The good news is this – there are many things you can do to invest positively in, or improve the soil of, your relationship. You will note that some of them are very direct, and some more of a subtle stance, but all of these five winning strategies have lasting impact.
Move from complaint to request
Rule: “you have no right to complain about not getting what you never asked for”. Complaint or criticism rarely engenders an attitude of increased generosity. Be specific about what you want.
Speak out with love and savvy
Before you speak, mentally note that this is not an enemy, but the person you love, and made vows to, and have to live with! Then speak in a way that empowers your spouse, keeping the following question at the forefront of your mind: “What is my goal?” (“is what I am thinking about saying going to lead me closer to, or further from my goal?”) If you are about to use one of the five losing strategies, stop! Speak in a way that enables your partner to do something, not feel helpless.
Note: a partner who feels helpless or disempowered seldom feels generous.
Terry describes a communication tool – the feedback wheel – more about that later.
Respond with Generosity
Rather than the “that’s what you think – but here is my side of the story”, merry go round, this strategy has to do with acknowledging different roles:
There is one person bringing forward and issue … and there is one “listener”. The listener puts aside his/her needs with an attitude of “I am at your service. How can I help you? In putting one’s ego aside, the goal is to make things better for your partner. This mandate helps one keep one’s reactivity in check! The listener then clarifies out loud, by reiterating what they think they heard, and then letting themselves feel what their partner may have felt. Then you may be curious (not challenging!) about parts of the story you didn’t understand.
Empowering each other.
Acknowledge whatever you can about the truth of what you’ve heard (using “I statements”). Admit or take responsibility for whatever you can (this is the opposite of defensiveness). In your response, be as generous as integrity and feasibility allows. Terry asserts “If you want to have an extraordinary relationship, you have to behave extraordinarily in it”.
Cherishing your Partner
You have probably heard the expression “Whatever you focus on expands”. When you cherish your partner’s efforts and respond in like kind, this tender part of your relationship expands. It will mean committing time and energy to incorporate romance and tenderness, truth-telling (so that resentments do not cloud the romance time!) “Appreciate each other at least once a day”. This may be the most effective Winning Strategy.
Make a request for your partner to listen, as you put an issue on the table – “Is this a good time?”
Describe the incident that bothered you.
Take responsibility by stating the story that you made up in your head about the incident.
Say how you felt about it.
Let your partner know what he or she can do about it now, in order to help you regroup and feel better.