So, I’ve said this a lot of times now. Don’t SAC your relationship. Don’t make Suggestions, offer Advice or Criticize. The reaction I get most often to this is, “What? So I can never tell my partner, mother, coworker (insert person who is annoying you here) anything I’d like done differently?”
Yes, you can definitely say things you’d like them to work on, but there are some guidelines you’ll need to follow if you want that person to actually listen and (gasp!) maybe even make the changes you’re asking for.
Let me first ask you to keep any suggestions to a minimum. As a matter of fact, unless it’s a really big deal, I would say to let it go. Your man is leaving dirty socks on the floor? Let it go or hire a cleaning person. Your father is chewing with his mouth open when he eats? Look the other way or make him soup when he comes to your house for dinner.
Don’t die on every hill. Choose your battles wisely. This is about you, not the other person. If there’s a bigger thing (you just found out your fiancé charged $10,000 on the credit card for the wedding without telling you), then you should definitely have a chat.
However, if you want a healthy outcome, stick to these parameters:
1. First things first. The focus should not be on changing the other person. Instead, you want the focus on being loving and kind while improving your communication.
2. Set an Intention to be kind first. Before you sit down to give any feedback, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. What’s your end goal here? How do you want the other person to feel at the end of this conversation?
Start with a loving intention before you open your mouth. Think in your head about how much you love or at least care about this person and have a goal that you’ll both feel clear and satisfied after this discussion. This will help your tone and the words you use. Never be scolding, condescending, or mean. As you might have already noticed, waiting for a good time to talk will naturally help your tone.
3. Be very careful of your timing. You can almost never give feedback in the moment. Everyone is too reactive, defensive, or angry when something has “just happened.” Often, just waiting until the timing is better (e.g., after sex, food or a good night’s sleep), will get you dramatically better results. (In my experience, there’s no better time to get great results than after oral sex – just saying).
4. Be in the “here and now” and self-aware when you have your talk. Notice if the other person is being resistant, angry, frustrated or defensive. If any of these attitudes show up, switch your tone and think about your words. Remember, the goal is to be heard so if the other person is angry or defensive, they’re not listening anymore anyway.
5. Make sure that you both agree on definitions and meanings regarding what you’re talking about. You’ll be shocked to find out that your definition of “cheating” is different than your partner’s or that you mean different things when you say the word “listen.” Be specific. Ask things like, “What did you hear me say?” or “What do you think ‘debt’ means?” Again, you might be very surprised by the answers.
6. Don’t say “never” or “always” when speaking to another person. First of all, it’s not true. If you say something like, “You never listen,” the other person shuts you off right away because they know they do listen (and often). Instead, say what is true and what you really mean. For example, “I don’t feel like you’re understanding how important this is to me. Could you tell me what you hear me saying?”
7. No lecturing (this doesn’t work with your kids either). Remember loving acceptance (even when you want to rip someone a new one). If you can’t remember that, think of how you feel when someone lectures you. Are you listening or are you resentful and waiting for them to shut the hell up? Keep your answers and requests short and to the point.
8. It’s a Dialogue, not a lecture. Ask permission first and ask questions a lot!