Category Archives: COMMUNICATION THERAPY

Healthy Complaining Vs. Harmful Complaining in Relationships

Healthy Complaining Vs. Harmful Complaining in Relationships

 

photo taken from clipartguide.com

photo taken from clipartguide.com

As a Licensed Marriage and family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with John Gottman’s assertion that it’s a myth that happily married people don’t complain about each other’s behaviors.  The reality in partnerships and marriages is that we all have our own idiosyncratic needs, rhythms, desires, and habits.  Inevitably, sometimes our different needs and desires can collide.  Given that it’s inevitable that partners in relationships inevitably have complaints about each other, it’s incredibly helpful for the vitality and well-being of your relationship to know how to engage in healthy complaining vs. harmful complaining

One strategy that simply won’t work, however, is stifling your complaints and burying them alive.  This well-intentioned strategy or fear-based endeavor only serves to create “negative sentiment override.”  In other words, over time your bad thoughts about your partner override your positive thoughts about your partner, and you eventually associate him or her with feelings of pain, resentment, anger, or loneliness.  When you stockpile your grievances, your bad feelings fester and grow, and sooner or later you find yourself distancing yourself emotionally from him or her to avoid feeling pain, or you might lash out at your partner while he or she feels blindsided because your silence has left them clueless and in the dark.  When your offending partner is in the dark, he or she can’t improve his ability to meet your needs because he doesn’t know what is wrong until after you’ve already hit your limit and exploded with a barrage of criticisms.

In a moment, I’m going to share with you examples of harmful complaining, and then I’m going to then share with you healthy ways to complain to your partner instead.

Harmful Complaining

 

Harmful Complaining:  Describe your perception of the problem as an absolute truth:  “Anyone can see that…”

Harmful complaining:  Stockpiling complaints

Harmful complaining:  Make broad, sweeping statements using always or never:  You never take me anywhere…

Harmful Complaining:  Digging up grievances from the past

Harmful Complaining:  Don’t complain:  Expect your partner to mind read and guess your needs and desires…

Harmful Complaining:  Criticize your partner’s personality or character

Harmful Complaining:  Give your partner unsolicited advice, telling him what he  should or shouldn’t do, say, behave, appear, etc.

 

Harmful Ways to Respond to a Complaint

 

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Ignore the complaint, stonewall, be dismissive of the complaint, become defensive, and/or counterattack.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Belittle or criticize your partner for complaining, become sarcastic, condescending, critical, or contemptuous.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Defend yourself; find justifications and rationalizations for your behavior, your lapses in integrity, your broken agreements, etc.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Deny responsibility for the problem and deflect the blame back on the other person.  Ultimately, we must remember that we are responsible for how we choose to respond to people, regardless of how they treat us.

 

Healthy Complaining

 

Healthy Complaining:  Express your needs and/or complain in ways that are clear, respectful, specific, and immediate.  Your partner is more likely to hear your complaint and respond to it when you share your complaint in this manner; this approach leads to problem solving, building intimacy, and strengthening your relationship.

Healthy complaining:  Share responsibility for the problem vs. blame problem on other person

Healthy complaining:   Describe the problem in terms of your perception, opinion, or style:

Healthy Complaining:  Focus on a specific problem, tackling each problem one at a time

Healthy Complaining:  Focus on the present

Healthy Complaining: Focus on your partner’s actions and share how they make you feel (“when you do…, I feel…”)

Healthy Complaining:  Tell your partner about your needs, longings, and desires

Healthy Complaining:  Ask your partner for what you want rather than focus on what you don’t want.  Address his or her behavior instead of his or her character.

Healthy Complaining:  Ask your partner first if he or she is open to hearing your complaint and/or constructive feedback; Asking him or her first respects your partner’s autonomy and opens their hearts to being more receptive to what you wish to share.

Healthy Complaining:  Preface your complaint by first sharing your positive intention and positive desired outcome for  sharing your complaint in the first place.

Healthy Ways to Respond to a Complaint

 

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint: Rephrase your partner’s complaint so your partner feels heard, acknowledged, and trusts that you understand what he or she is saying

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Ask questions for to understand your partner’s frame of reference more.  Ask open-ended questions to give him or her room to elaborate and share even more about what’s weighing on his or her mind.

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Acknowledge and empathize with the feelings behind your partner’s complaint, even if you don’t agree with what he or she is complaining about

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Take ownership for your actions and apologize when an apology is warranted.

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Take responsibility for your contribution to the problem

Healthy way to Respond to a Complaint:  Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  In other words, listen first, talk second.

Healthy way to Respond to a Complaint:  Be mindful of your body language, and respond with a receptive, soft tone of voice

Please keep in mind that it’s not uncommon that one or both partners in a relationship are highly sensitive to complaints and criticism. People who are highly sensitive to complaints and criticism likely developed these patterns in childhood:  usually this heightened sensitivity stems from growing up in homes where there was substance abuse, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, abandonment, or emotional neglect.  Small Children are naturally Egocentric and falsely believe their actions cause family problems or instability. They feel responsible for the unfortunate circumstances going on in their lives that are beyond their control.  In turn, they are prone to blaming themselves for their parent’s divorce, the death of a loved one, their parent’s abrupt departure to fight in wars, etc.  As they grow up, they feel compelled to defend themselves, to say constantly, “It’s not my fault.” If they hear a complaint, they automatically brace themselves and prepare to fight back, whether they’re under attack or not.

