Couples Counseling about How We Choose to Respond – Part 4
Once we have received the message from the other person then we need to process the message with an awareness of our potential buttons. Sometimes we need to ask for clarification or more information from the other person before we choose our response. The critical part here is that we consciously choose our response so we are not reactive or impulsive. Making our choice a conscious one empowers us. So we pause, listen to our conversation or debate that is going on in our own head (that no one else is aware of) then ask ourselves, how sure am I that I really understand what they are trying to convey? Does that message fit with this person I am in a relationship with? By that I mean, if you would describe your partner to be a loving, caring, considerate person then what are the chances that they actually meant to send a message that was hurtful or inconsiderate to you? If the meaning we are assigning to the message doesn’t fit with our experience of the other person then perhaps our meaning isn’t accurate. As Izaak Walton said, “There are offenses given and offenses not given but taken.” That’s when we need to get more clarification before we respond. For example, reflect the message with a clarification question at the end (i.e. so it sounds like you are saying ……., is that what you meant?). Once we get their clarification, we have to let go of the original impression or meaning we assigned to the message and go with the new message. We choose our possible responses based on the clarified message. Before we say it out loud we ask ourselves, what good will come from saying this? Like the Arabian Proverb says, “The words of the tongue should have three gatekeepers: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” In the next blog we will cover what happens once we say our chosen response out loud.
Putting the Pieces Together (So We Make Sense of Ourselves, Others and Our World)
Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD
Couples's Therapy Ventura, California
©2014 Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD