What Not To Say

What Not to Say - Cheryl Woolstone Counselling Blog

There are a number of ways to blow it…

…Especially when your partner is upset about something – her job, your mother, his health, your relationship.

Here is what not to say or do when your partner  is upset….

  • Minimizing – “It’s no big deal”. You treat your partner’s concerns and feelings as inconsequential or trivial.
  • Withdrawing – Form of stonewalling. Out of frustration or boredom you become silent and sullen. Abandon your partner.
  • Competitive Whining– “You should hear what happened to me”. One-upmanship, the person with the most catastrophic complaint wins.
  • Fixing– “This is what you should do…”. You get frustrated when your solutions are not accepted. Patronizing and arrogant.
  • Rationalizing – “That makes no sense, you are too emotional”. You go into super-rational mode and negate feelings as irrational. You argue away concerns.
  • Personalizing – “What are you so mad about?”. You act as if your partner’s emotions are a personal attack on you. If she is upset then you are to blame. Your anger is fueled.

No one wants to feel that their emotions are a burden, or based on irrationality, or that every problem needs to be fixed immediately.

Now you know what not to do –  the question is what to do instead…

The Answer


Your partner wants to know that you care about the fact that they are upset, that you respect their right to have their feelings – even if you do not agree with their perception or reaction.

As simple as this sounds, it is the most difficult skill for couples to master.

The reason is a mistaken belief that in order to validate someone you have to agree with them. Validation requires understanding that in any communication, there are always two views, with  equal weight and importance.

Listen to your partner long enough and they will make sense. If you are open and curious about your partner’s experience, without interjecting your story or reality, then you will be able to follow their logic and validate their experience.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 1st, 2011 at 8:00 AM and is filed under IMAGO and Relationships. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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