This can be a real struggle in a close partnership or marriage.  What starts out as one person sharing his needs can quickly devolve into a full-fledged battle.  The highly sensitive partner might be prone to jumping to distorted conclusions about what his or her partner is saying and presume that he or she is being deliberately hurtful or malicious when this may not be the case at all.  The antidote or solution to this pattern is for the highly sensitive partner is to listen carefully to the words his partner is saying when he is stating a need or a making request; your partner may not be as critical as you first think.  Be particularly aware of times that you automatically react by defending yourself.  Think or imagine a different response instead, and mentally rehearse that new response in your mind’s eye repeatedly so that you’re more likely to respond in kind the next time you feel emotionally criticized. Take a deep breath, pause, and courageously challenge yourself to agree to anything that your partner says that rings true.  If you wish, you can also summon the courage to ask your partner to tell you more about his need or complaint.

If your partner is highly sensitive, take extra care to avoid criticism when stating your needs.  If your partner responds defensively, avoid responding the same way; respond to defensiveness by clarifying your statement of need.

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog.  I hope that you found it illuminating and helpful.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

( MNLP/CHT/Dharma Life Coach & Sports Psychology Consultant)

 

H.A.L.T. BEFORE YOUR ARGUMENTS ESCALATE!!

image taken from express.ok.uk

image taken from express.ok.uk

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master NLP Practitioner, I’ve worked with countless couples and families since 2000.  In my work with them, I’ve learned how incredibly important it is to encourage them to discuss inflammatory topics when they are in resourceful states; it is the difference that makes the difference.  When couples or families are in resourceful states, each person is feeling calm, centered, open-minded, and desirous of hearing what their loved one wants to share and say; they seek first to understand, then to be understood. They know in their heart  that they have the resources within them to remain safe, fully present, and grounded even if their partner or family member says something that they wholeheartedly disagree with.  They also know that they are deeply lovable and worthwhile regardless of what is being said.

Unfortunately, couples and family members discuss feelings and other touchy subjects when they’re not in resourceful states.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve witnessed this misstep all too often, and I’ve seen couples and family members escalate the tension between them and saying and doing things that only serve to damage the safety and trust that serves as the foundation of their relationship.  As a result, I encourage them to be mindful of the following acronym:  H.A.L.T.  The letters in this acronym stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

Whenever a person is hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, they’re prone to hearing things in a distorted way.  They are vulnerable to seeing the world and their relationship through a dark prism, and they’re going to take assume the worst and/or misconstrue what’s being said simply because they’re not in a resourceful state.  On the contrary, they’re in an imbalanced state of mind and body, and therefore they’re unable to hear, think, and respond accurately or constructively.  In addition to being mindful of whether or not you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I want to invite you now to consider what other states make it very challenging for you to truly listen and talk to your loved one without the likelihood of tensions between the two of you blowing up in your faces.

If you’re a woman, for example, I wonder if the day before your menstrual cycle or throughout your menstrual cycle you’re more likely to enter into a state of mind and body that makes you far more prone to misconstruing what’s being said or more vulnerable to seeing the people around you in a negative light.  If you’re a man or woman who is on medication and happens to experience withdrawal symptoms when you forget to take it, I wonder if this is a time when you’re more likely to be irritable, agitated, and unable to have a constructive conversation with the person you love.  If you’ve just received bad news, I wonder if this is a time when you’re not in enough of a resourceful state to have a challenging conversation.

Starting today, if you’re in a relationship and there is a challenging topic that you or your loved one wants to discuss, ask yourself if you’re in enough of a resourceful state to have the discussion without losing your cool.  Ask yourself if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and/or any other emotion that will make it too difficult for you to be fully present, calm, cool, and collected to talk about something that might trigger you.  If you’re not in a resourceful state, I want to invite you to tell your loved one that you’d like to take a time out and revisit the topic in a  mutually agreeable amount of time to avoid unnecessary hurt  and preserve, instead, the well being, safety, and trust that keeps your relationship thriving.

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog.  I hope that you found it thought provoking and instructive.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist

 

What is NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming)?

Image taken from expertmind.com

Image taken from expertmind.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, I want to take a moment and share with you what NLP stands for; Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a name that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (Neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (Programming).

To define “Neuro” more clearly for you, I want to add that it includes our nervous system (the mind) through which our experiences are processed through our five senses: More specifically Visual (sight), Auditory (hearing), Kinesthetic (touch), Olfactory (smell), and Gustatory (taste).  In NLP, we believe that we encode and give meaning to our sensory experiences through our use of Sub Modalities.  Visual Sub Modalities, for example, include whether or not the images in our minds are in black and white, color, near or far, bright or dim, focused or unfocused, moving or still, framed or panoramic, associated or disassociated, etc.  Auditory Sub Modalities include whether or not what we hear is loud or soft, internal or external, fast or slow, high in pitch, low, etc.  Kinesthetic Sub Modalties include whether or not our felt sense of our experiences have a shape to it, a texture, a size, a weight, a movement, a location in our bodies, etc.  In NLP, Master NLP Practitioners like me change a client’s Sub Modalities (with his or her permission and collaboration) so that we can change the way he or she has encoded and given meaning to his experiences, if it will serve his or her highest good to do so.

For example, if a client of mine has a daunting picture or movie in his mind’s eye of an upcoming tennis match, and it appears to him in black and white, dim, and loud with the sound of tennis balls being whacked all around the court, I might encourage him to make the picture or movie colorful, bright, and accompanied by the sight of tennis balls moving in slow motion with a muted sound. If his opponent appears to him in his picture or movie as 10 feet tall, I might encourage him to freeze the frame, shrink it in size, and make his opponent appear 1 inch tall with big ears and bushy eye brows.  I might even encourage him to add a circus soundtrack to his picture or movie to help him laugh and see his tennis match as funny and therefore something to look forward to.

If the nervousness he is feeling feels like a cold, rectangular piece of sharp glass located in the pit of his stomach, I might encourage him to make the cold, rectangular shape of sharp glass in the pit of stomach warm, round, soft, and ask him to then imagine pushing that rectangular object out of his stomach to the opposite side of the room.  By changing his Sub Modalities, or the ways he is encoding and giving meaning to his tennis match, I’m changing his “internal representation”, or interpretation, of what his tennis match really means; It’s an opportunity to have fun, embrace the challenge, and do his very best.  After all, Master NLP Practitioners don’t believe that there is such a thing as failure; there is only feedback.

Changing his picture or movie of his match will change his “State” (feelings), which in turn will change his physiology and body language.  This is one of the many goals of NLP; to change a client’s  “internal representations”, or his  interpretations of events that are being influenced by his senses and 5 senses and respective Sub Modalities, so that he can change the way he sees the past, the present, and the future as well as how he sees himself, others, and the world around him.

When I use the term “Linguistic”, I am referring to the language and other nonverbal communication systems through which our neural representations are coded, ordered, and given meaning.  These neural representations include pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells, and words (Self-Talk.)  These words also include the metaphors, similes, and analogies we use as well as the many symbolic ways that we express ourselves. When we change these neural representations, we are able to change our states and internal representations of the world, and we are also able to communicate with others far more effectively.  The language used in NLP is often sensory grounded to code what we’re capable of doing behaviorally.

When it comes to “Linguistics”, Master NLP practitioners like me wholeheartedly believe that only 7% of communication with others consists of the words we use; 38% of communication consists of the tone that we use; finally, 55% of our communication with others consists of our physiology, or body language.  Therefore, when we choose to mirror someone else’s words, tone, and body language, we’re able to build rapport with them almost instantly.

Another way that master NLP practitioners use language powerfully is by incorporating hypnotic language when working with clients.  When NLP originators John Grinder and Richard Bandler teamed up with the father of hypnosis, Milton Erickson, they realized that using NLP techniques and patterns in concert with Erickson’s hypnotic phrasing helped them to affect positive change in their clients even more rapidly than they did beforehand.  Erickson’s hypnotic language is merely a way of using words to bypass a client’s conscious resistance so that he or she is receptive to the very changes in their lives that they want to create!!  A typical Erickson language pattern often used is called “tag questions.”  If a client of mine wants to believe that she’s capable, but she consciously believes that she’s incapable, I might use a tag question by saying, ” You know better than anyone that you’re capable, don’t you?”

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I know that speaking to a client’s conscious mind and saying, “you’re capable” will likely go in one ear and out the other; my words will be met with resistance.  However, my use of the tag question, “Don’t you?” will bypass his or her resistance to this new truth, and his or her unconscious mind will be far more receptive to agreeing with my empowering assertion. In light of all that I’ve shared with you about “Linguistics,” I would offer to you that NLP is clearly a powerful way of using the language of the mind to consistently achieve specific and desired outcomes.

When Master NLP practitioners use the word, “programming, ” they’re referring to a person’s unconscious belief systems, their memories, emotions, neuro-associations (the feelings we associate with certain people, places, and things), value systems, “parts” to their personality, communication styles and patterns, habits, strategies, behaviors, and the countless other ways we’ve been conditioned to perceive, experience, and show up in our lives and in the world.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that NLP is so powerful because its techniques allow us to access and get in rapport with our unconscious minds. This is so significant because it is believed that only 8% of our moment to moment awareness is conscious, and 92% of our moment to moment awareness is unconscious, or presently inaccessible to us; instead, everything else that we that don’t know that we know is housed in the bejeweled warehouse of our unconscious minds.

Almost magically, NLP patterns, techniques, insights, and experiential exercises help us to reprogram our minds and come up with new programs, strategies, and behaviors  that we can  run in our neurological systems to achieve our specific and desired outcomes. When we assimilate these specific set of unconscious strategies, we create the differences that make the difference in our lives.  When our unconscious beliefs, values, and personal self-concept/sense of ourselves are in alignment with our conscious set of beliefs, values, and self-concept, we feel integrated, whole, complete, and newly empowered!!

Although you may have never heard of the following NLP techniques and patterns, some include the Time Line Technique, Parts Integration, Anchoring, Future Pacing, Visualization, Mental, Emotional and Psychological Rehearsal, the Swish Pattern, Mapping Across, The Modeling Process, The Inner Sage Pattern, The Charles Dickens Pattern, the Walt Disney Pattern, Voice Dialogue Technique, Rapport Building, working with Primary Representational Systems, Developing Sensory Acuity, The Falling Out Of Love Pattern, The Enough is Enough Pattern, The Movie Rewind Pattern, etc.  As a Master NLP Practitioner, I have found that NLP tools and skills work powerfully in the development of states of individual excellence and enhancing human performance. In addition, they establish a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions that reveal what human beings are, what communication is, and what the process of change is all about.

NLP is therefore a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior.  At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity, and mission. It helps us access the treasure trove of wisdom and resources that are housed in our unconscious minds and brings our wisdom and resources to the surface of conscious awareness so that we can access our full human potential.   In addition, it also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the ‘spiritual’ part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence; it is about wisdom and vision.

According to Master NLP Practitioner Robert Diltz, NLP is essentially founded on two fundamental presuppositions:

1. The Map is Not the Territory.  As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our ‘neuro-linguistic’ maps of reality that determine how we behave and that give those behaviors meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.

2. Life and ‘Mind’ are Systemic Processes. The processes that take place within a human being and between human beings and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form ecology of complex systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate any part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on certain ‘self-organizing’ principles and naturally seek optimal states of balance or homeostasis.

All of the models and techniques of NLP are based on the combination of these two principles. In the belief system of NLP, it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality. Wisdom, ethics, and ecology do not derive from having the one ‘right’ or ‘correct’ map of the world, because human beings are not capable of making one. Rather, the goal is to create the richest map possible that respects the systemic nature and ecology of ourselves and the world we live in.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that the people who are most effective in life are the ones who are most flexible and have a map of the world that allows them to perceive the greatest number of available choices and perspectives. They use NLP patterns and techniques to enrich the choices that they have and perceive as available in the world around them. They recognize that excellence comes from having many choices, and they believe that wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives.

Through the years, NLP has continued to develop some very powerful tools and skills for communication and change in a wide range of professional areas including: Psychotherapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, Counseling, Life Coaching, Education, Health, Business, Creativity, Law, Management, Sales, Leadership and Parenting.  NLP is now in its third decade as a field of study and has evolved considerably since its beginnings in the mid 1970s. Over the years, NLP has literally spread around the world and has touched the lives of millions of people. Since the 1990’s, a new generation of NLP has been developing.

If you’d like me to teach you leading-edge NLP techniques and patterns to help you get into rapport with your unconscious mind, accelerate your personal growth process, and unleash far more of your full potential as a man, woman, and/or athlete than you have ever imagined before, please reach out to me and let me know!! Like so many of my other clients, I trust that you will find that NLP tools and techniques will serve as a powerful catalyst in your pursuit of personal growth and transformation.

Thank you very much for taking your time to read my article/blog on NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming).  I hope that you that you’ve found it informative, thought-provoking, and enlightening!!

image from purenlp.com

image from purenlp.com

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT

(Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer/Certified Hypnotherapist)

 

5 Distinguishable Styles of Communication

CommunicateAs a Marriage and Family Therapist, I owe a debt of gratitude to the great psychotherapists and family therapists that have come before me. One such pioneer in the field of family therapy is Virginia Satir, who was widely regarded as the “Mother of Family Therapy.” One particular contribution that Virginia Satir made during her extraordinary career was her identification of 5 distinguishable styles of communication; she noted that communication has to do both with information and the style in which that information is relayed.

In light of this, Virginia named these 5 different styles of communicating as placating, computing, distracting, blaming, and leveling. The first four styles of communicating that I just mentioned are generally unproductive ways of communicating with others.  Satir saw leveling, however, as the healthiest  mode of communicating with others, and she and encouraged her clients to work towards becoming levelers in their interpersonal relationships.

Placators tend to engage in behaviors that are designed to please, soothe, and pacify others. They make unwarranted concessions to others and are prone to accommodating and pleasing others because they have an addiction to seeking out their acceptance and approval. In addition, they are afraid of being rejected or abandoned by others, fear that the people around them will become angry with them, and they therefore fear interpersonal conflict. Consequently, people who use a placating style of communication use language that is intended to win the favor of others, and they are constantly apologetic, and never confrontational or disagreeing. They also tend to walk on eggshells in their communication with others, and they tend to preface what they are about to say before they say it in the hopes that what they say won’t be misconstrued.  They do this to cover all their bases in order to preempt a misunderstanding that could unintentionally cause someone to be disappointed or angry with them.  As a result of this communication style, people who placate are often chameleons without a solid sense of themselves, or they are vulnerable to being codependent individuals or co-narcissists who give up their authentic voice because they’re too afraid of what’s at risk if they speak their truth.

Those who engage in a Computing style of communication tend to detach themselves from their emotions and attempt to respond to situations in their lives in a logical and controlled way that is not influenced by their feelings. They are intent on delivering responses that are dry, cool, and calculated, and they tend to keep their voices even and often make use of abstract language. These individuals are often prone to communicating in a computing style because they’ve often developed a fear regarding expressing their own emotions. People who use a Computing style of communicating tend to live in their heads, and they will even use language that reflects theirmore left-brained approach to experiencing relationships and the world at large.  For example, someone who uses a computing style of communicating is more apt to say, “that doesn’t compute with me,” “that’s illogical,” or “the facts and data that you’ve just provided for me simply don’t add up.”  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s often a goal of mine to help those who have a computing style of communication to drop down into their hearts and share their thoughts and feelings from that sacred, vulnerable space.

