Brené Brown Call to Courage got me thinking…
I was watching Brené Brown’s Netflix’s special, The Call to Courage (Which I highly recommend to all!). She shared a story about the process she and her husband use to ameliorate misunderstandings. As a couple’s therapist, I couldn’t have been more excited when she explained one of things that happens between partners: that our fear and shame distort our interpretation of what the other person may be communicating to us.
This can happen in very subtle ways, even when we are sure that we know what our partner must be thinking.
Brown shared a personal example of a time when she was swimming in a lake with her husband. She reached out with a heartfelt comment about how happy she was and how much she loved him. Her husband was totally unresponsive and dismissive and she felt very hurt.
Instead of taking his response at face value (because she’s Brené Brown, but you can do it too!) she was able to 1. Identify that she was hurt and confused, since he was usually responsive to her and 2. Let him know that she was hurt and confused. The outcome was much better than had she turned to anger and blame.
The Story I’m Telling Myself Is…
Brown shared that she and her husband use a phrase that has helped their marriage immensely. It is “The story I am telling myself is…” When you can identify what you are saying to yourself behind your hurt and shame, it opens up the possibility that you might be misunderstanding what is going on. It lets your partner know WHY you are hurt, and for your partner to share their intention, or their own story.
In the instance in the lake, she had told herself that she had looked so awful in her bathing suit that he was rejecting her because of that. As it turned out, her husband was having anxiety of his own about swimming. He hadn’t even heard her loving comment. The way they sorted out the mess was to use the simple phrase “the story I am telling myself is…” Then her partner could respond with empathy. ”No, I wasn’t thinking at all about your bathing suit. I’m so sorry I didn’t hear you or respond when you reached out with a sweet comment.” He could also continue with his own story. “The story I was telling myself was…” and he could explain that he was lost in his own anxiety about his swimming.
There’s no I in Team…But there is in relationships
As a couple’s counselor I am always working with people to communicate more about themselves (I statements) and less about their partner (the dreaded YOU statements).
Too often we cover-up our own feelings of vulnerability by focusing on the other person and blaming or shaming them. This process of identifying and revealing our thinking opens up the possibility for a deeper way of communicating. It requires us being vulnerable even when it’s uncomfortable. And that allows the other person to tend to our vulnerability
Saying your feelings out loud is a good Tension Tamer
So my topic for taming tension is about getting in touch with what you are telling yourself. Be brave enough to say it out loud and brave enough to find out if you may be wrong in your assumptions.
And if it all seems too hard, consider bringing your partner in for some couple’s therapy and I will teach you both how to utilize and maximize your communication with the help of this little phrase:
The Story I’m telling myself is……
Thanks Brené Brown Call to Courage!