Enhance communication with Transactional Analyis
I caught my words. I knew I needed to apologize.
A couple days ago, Johnny had the day off work. While I took the kids to appointments in Austin, he stayed home to work on our bookcase project (here.) Later that afternoon, when the kids were taking a nap, I went to start a load of laundry, but Johnny so sweetly said he had already started the laundry that morning. My reaction, unfortunately, was this:
“Did you remember to Oxi-Clean all of the baby’s clothes?”
He said he had not. . . to which I replied:
“You have to spray all her clothes, or else the spit up will stain. Her Sunday dress was in that pile, and it needed to be Oxi-Cleaned.”
To which he replied:
“Sorry, I thought I was being helpful.”
Then he walked into the garage to continue working on the bookshelf. (The bookshelf he was building for me. The huge project that I wanted so badly, and he was working so diligently to finish for me.)
Ouch. Immediately after the conversation I felt ashamed of my words. How could I have reacted so poorly to his service? He was trying to ease my burdens, and I criticized him for not spray cleaning one dress. I hadn’t even said “thank you” to him. Luckily, he is not easily offended, and my comments didn’t affect him, but they definitively affected me. I knew I needed to speak to him with more gratitude and love. I made a point of thanking him and complimenting him throughout the rest of the day. I am married to an amazing man, and he inspires me to become a better, kinder person.
How often so we say things to our spouse that needlessly damage our relationship (over time)? How often do we treat our spouse like a child, insinuating that we are the only one who is capable of doing things correctly? There is a psychological theory called Transactional Analysis, which purports that people speak to each other in one of three ways:
When the lines get crossed, conflict can result.
For example, it is typical for parents to talk their children in the Parent-Child format, but an adult wouldn’t talk to a police offer as if the officer were a child. Likewise, when someone “talks down” to you, and you feel like they are acting in a condescending manner, it can be hurtful. The Parent-Child format is a crossed line when two adults are speaking. Positive interactions and positive problem solving happens when adults use the Adult-Adult format.
So, when I spoke to my husband as if he were a child (criticizing his laundry methods), I crossed our typical path of speaking to him as a capable adult. It is not my place to be his parent; in our marriage we are equal partners. There is a time and a place for disagreeing on topics, but the way we speak can determine whether those problem solving conversations are effective or not. Read more about those here. Again, effective communication happens when we use the appropriate methods.
Think about your communication with your spouse. Do you “talk down” to him or her? Do your words imply the Adult-Adult format? If not, change up the way you speak, and find healthier ways to communicate with your loved one. For more tips on how to fight less with your spouse, read here.