Problem Solving Communication
Unfortunately, many conversations follow this pattern:
“I am furious! All you do is sit on the couch after work, while I do everything. You can’t be so lazy, and then have the nerve to mention that the lasagna tasted a little dry. You are so mean!”
“Me? Lazy? All I want to do is relax a for one minute, and I’m the bad guy? Maybe I’d be happier to help if you would at least welcome me home with a hug. All I get is a glare and a list of complaints.”
and back and forth it goes. . .
Notice how neither spouse mentioned the actual problem? Instead, the couple simply passes blame back and forth, each trying to prove their own innocence. Over time, this pattern can damage feelings of love and trust in a relationship. The attacks and insults never solve the problem.
Here’s a healthier way to discuss problems:
“Honey, I feel frustrated sometimes because we try to eat dinner at 6:00pm. It’s a lot of work to get things prepared before that time deadline, and I am feeling stressed. Can we talk about moving dinner back to a later time?”
“So you’re saying that dinner at 6:00 is hard to accomplish. I agree, and you’ve seemed extra stressed lately. If we eat closer to 7:00, that gives us both time to relax after work, and then I can help you cook. Would that work for you?”
Why the above example works better:
-She started the conversation about the solvable problem (the time scheduled for dinner)
-She stayed on that topic, rather than resorting to insults and attacks
-He showed her he was listening by repeating back her words
-He suggested a solution to the problem, and asked for her feedback
If something is bothering you, take some time think about what the solvable problem is before you approach you spouse. A solvable problem is usually a short sentence. It is not an insult or an attack. Usually the solvable problem will come to mind with its own solution – how your spouse can help.
Here are some more examples:
“I feel so tired throughout the day, and I think it’s because we go to bed after 11:00pm. What could we do differently in order to be in bed by 10:30pm?”
“When we ignore the kids’ homework until after dinner, I feel nervous that they’ll be too tired to actually complete their work. Can you help them with homework right after school? Is there a way I can help too?”
I hope these examples were helpful. Good luck with problem-solving communication!