New (or Old) Relationship? Watch your language!

ConnectingShortly after meeting, Barb says to Jane, “My husband doesn’t talk to me,” and Jane replies, “Neither does mine.” The two of them have an instant bond.

A man and woman start chatting one day in the coffee room at the place they both work. They quickly discover that they both hate their jobs. Their instant connection blossoms into an intimate relationship.

Within five minutes of the first hello two women discover they had both survived sexual abuse as children. Wow! Each knows the other understands and they bond.

A man and woman are medicating their unhappy lives in a bar when they meet. They connect through their unhappiness and their liquid solution.

The problem with all these scenarios is that the connection is formed at the level of the wound, problem or complaint. It’s hard to build a happy, productive life or a lasting relationship on a complaint. People get tired of their marriages and their friendships. They often feel stuck and sometimes hopeless.

The question is, how do you avoid starting relationships based on a negative focus? If you are already caught in one, is there a way to fix it?

[SIZEWARP]At the heart of any solution is language.[/SIZEWARP] Pay attention to your language, the questions you ask and how you respond to questions from others.

It doesn’t matter that Jane and Barb’s husbands have been poor communicators; what matters now is how they get their husbands talking again and rebuild their marriages… or leave them and move on.

It doesn’t matter that the two people in the bar have used alcohol to medicate their unhappy life situations; what matters now is how they will turn their lives around so they can be happy. Getting out of the alcohol sinkhole is only one piece of that.

If someone starts a conversation with a complaint, respond with a question or comment around solution. If they engage in discussing solutions, you are off to a good start in a new relationship. If they insist on focusing on the negative, move on.

If you are in a relationship based on a negative, use language, the only tool you have, to shift the focus. If you fail to steer the relationship into a positive focus, with or without outside help, move on. You have no obligation to stay in a negative, unhappy place.

People often take their more serious complaints and problems to healthcare workers, and the endless stream of people’s problems leads many to burn out. Furthermore, the suicide rate for healthcare workers is much higher than in the general population.

The principles I’ve just outlined, however, apply to healthcare workers too. People come to me with horrendous problems, some dating back to childhood. Often I’ve been there myself, but that is not where we connect. Yes, we deal with past stuff, but only to the extent necessary for creating a better present and future. We focus on what is needed to restore hope and happiness and achieve whatever other positive outcomes the client seeks. That way, clients get what they want and I don’t burn out.

I invite you to reflect on how you have used language to connect with others. Do you tend to connect on a positive? Or a negative?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
The following two tabs change content below.
Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

2 thoughts on “New (or Old) Relationship? Watch your language!

  1. I am a nurse and I encourage my patients to focus on the positive view of their situation. It’s difficult sometimes when they have been given a death sentence and are not promised they will make it to their next birthday. I then ask them if they believe in God and I have to say that 99.9 percent say they do.

    I will then tell them my Mother always told me that God will never give you anything you can’t handle and we all have a purpose in life. I believe in the power of Prayer, hope, belief and gratitude to heal. It may not heal the illness but it will give you the strength and courage to get through your situation and hand you have been dealt. This could mean giving you the courage to be strong for your loved ones and gather your life ends details that need to be done to get them through your passing. We are all here to Live and then die. Not one of us gets out of here alive. If we are given 3 months to live the choice is using the time left for self pity or creating quality memories for your loved ones and making peace with each and everyone.

    I had the pleasure of taking care of my mom the last 6 months of her life and each night I put her into her bed we would talk. As much as I didn’t want to hear it, she told me what she expected at her services and we also talked about things that bothered us about each other through our lives and apologized for the things we didn’t do or did do. We hugged and kissed and said I Love you’s. These are things that weren’t shared in our everyday pre-death existence. We just always took everything for granted.

    I use this same Positive reinforcement in my relationship with Kevin, my recovering alcoholic boyfriend. He has always been and still continues to be negative and dwelling on his past, what his parents didn’t do, how his brother stole from him and got him into drugs and alcohol, etc…Etc… Blah, blah, blah!!! I attempt to get him to think for today, and let him know the past is what got him to where he is right now. Everything in our life happens for a reason. He say’s then why did I get that DWI, makes no sense. Well Kevin, Yes it does, did you ever think where you would be right now if that hadn’t occurred? It forced you to think about your life and God is giving you a chance to take a deeper look and redeem yourself. Actually think of it as you are being rescued. Yes you have to go through, court, possibly weekend jails, money to pay the lawyer, therapy, probation officer, license suspended, Breathalyzer equipment placed in your car to blow in every time you decide to drive. Think about all this. If this is what it has taken to get you to quit smoking your pot, and drinking your problem was bigger than the both of us.

    I tell him I understand what you’re saying about your negative past, but we all have negative and something we didn’t like about our past, but now you are 50 years old and an adult. You know those things didn’t feel good to you and were not right then why do you continue to give them energy and why do you act out the things you know were wrong.

    My mom always made it a point to talk about my weight even when I wasn’t fat and she was fat…it was her issue not mine. I didn’t see it then but as I grew older and have a girl of my own, I know it was wrong, therefore I never did that to my daughter and she did have a weight problem. I was a 34/23/34 growing up in my teens and into my 20’s. After I had My daughter at 30, my body changed of course. Not much though I still looked good..Not a 5/6 but now a 9/10 then after my son 11/12. I still looked good but my mother would always say. Don’t you wish you looked like you did when you were 20? It would drive me crazy because I have never known my mother as skinny, she was always big. She would say to me, I just don’t want you to get like me, I let myself go. So you see it was her issues not mine. I could go on and on and I am writing a book about all this.

    I do believe that anything negative in our life brings about a positive. We eventually figure it out, but we can’t give up trying to figure it out. I also wanted to add My mom is the reason I am a Nurse today. Each night I would put her to bed and we had our talks she made me promise I would go back to school for Nursing because it was my calling or she would haunt me. Believe me Italian moms will haunt. After she passed, 3 months later I enrolled in Nursing school. It took me 5 long years and every day I went to her grave site and cried why did you put this curse on me because it was difficult being a single mom, 2 young children and taking care of my own home and having to work and study. Even after death my mom had control over me. But now that it’s all said and done the control she had over me was extremely positive. I am so grateful now.

  2. Without mutual respect and admiration for each other there can be no relationship possible. Be it father-son, mother-daughter, husband-wife etc.

    It’s important that you not only show respect but also admire the presence of the other person.

Leave a Comment