The most famous question that often leads to nowhere is, “what’s wrong?”
Following the typical ineffective response, “nothing.”
There are a billion ways to look at this entire situation, but the truth is that it comes down to effective communication in your relationship.
No one’s communication is 100% and on point 24/7. However, there are ways to communicate issues with one another in a healthy way while being respectful and effective.
First, the response “nothing” is not effective. This may seem obvious, but it is used often. I find that my clients say “nothing” because they are not ready to talk about it. It is normal and very common to struggle with putting emotion into words. This forces us to really separate our feelings with a logical response.
If you find yourself uttering the words “nothing,” give yourself a timeout. Yes, bring it back to childhood and sit the question out for a bit until you are ready to discuss how you truly feel.
Second, there are effective ways to respond instead of saying “nothing.” This is where your part in the relationship comes in for communicating effectively. If you don’t speak up and discuss how you are feeling then your issues may never be resolved. Let’s go over a few ways to respond:
- “I feel upset but I would like to discuss this with you when I have gathered my thoughts.” Note that you do not place blame on what you are upset about. Here you acknowledge that this is something you would like to resolve in the future.
- “I am not upset with you but I am having a hard time processing X Y & Z.” Sometimes it really has nothing to do with our partner but something else that triggered it. This response opens an opportunity for you to be vulnerable with your partner.
- “I feel…..” Always, always use “I” statements. It can be easy to say, “You don’t do the dishes and now I am angry at you.” The best way to say this instead is, “I feel angry when you don’t do the dishes because I think it means you don’t consider me.” If you use “I” statements you are only expressing the way you feel about something. This gives your partner the opportunity to reflect on what they did and how it made you feel.
Lastly, I want to address how ineffective it can be to ask the question, “What is wrong?” The word wrong immediately assumes that there is something negative going on.
Instead, it shuts the two-way door of communication down. A way to rephrase the question could be, “I feel like there is something off. I care a lot about you and I am here if you want to talk further.” If said genuinely, this creates an opportunity for someone to open up about what they are feeling.
In the end, communication in relationships is a forever growing process. It absolutely takes effort from both sides, but if you can find a way to be respectful and truly listen then it’s totally worth the work.
Oh, and feel free to share this with him. I give you full permission.
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