Those who adopt a Distracting style of communication tend to behave and respond in an unpredictable manner that jolts and interrupts one-self and others. They are known to say or do things that are irrelevant to the language and actions of others; they are not emotionally attuned to others, and they are therefore unable to hold space for others because they’re so disconnected from their own thoughts and feelings. When they speak, they are often prone to being tangential and  jump from one topic to another. Distracters tend to feel restless and panicked physiologically, and they often use a tone that is fast, erratic, and unstable, varying in pitch for no apparent reason. These individuals often appear to have significant psychological issues which make relating to them very challenging. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found that working with individuals and couples that have a distracting style of communication challenging because it can be difficult to follow what my client or clients are actually saying. As a group facilitator, I’ve found that individuals with a distracting style of communication can unintentionally interrupt the flow of what is taking place in my groups, and I’ve found that other group members become increasingly aware of this issue as time goes by.

Those who have a Blaming mindset are prone to looking for and seeing problems and fault in others, and they tend to boss others around and try to manipulate and control them. Blamers can often be quite narcissistic, and they believe that they are better than everyone else. They do not believe that they are accountable or at cause for any of the problems that they face in their lives. Instead, they see themselves as victims and believe that everyone else is to blame for everything that goes wrong in their lives. In addition, they tend to think in black and white, and they don’t see others or the world in shades of grey at all.  People who have a blaming style of communicating often distort events that have taken place, and their distorted, revisionist memories often serve to protect their fragile egos and preserve their pristine sense of self.  Sadly, they often  perceive that nobody is genuinely concerned about them, and as they become resentful and more angry at others, their tone can become loud, harsh, and abrasive. They can be insensitive to the feelings of others, and they are often very reluctant to apologize to those they’ve hurt because they sincerely believe that they’re the ones that have been wronged in the first place.  In addition, they are reluctant to say they’re sorry because they believe that doing so is a sign of weakness.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it can be very challenging to work with people who adopt a blaming style of thinking and communicating because they are rarely interested in personal introspection and personal growth.

Alas, the healthiest communication style that Satir highlighted is Leveling. Leveling refers to the healthy communication mode of expressing oneself in an assertive manner so that one’s language and behavior is direct, straightforward, and congruent with one’s honest and authentic self. People who adopt the leveling approach express themselves in a way where there is harmony between their actions, words, tone of voice, and posture/gestures. They engage in active listening, are comfortable with silence, and they articulate their thoughts and feelings in such a way that people truly hear and understand them.  Levelers seek first to understand, then to be understood.  They also tend to value partnership, and they  look to create win-win scenarios when they’re talking to people.  They are also able to empathize with others and  see things from their point of view, and they are excellent at diffusing tense discussions by letting the other person know that first and foremost they want what is best for everyone.

People who adopt a leveling style of communication also tend to speak from their heart, and they’re comfortable being vulnerable with others.  As a matter of fact, they believe that being vulnerable with others is an act of courage and serves as a bridge to deeper connection.  They also see conflicts that arise in their interpersonal relationships as opportunities for personal growth as well as opportunities to grow closer to that person after the conflict is talked through and resolved. Levelers also tend to be the first ones to take ownership for their mistakes, and they apologize to others when they’ve hurt them.  They tend to be easy to understand and relate to, and they project themselves as “What you see is what you get” kinds of people. Finally, they contribute toward relationships that are safe, mature, and capable of genuine intimacy.

Now that you’ve read about Satir’s 5 different communication styles, I want to invite you to consider the following question: Which of the five communication styles mentioned above typically represents your strategy for communicating with others?

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’m a firm believer that how we choose to communicate profoundly impacts our relationships and profoundly shapes the course of our lives. There are countless other nuances and insights into effective communication that I’ve written about in other blogs on my website. Never the less, I trust that you’ll find it useful to consider your particular communication style and whether or not it’s been serving you to date.

If you’d like to learn how to adopt a leveling communication style so that you can make the most out of your interpersonal relationships and ensure that you feel seen, heard, and thoroughly understood, please get in touch with me so that I can help you to acquire a leveler’s communication style and skill set. You’re very welcome to e-mail me at jboesky8@gmail.com or call me at my office at (619)280-8099 to set up a time to visit with me in person so we can get to work!! I trust that you’ll discover that learning a leveler’s style of communicating will be a very rewarding process for you.

Thank you for taking your time to read my blog on the 5 distinguishable communication styles. I hope that you found it interesting and enlightening.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP
Marriage and Family Therapist/Master NLP Practitioner

HOW TO SAY I’M SORRY

Image taken from cardboiled.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve worked with individuals, couples, groups, and athletes, and from time to time one of my clients owes someone in their lives a sincere apology.  I’ve seen husbands and wives call each other mean-spirited names, for example, and I’ve also met with couples who have even gone so far as to become physically abusive with their spouses!!  I’ve also had couples who have come in for couple’s marriage and family therapy to rebuild trust after one partner was unfaithful to the other.

