This is great, thanks Alas!alas wrote: ↑Thu Jan 25, 2024 6:50 pmAlright, I will kind of aim the discussions at how to talk to your still believing family, since I hope none of you are involved in things like domestic violence or some of the other crap I worked with.
So, the first part of communication is understanding the other person, so, we will start there before moving how to get the other person to understand you.
So, your dear spouse says something to the effect of, “How could you do this to me? I married a good priesthood holder! Now I am sitting by myself and trying to make excuses to our friends for why you aren’t there.”
And your brain goes immediately to how you are going to defend yourself from this unfair accusation.
I mean, you think you know what she means. She is angry AGAIN that you no longer think the church is perfect. But you feel like you haven’t changed who you are. You think that you just went looking for the truth, and gosh, it looks like the church doesn’t have it. You think it is the church’s fault and you are angry at it, and angry that she could be angry at you. Unfair.
But you have already had this argument before. Ummm, four times now.
So, a different approach is called for.
Rule #1 when you have the same old argument over again, you are not communicating real needs or feelings.
In order for her to feel heard, she needs to know that you understand her feelings.
So, what do you hear underneath her words? What is her emotion? Take a guess and then reflect this back to her.
“It sounds to me like you are ________.”
Then let her respond if you are correct about what she is feeling.
Now, I am going to let you readers take a shot at what she might be feeling. The closer you hit to the correct emotion the better the discussion goes.
Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds kind of silly. But it does a couple of things. One it slows the conversation down. When someone is caught in strong feelings, then can quickly get more worked up. This helps keep them from getting more and more worked up by simply slowing things down. Another thing it does is tell them that you are trying to understand. If you are trying and they see it, they are more likely to try to help the process. It also prevents you from responding to the wrong emotion. If you react like she is angry, and really she is hurt, she will feel pushed away when what she wants is comfort. Also, if you are reacting to the wrong emotion, it is much harder to find a workable solution. The argument will keep spinning with both of you feeling misunderstood.
Also, Exponent II has a series right now on mixed faith marriages. It has some good tips.
If a simple reflection of their emotion feels too weird, you might try turning it into a question. For example, “obviously you are upset about church today. Would you like to tell me what happened, because I do care about how this is affecting you.” This kind of response leads into the discussion and slows things down too. It also says you want to understand. Then after she gives details of what happened, maybe you can work on a solution.
The main thing with a repeated argument is to go slower and make sure you are understanding each other.
So, try some personal examples of real life arguments and suggest some reflective listening examples. Or you can even try some on line kind of examples and how that might work.
Basically reflective listening is reflecting back to them what you hear them saying or reflecting to them how they might be feeling. It is meant to convey that you are listening and trying to understand and ask if you have it right.
One issue I run into is that this is easier said than done. I go in with a plan to use reflective listening and let it be about the other person with the knowledge that it's the best method, but the pain/indignation/anger in the moment is overwhelming! And once I'm overwhelmed I can't even think straight, and in the best case scenario we take a break and get nowhere and worst case scenario we both wonder if the relationship is worth the pain.
I would love to hear thoughts on how to deal with this. I have a couple strategies which I try with varying success.
- Internally note what you feel hurt about and plan to come back to it another time. This honors your side of things without derailing the immediate conversation
- Use some reflective listening on yourself about why you feel angry. This can help get you to pain or sadness which can be less overwhelming.
- Maintain space between how they feel about you and how you feel about yourself. I am a validation junky and for validation junkies this is really hard. I've been practicing a form of self-parenting to try to attain this which has been surprisingly helpful. I imagine how I would think of me if I were my own dad, which draws in some of my paternal love for my children toward myself. The good things I do seem brighter and I give myself more grace for the things I am still working on. My parents remain strongly TBM so this helps fill the gap where I know that they cannot fully appreciate apostate me.