The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Communication Errors

I come across as selfish and insensitive.














































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Mia, you’d like some tips on how to be less insensitive and self-centered, or what’s going on?


Mia:                 Well, I have been facing I guess through my husband, he’s really shown me that I communicate poorly and he has made some good points about my self-centeredness and being insensitive playing out in my communication, so hence it’s poor, because it’s self-centered and selfish or it’s me being insensitive. So I’m miscommunicating.


Dr. Kenner:      Can you give me an example of that? Something that you did where you said, “Oh my God, you’re right honey!”


Mia:                 He asks me questions and I don’t answer them with a simple, direct yes or no. I’ll just volunteer. He’ll ask me, “Can you go to the grocery store,” or something like that and I’ll say, “Later today,” instead of saying, “Okay.” But his questions can be a bit deeper than, “Can you go to the grocery store?”


Dr. Kenner:      Give me an important one. Something that really irritated him and he felt that you were just incredibly insensitive. You were so self-centered and it really got to him.


Mia:                 It’s kind of hard to choose one in particular. It just happens so many times and because of that, he thinks, he feels like he’s been dismissed. I’m not caring.


Dr. Kenner:      What I\'m hearing is that he wants to feel listened to. If I feel dismissed, it’s like someone just brushed me aside and it’s like they’ve got a tractor-trailer and they run over me with their ideas and their thoughts and they’re telling me what I should be thinking. They’re telling me what I’m feeling. They’re telling me my psychological problems. They’re telling me my motivations – “I know why you’re really doing this, because …” and I’m sitting there going, “None of this is true.” Or even if it is true, I feel really offended. And I feel dismissed.


Mia:                 Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      Let me tell you a little bit about communication skills. Do you have any kids?


Mia:                 I have two.


Dr. Kenner:      Wonderful. I’m going to recommend an easy way to learn communication skills. And it’s through a book that teaches you how to talk better to your kids, but it’s one of the best books I’ve found that also teaches you how to talk with your husband and how to talk with anybody in your life. Before I name the book, I want to give you just a two-minute overview of communication skills. If you think of the old time phones, that have the handle, they have two parts of them. The top part is the listening part, the receiver, and the bottom part is what you speak into, correct? Good communication has two fundamental aspects. One is listening well. It’s called active listening. You’re doing it right now with me. Can you hear yourself saying, “Mmhmm, mmhmm?” I know that you’re listening to me. I know that you’re attending to me. That is excellent. If you could sum up what I said, “Okay, Ellen, I understand there are two main communication skills. One has to do with listening. That’s active listening. And one has to do with speaking.” You would be illustrating a second listening skill. We sum up what we hear the person say. Then we say, “Did I hear you correctly, Ellen?” You check it out. Because if you didn’t hear it correctly, let them correct it right up front. Rather than sitting there with miscommunication. So that’s one set of skills.


The other is how do you express yourself? Many people will use the following: “You know, you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is what you need to do.” What pronoun am I using? “This is stupid. I don’t know why you’re doing this.” You, you, you, you. If you could see me now, I’m pointing my finger as if it’s a gun and I’m shooting out “you.” When we speak in Y-O-U language, the other person feels dismissed. They feel offended. And they want to shoot bullets back at you. “Well, you do this too.” The “Yes, buts.” You do this too. So you need a way to express yourself. Is there a way? Yes. It’s called “I language.” The pronoun “I.” I’m feeling hurt. I’m feeling dismissed now. I want to understand you better. I am upset. I’m frustrated. I see the dishes are not done yet and I’m hoping that you’ll do them. I didn’t attack the other person’s character. You language attacks the other person’s character. I language doesn’t.


The book to read – one of many – but How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk.


Mia:                 Dr. Kenner. I have a question.


Dr. Kenner:      We are right at the end of time, so I can take it during the break. But the book is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It’s the best book. It’s got comics in it and it’s a very easy way to learn listening skills, speaking skills and active listening.




Movie clip       

Male 1:             If you weren’t so damn stubborn, you’d apologize to Roz and everyone would be happy.

Male 2:             As usual, you’re overlooking a key psychological component in this whole issue.

Male 1:             You’d have to admit you were wrong?

Male 2:             Exactly.

Female:           I don’t see what’s so hard about telling Roz you were wrong.

Male 2:             You don’t understand. You see, it’s not the same as Dad being wrong or you being wrong. I have a degree from Harvard.


Dr. Kenner:      That’s from Frasier. And is it hard for you to admit you’re wrong? Is it hard for you to apologize? Or are you one of those people that just said, “Oh, yeah, I see where you’re coming from and I can see that I got that wrong,” or, “I was in a bad mood and I jumped on you and it wasn’t fair and I felt awful. Sorry about that. I’ll try not to do that again.” Are you someone that can just flow with it like that, or are you someone who finds it hard to apologize? “I don’t have to apologize to them.” Or you feel embarrassed or you have a degree from Harvard. You can’t apologize.


There’s a book on forgiveness, and there’s a colorful section in it – this is by Dr. Spring – where she talks about all different types of apologies. There’s the quick apology. “Okay, I’m sorry.” Or that’s like a disgruntled apology. There’s a sanitized apology – “I’m sorry for whatever I did.” There are a whole group of what she calls cheap apologies that sound like apologies but they’re not really apologies. Apologies really matter. I’ve had many people come into me and said, “You know, my mother never apologized to me,” or, “All those years, my father never apologized for the way he treated me.” Or sometimes I get the opposite. “My father finally apologized, and it meant so much to me.” So being honest with yourself and being able to share that with someone else is a skill and it’s not easy and it takes courage and it’s a character trait too. If you can give yourself permission to apologize when you really make a misstep, make a bad choice, or even just you’re not even aware that you did some harm and you did do harm and you want to say I’m sorry, not that I did it intentionally but I’m sorry – give yourself the ability to start playing around with that and maybe giving yourself that skill.