Dr. Kenney recalls a common mistake couples often make and shares how to resolve the conflict.
How often do you really think hard about the mistakes you make in your relationships? Let’s reflect for a minute. The biggest mistake we usually make when we are requesting a change in someone’s behavior is to bring in too many examples. Why do we think we are in front of a court of law and we need to provide all of this data. If I just want to ask my husband, “Will you please put the toilet seat down when you’re done using it?” I don’t have to name every restaurant or every home we have ever been in where the toilet seat’s been down. It’s unnecessary. I just say, “Honey, you know, it’s really bothering me that. Do your mind blank.” It’s that easy, okay.
But listen, as I reflect on it, even though you know the right thing to do, sometimes it’s hard to do and that’s why you’ve got to choose the proper time and place to have a communication when you are requesting change in behavior, all right? So I want to give you an example:
I really learned in my own life the time not to request a polite change of behavior is the last two weeks of summer after I have been with my children 24 hours a day for eight straight weeks because you know what, I am grumpy. I am tired. I am grumpy. I am worn out. I need a little space. So what I did, we went out to lunch recently and I knew that I had some things about myself that I needed to change and they knew they had some things about themselves that needed to change in order for us to begin a successful school year.
So this is how I started the conversation. “Have you guys noticed I have been grumpy lately?” “Oh, we should have mom, we don’t want you to be grumpy anymore.” Alright, so aha, there’s going to be a request – a polite request for a change in behavior emanating out of this lunch, okay? And it’s going to be me asking them to do things without being told, alright? But I have to let them tell me all the ways that I have been grumpy, so I listen calmly. I don’t get defensive and I say, “You know, I don’t want to be grumpy anymore either. How could we make that work together?”
You know, in a relationship whenever you are needing something else out of somebody, especially in an intimate relationship, alright, one, you need to know exactly what you want them to do differently, alright? Two, you need to let them vent or explore or talk about their side of it. This is not a one sided request, alright?
And then third, what you get out of that is they are going to ask you to do a little something; you are going to ask them to do a little something and it’s the collaboration that leads to the successful relationship.
About Dr. Lynne Kenney, Psy.D.:
Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a mother of two, a practicing pediatric psychologist in Scottsdale, AZ, and the author of The Family Coach Method (St Lynn’s Press, Sept 2009). She has advanced fellowship training in forensic psychology and developmental pediatric psychology from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Harbor-UCLA/UCLA Medical School. Dr. Kenney is currently a featured expert for Momtastic.com and Parentsask.com.