As a group facilitator, I’ve occasionally witnessed a group member judge or shame another group member, leaving them feeling belittled and small.  In my individual work with clients, I’ve had people come in to see me for family counseling because their relationships with their parents or siblings have become strained as a result of a betrayal that they’ve committed, like stealing money from a loved one or using drugs while living in their parent’s home.

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve worked with coaches who have mistreated their athletes or shown favoritism to some athletes on their team over others.  Finally, I’ve worked with some athletes who have hazed their teammates or given up on their team during an important game.  In all of the scenarios mentioned above, the perpetrators have owed their victims a sincere apology to begin the repair work needed to rebuild the trust and safety that serve as the foundation and pillars for thriving relationships.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t comfortable uttering the words, “I’m sorry.”  I’ve had clients concede to me that apologizing to someone else feels like a form of weakness to them, and they’re simply too proud to go there.  Other clients of mine have lacked the courage to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge to their victim that they’ve made a mistake, and so they choose to sweep their perpetration under the rug in the false hope that time will heals all wounds.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also noticed that some of my clients simply don’t know how to go about the process of apologizing to someone else.  As a result, their apologies sound insincere, halfhearted, and incomplete.  In light of all of this, I’ve decided to write a blog detailing how to offer a sincere and thorough apology to someone you’ve hurt and want to make amends with.

To begin with, I want to strongly encourage you to engage in some introspection and self-reflection before you apologize so that you know what you’re apologizing for in the first place!!   Humbly and courageously acknowledge to yourself what specific actions, in-actions, words, deeds, and any other ways where you believe that you have faltered that warrants an apology to someone else.  Take this valuable time to pause and deeply understand what fears, shadows, beliefs, and behavioral patterns compelled you to hurt someone else, knowingly or unknowingly.  These insights will help you to grow emotionally and spiritually, and they’ll demonstrate to your victim as well as and reassure him or her that you have more self-awareness now and are therefore unlikely to act or repeat your hurtful actions again.

After you’ve acknowledged to yourself what you’ve said or done to someone else that warrants an apology, and after you’ve engaged in some meaningful self- reflection, ask the person you wish to apologize to if they’re open to sitting down with you and talking about what you did that led to your hurting their feelings and creating disconnection between the two of you.  Asking that person if they’re open to talking and if so, when, shows a willingness to honor their autonomy and free will as well as demonstrates that you want to be sensitive to whether or not the person you’ve hurt is ready to hear your apology.  Sometimes a person’s wounds are still too raw, and they’re just not ready yet to hear your apology, let alone accept it and offer you their forgiveness.

If the person you’ve hurt agrees to hear you out, I’d encourage you to be mindful of the tone in your voice as well as your body language.  The tone in our voice makes up %38 of our communication, and our body language accounts for 55% of our communication.  With this in mind, imagine that your voice and body is an instrument, and be sure that you’re instrument is finely tuned so that what you say resonates from your heart and vibrates genuine remorse while your body visibly reflects sincere contrition.

Speaking of your tone and body language, I want to invite you to make the tone in your voice soft, gentle, humble, and remorseful, and I’d encourage you to make your body language open and receptive to whatever your victim might have to say after you’ve said that you’re sorry.  If your arms are folded across your chest and your rolling your eyes while you’re saying you’re sorry, for example, you’re likely showing  signs of reluctance on your part to say that you’re sorry, or you may be unconsciously showing signs that you’re feeling guarded, proud, or too afraid vulnerably speak of your mistakes.

These body language cues often demonstrate a fear of vulnerability on your part, or they show a lack of emotional maturity.  After all, we are all imperfect and prone to intentionally or unintentionally hurting those we care about, and so summoning the humility, vulnerability, and courage to say that you’re sorry to someone speaks volumes about your character. If your arms, legs, and heart are open and you maintain gentle eye contact, the recipient of your apology will feel safe to hear what you’d like to say. He or she will likely admire your humility, courage and character as well, and they consequently  be far readier than before to accept your apology and reconcile with you.

As you’re apologizing, I implore you to take 100 percent ownership for what you’ve said or done that you believe warrants an apology in the first place.  Identify and articulate the specific ways that you fear that you’ve harmed your victim.  Avoid at all costs minimizing, rationalizing, justifying, or sugar coating your hurtful behavior.  Also, do not look to blame that person or anyone else for what you’ve said or done.

All of the above tactics merely dilute your apology and show that you’re either too proud or too fragile to summon the courage to take full responsibility for your actions.  In turn, the person you’re halfheartedly apologizing to will get an unsettling window into your character and learn that he or she really can’t trust that you won’t repeat your behavior again.  After all, you have just tainted your apology by your countless attempts to deflect accountability from the actions that you’ve committed.

In addition to avoiding in engaging in the deflection tactics that I’ve mentioned above, avoid using “distancing language.”  For example, don’t say, “I’m sorry for the things that happened” or “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way.”  Again, it’s important to take personal ownership for the specific ways you’ve hurt someone.  The two attempts at apologizing that I just referenced sound vague and generic, and they lack personal accountability.  If a person says, “I’m sorry for the things that happened”, they’re not acknowledging what specifically happened?  The truth is, their behaviors didn’t just happen, as if they somehow fell out of the sky and into their lives.  Instead, they chose to do or say something very specific that caused someone else harm.

