole that never resolves anything? Shoot some red matter in there and say “no.” I love you, but no. I don’t have anything left to throw into the abyss that is your hurricane life. No. I support you and want you to succeed…but no. Stand up for yourself…I can’t do it for you. (Not probably going to get an initial good response to this one.)
5. Goodbye. There are times after all of the tears, laughter, love, passion and all that stuff of life that it is simply time to let go and say adios. It’s not an indictment of self or the other person, just a reality of life. People, all people, friend people, married people, sibling people…we change and grow. Not all relationships maintain over a lifetime, not all jobs stay, not all love burns on forever. Sometimes, it is for a season. Saying good bye also means learning to let go, the number one search criteria that leads thousands of people from around the world to here at THM. Good bye sucks, and it is hard, and it takes time. Read “How to let go,” Alison’s article on separation if this is where you stand today.
Gottman closes his remarks with this sage wisdom. “Aim for progress, not perfection. Honesty in a relationship requires trust, time and tolerance. Sometimes your spouse shouldn’t be the first person to hear about how they’re pissing you off, even if you want to tell them. Availing yourself of a confidante in this case is extremely valuable. You can come clean, unedited, with a close trusted friend and then talk to your partner once you’ve cooled off.”