Have you ever been around someone who just shoulds all over you? I recently spent some time with a very dear friend of mine who shoulds instead of shares, leading to a breakdown of communication in relationships. He tells me I should do this and I should do that and I can’t help but feel instantly on the defensive and the end result is that I stop listening. This friend is also one of the most caring and supportive friends I have, I know his intentions are well meaning. I know that what he is trying to do is share in the excitement he feels. I have come to expect these sorts of interactions with this particular friend and to a certain degree they can sometimes just be what they are. On the other hand this kind of communication in relationships, specifically in a marriage can lead to real problems overtime. Defensiveness, bitterness, frustration, and hurt feelings can build up and leave you feeling unheard and uncared for.
At Power of Two we have a term for this kind of communication in relationships, it’s called a crossover. A crossover is essentially one person entering into another persons emotional territory. Telling someone what they think, feel, are or in this case what they should think, feel, be or do.
Are you guilty of shoulding? Here’s what you can do to stop “shoulding” on your loved ones?
Turn what would have been a should statement into and “I-statement” So…
“You should call your mother” could be “I wonder what’s happening with your mother? When is the last time you two spoke?”
“You should eat more vegetables” could be “I feel healthier when I eat more vegetables. How would you feel about having a salad along with dinner tonight?
Remember the mantra “talk about yourself, ask about the other.” Keeping this simple idea in mind will help you keep the focus where it ought to be, yourself!
The cure for the crossover is the “I-statement” essentially replacing the “you” with “I.” I feel.., I think…, I want to…, I really enjoyed… followed by a how or what question. Not only are you able to share something meaningful to you, you are showing your friend and loved one that you are interested in what they think. It’s a WIN WIN!!
No one wants to be told what to think, feel or do. At the same time, sharing rich and meaningful experiences you have had with your partner, friends and loved ones is incredibly valuable and important. So stop should-ing and start sharing to have more communication in your relationships!