When a perpetrator says “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in some way,” the word “if” implies that they’re not really sure what they have said or done that warrants an apology in the first place.  I’m addition, imagining that they have hurt their victim in “some way” implies that they don’t even know specifically what they’re apologizing for.  If this is the case, then it’s really not worth taking the time to offer a hollow apology in the first place.

After you’ve said that you’re sorry, taken 100% accountability for your specific actions, and shown through your tone, body language, and words genuine remorse, I want to invite you to go the extra mile and summon the courage to ask your victim  if there’s anything else they feel that you owe them an apology for that you may have missed. Seeking this additional feedback from the person you’ve hurt shows a sincere interest on your part to make things right and take ownership for every last drop of your hurtful behavior.

If the person you’ve hurt takes you up on your offer and shares new information that they believe warrants an additional apology, acknowledge ( if their additional feedback rings true for you) that you overlooked that piece and take ownership for those parts as well.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen this gesture help victims  feel deeply  validated  and heard, and they will deeply appreciate your willingness to  give them the time and space to voice any additional pain that’s been been festering  inside their hearts.

At this point, it’d be a very gracious overture on your part to ask how your behavior impacted the person that you hurt.  As you listen to him or her share their thoughts and feelings, be compassionate and empathetic.  Offer them your undivided attention, and acknowledge and validate how your behavior has impacted them.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I always encourage my clients to use active listening skills that reflect back to their victim, for example,”I truly hear that when I called you a nobody you felt belittled and degraded, and I’m deeply sorry for that.  Truthfully, I would feel belittled and degraded too if someone I cared about called me a nobody.”  Following your empathetic words, take this opportunity to reassure the person that you’ve hurt how you really feel about them.  For example, you might want to say,   “I want to reassure you, though, that I don’t feel that way about you at all.  On the contrary, I value you very much and I hold you in very high regard.”

After you’ve given your victim the time and space to share how your actions impacted him, and after you’ve offered them genuine compassion and empathy for the pain you’ve caused them, and after you’ve reassured them how you truly feel about them, take a moment and ask them if there’s any way that you can support them now and going forward to help them heal from the pain that they’re feeling.  In addition, you may even want to ask them if there’s some act of service you can do for them that will symbolically show them that you really want to move forward in repairing your relationship.

If and/or after you’ve mutually agreed on a specific act of service or gesture that will help to rebuild the trust and safety in your relationship, take a moment to reassure the person that you’ll continue to actively work on developing your own self- awareness so that you make every effort to never hurt that person in the same way again. You may even want to let them know something specifically that you’ll be doing to ensure that it’s your sincere intention to never repeat your hurtful behavior.  For example, you might say, “By the way, in my resolve to make sure I never call you belittling names again, I’m going to be seeing a therapist weekly for the next 6 months.”  Or you might say, ” To ensure that I don’t drink too much and black out and embarrass you again, I’m going to get sober and attend AA meetings at least 3 days a week.”

As a marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that such actions show the person that you’ve hurt that you’re willing to back up your apology with specific personal growth steps to ensure that you don’t hurt them again. When you do this, you’re immediately beginning the process of getting back into integrity with that person as well as filling them up with an increased sense of safety, trust, and reassurance that you’re going to be taking active measures to grow as a man or woman so that you treat that person and everyone else in your life in ways that are in alignment with your highest self and your core values.

After you’ve participated in an act of service to rebuild the person’s faith in you, and after you’ve offered them reassurance that you intend to take specific actions to ensure that you don’t repeat your hurtful behavior again, rest assured that a very significant and meaningful part of your journey to make amends and say that you’re sorry is finally over!!  In many ways, though, your journey to make amends has also just begun because it takes time to rebuild the trust and safety that you broke when you hurt someone else.  In addition, your journey to repair your relationship has  just begun because you must now follow through on your pledge to take specific actions to grow and evolve as a person so that you do everything in your power to not re-injure your colleague, friend, family member, or lover again.

If opening your heart and learning to be vulnerable and accountable enough to say that you’re sorry to someone that you’ve hurt is challenging for you, I want to take this opportunity to invite you to visit with me so that I can help you to learn the art of offering someone else a heart-felt apology.  I trust that you’ll find that learning this art form will serve as a tremendous catalyst for your personal grown, and it will help you to repair relationships that you want to salvage much sooner than later.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening and useful.

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

 

 

THE DANCE OF FEAR AND SHAME IN RELATIONSHIPS

caption taken from dreamstime.com

caption taken from dreamstime.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often see couples whose relationships are very strained and are on the brink of being irreparably broken.  There are often countless reasons why couples fall out of love and instead build armor around their hearts and fortresses around their souls.  Among the many reasons for their relationships deterioration, I want to bring to light one toxic relationship dance that most couples often fall into without even knowing it.  It involves the emotions of fear and shame.

Although this isn’t true for every man and woman, it is frequently true that men are vulnerable to feelings of shame, inadequacy, and failure.  These emotions generally cause men to either lash out with anger or simply shut down.  Women, on the other hand, frequently fear feeling hurt, isolated, and deprived.  They feel deprived, for example, of attention, connection, warmth, love, protection, validation, etc.  Unfortunately, when a woman shares these kinds of feelings with her man, he feels ashamed and not good enough, and in turn he either gets angry or stonewalls, shuts down, and emotionally disappears.

