Category Archives: Relationship Coaching

Just Listen To Me For Once!

There you are, once again, trying to talk sense to your partner and all they can do is argue back!  Or maybe its the other way around, they are trying to get something across to you, but you have already got your back up and you are only listening long enough to be able to formulate your defence or counter-attack.  Sound familiar?

Several bodies of research show that most conflicts that have a painful “charge” are only 10% about the present situation and 90% about some past wound that is causing pain now.  We don’t tend to act very logically or consciously in situations that carry an emotional  charge, and consequently we often make matters worse when we would like them to be better.

When there is tension in the air we really owe it to ourselves, our partner, our relationship, to slow down, make a really conscious effort to be constructive and if you are on the receiving end, make a big effort to really understand your partner.

Now this is not an easy thing to do by any means.  Below is a neat little video of a real life couple demonstrating Imago Therapies “Couples Dialogue”.  This video can also be found as part of a series on the Imago International website here

Regards Ben.

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It’s Not About The Nail….

Do you tend to just jump right in to solving your partners problems as soon as you hear them, and then wonder why they get upset with you when all you are trying to do is be helpful?  Frustrating right?  If this is you the chances are you are a man, or the go-to problem solver type.

As a generalisation women tend to respond to a problem by turning to their friends, and sharing the problem.  The experience of the other person getting them and responding with understanding and empathy has a connecting and calming effect that’s facilitated by the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as oxytocin.  This calming effect reinforces connection in the face of a problem.

A majority of men on the other hand tend to respond to a problem as if it were a threat, something to be repelled or avoided rather than an opportunity for connection.  When we experience a real or perceived threat we get a shot of adrenaline, which is a fight or flight activator and pushes us towards action rather than connection or curiosity.  So we want to jump right in and solve the problem, but in doing this our partners are left feeling unseen and disconnected.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our partners don’t just want us to listen.  Sometimes they would like some kind of help or advice, but you will be in a much better place to offer what’s needed or ask about that after you have really tuned in to them and got what it is they are experiencing.

Ask your partner to use the phrase “Its not about the nail…..” next time you are missing them, and the chance to connect, by being unhelpfully helpful.

Check out this great video to see this in action.






Maybe Your Apologies Fall On Deaf Ears

In my last post I wrote about how to give an effective apology, and many of you took the opportunity to download the free guide Three Steps to an Effective Apology. However, it’s always possible that although you practiced and then implemented the three steps outlined in the report, your apology seemed to fall on deaf ears. Your partner hardly noticed your attempt to make amends and just went right on sulking, fuming, nit-picking, criticising, yelling or whatever they where doing in the first place. Or maybe the shoe was on the other foot; your partner made a pretty good attempt at apologising to you, but you really didn’t feel like cutting them any slack at all!

Ironically couples in troubled relationships make more repair attempts (attempting to repair the damaged connection between them) than couples who are happy together, but their attempts repeatedly fail. They are met with defensiveness, sarcasm, blame etc or their attempts to reconnect just don’t get noticed because of the backlog of negativity between them.

If this is you, don’t despair, you don’t have to somehow magically become happy together in order to be heard. Here are a couple of things that you can do that will make a difference. Softening up your tone when you are making the attempt will help, or listen to the words rather than the tone if you are on the receiving end. Secondly, make your attempts obvious, maybe even a little formal, in order to cut through the negativity and make it obvious that you are wanting to get back on track. This is were the Three Steps to an Effective Apology comes into its own.

To finish off, here is a short list of less structured repair statements to use when you first notice things getting off track; “Can I take that back?”, “Ouch, that hurt”, “Did I say something wrong?”, “Lets start over again”, “lets take a little break”, “I need to calm down, give me a few moments”, “I’m feeling defensive, could you rephrase that”, “sorry, that came out wrong”, or in the right context a goofy smile, a warm touch or even a good humored salute can work wonders.

Cheers & catch you again soon, Ben.

Do Your Apologies Fall Short?

I was driving across the Napier-Taupo road recently, on my way to compete in the NZ 10km Kayak Champs. The stretch across the Rangataiki Plains gave me time to sit back, listen to some music, and do some reflecting. The stereo was playing k.d.lang, hymns of the 49th parallel, and a line from Leonard Cohen’s song Bird on a Wire caught my attention; “If I, if I have been unkind, I hope you can just let it go by.” Here we have Leonard wanting someone to let him off the hook without him having to take responsibility or do anything redeeming, and this got me thinking about the ineffective apologies I have heard over time.  A couple of my favourites are “I am sorry you feel that way” and “I didn’t mean to upset you”.  In both cases the implication is that the hurt party shouldn’t feel upset and should forgive and forget without the offending party having to do anything.

I have a process for giving an effective apology that I teach to my clients, and it’s one that they find very useful and at times has provided a crucial breakthrough in their relationship struggles. So I decided to write this up in the form of a guide titled “Three Steps to an Effective Apology.” You can get your free copy here

Cheers, Ben

P.S. Once you have read the report, come back to this blog and leave a comment by clicking the Leave a reply button at the top of the post, I would love to hear from you.

What Do You Mean When You Say ……

A few days ago my partner asked me if I would be OK to talk to somebody else in our extended family who was worried about experiencing performance anxiety during an upcoming exam.  I said I was OK talking to them, and left it at that.  A couple of days later I was surprised when my partner asked if I had talked to the person yet; and she was disappointed when I told her I hadn’t.  What was going on here?  It might be obvious to you as you read this right now, but it wasn’t to us.

This would have been a great place to start an argument, a nice little merry-go-round of “you said/promised/agreed” and “no I didn’t, you didn’t ever ask me to ….” etc.  Fortunately we both kept our cool and realized there had been some kind of misunderstanding and after some discussion we figured out that when I said I was OK talking to the other person she thought I was agreeing to go ahead and do that, whereas I thought I was only saying I was OK to talk to them and that they would then approach me some time later.

I thought this was a great example of a miscommunication that could have been averted if I had thought to ask “What do you mean when you ask if I would be OK to…., are you asking if I will do it, or just checking how I feel about the possibility?”

I came across the video below recently and I think its a great little story of a couple sorting out a similar misunderstanding. What do you think? I’d really enjoy your thoughts on this.  please leave a comment.