Going forwards, be sensitive to one another’s emotional vulnerabilities.  Men and women often cope with feelings of shame and fear by blaming, defending, becoming contemptuous, or stonewalling.  The essentially engage in one of two modes:  Attack or avoid.  I want to encourage you to be emotionally attuned to your partner’s feelings, and if you sense that he or she is feeling shame or fear respectively, approach him or her instead.  In addition, approach him or her with an open heart, curiousness, and a willingness to empathize with how he or she if feeling.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve personally seen this new approach tactic positively change the dynamic in couple’s relationships in a matter of weeks!!  Each person  feels safe, appreciated, and connected again, and their relationship feels loving and whole again.

If you’re relationship is stumbling over and over again in the fear/shame dance, please call me and I will give you the tools and insights to dance together anew.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

GROUP THERAPY MAGIC

A Group

Image from montrosecounselingcenter.org

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve facilitated Men’s groups, Women’s groups, Sports Psychology groups, Therapist/Life Coach Training groups, etc. I’ve found time and time again that there’s a magical self-transcendence that takes place in them. Individuals are no longer islands unto themselves privately working one-on-one with a therapist. Instead, they become part of a larger collective, and they develop a sense of kinship and belonging with their peers that they don’t have with their closest friends. This is because groups, when capably facilitated, become safe, sacred sanctuaries where people can take off their masks, shed their personas, and become truly vulnerable and authentic. When this happens, people develop self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance which in turn frees them to experience the grounded joy that comes from connection to themselves and others.

The common misconception that group therapy provides a forum for self-pity, whining, and passivity couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, group therapy is a very dynamic experience. Group members compassionately challenge each other to stretch beyond their comfort zones in order to expand and grow. As for me, I ask my clients to participate in experiential exercises that get them to think and feel and act in new ways that will serve them most in their lives. I also offer my group members teaching pieces on mindfulness, communication, active listening, etc. Most importantly, I make it my top priority to have my clients feel deeply seen and truly understood. Before you know it, everyone is learning how to deeply see, understand, and validate each other. Group members become co-creators, challengers, coaches, confidantes, and great friends.

If you’re looking to grow emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually, a therapy group is definitely one place where you can do this. As a matter of fact, in my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, Self-transcendence and self-transformation often take place faster in groups than they do in individual or couple’s therapy alone. In light of this, if you’ve ever wondered about participating in a therapy group, by all means give me a call!!  I look forward to hearing from you 🙂  John Boesky, LMFT

COALS COMMUNICATION

Communicate with Positive IntentionAs a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s imperative that I model effective active listening and communication skills for my clients.  I also choose to take these active listening and communication skills home with me to my wife and family, so that I not only talk the talk but walk the walk.  I want my intentions, words, and actions to be aligned with one another.  This way, I can proudly declare that I’m a man of integrity.

Family therapists often see couples or families who are accusatory, defensive, hostile, and withdrawing in their communication with their loved ones.  Instead of engaging in these counterproductive communication patterns, I encourage my clients to take deep breaths when they’re feeling triggered, and then to be the following in their communication with others:  Curious, Open, Accepting, Loving, and Listening.  The acronym for this is COALS.  When a client has the presence of mind to follow the COALS approach to communication, they emerge from their communication endeavors with others triumphant. The COALS approach lets the light in.  It creates space for two people to be heard, understood, and validated.

It takes self-discipline, mental rehearsal, and practice to enter into a COALS state of mind when communicating with others.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist and communication expert, I encourage you to give it a try.  You’ll love what happens next!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

(Master NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist/Dharma Life Coach/& Sports Psychology Consultant)

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Image from nitezola.wordpress.com

Image from nitezola.wordpress.com

 

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, communication is key to building rapport with clients.  Communication is the key that unlocks the doors behind which people often hide.  Communication is the key that opens their hearts.  There are many facets and dimensions to effective communication.  In this blog post, I will share with you one facet to effective communication that will hopefully be enlightening and thought-provoking for you:  Communication has little to do with the words that we say.  That’s right.  According to tons of data and research, the words we use make up only 7% of our communication.  Another 38% of our communication consists of our tone.  Last but certainly not least, the remaining 55% of our communication stems from our body language, or physiology.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can teach you the kinds of words to use when speaking with your business partner, friend, lover, etc.  Although words only make up 7% of communication, do no let this statistic mislead you.  Words carry a lot of weight, and they can make or break a conversation.  In addition to words we use, Family Therapists also know that the tone a person uses in his communication with others is instrumental in bringing either harmony or discord between two people.  If a person’s tone is abrasive or indifferent, for example, the communication between two people can go South very fast.  Finally, a family therapist like myself knows that our body language communicates an incredible amount of valuable information to whomever we’re speaking to.  Heck, police interrogators watch a person’s body language far more closely than a suspect’s words.  This is precisely because they know that a person’s body language reveals so much about a person’s true feelings, intentions, motives, etc.

If you’re struggling to communicate effectively to the significant people in your lives, I want to invite you to visit with me or any highly capable Marriage and Family Therapist or NLP Practitioner.  Communication is, after all, an art form, and to become a talented artist takes mentoring, time, and practice.  In the meantime, remember that to be a better communicator, you must be mindful of your words, your tone, and your body language.

John Boesky

LMFT/MNLP/CHT

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