Complaining For Change

“You don’t listen to me!”
“What are you talking about, I’m right here in front of you … “

Sonika and I did a presentation this week for a group of couples and singles in Sacramento. We played out a typical interaction between partners. One of the couples in the group said, “We literally had that exact same fight this week. Have you guys been in our house?”

We hadn’t been in their house:) But we have been inside their relationship, and thousands of other relationships.

The conversation went something like this:

“You don’t listen to me!”
“What are you talking about, I’m right here in front of you … “
“That’s not the point. Look at you, with your arms crossed, all stiff, you’re not really listening”
“Want me to repeat every word you just said?”
“No! You’re being all defensive, can you just listen for once?”
“So I’m not doing it right, is that it? It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s not right for you!”
“See, you’re doing it again! Making it all about you when I’m trying to tell you something about me”
“Well, if you actually cared about what I think … “

From here, you can imagine how the rest of the interaction goes. More arguing back and forth, more disconnection as each one tries to get their point across.

A simple argument like this illustrates what pretty much every person in this world does to problem solve their relationship:

They bring up an issue they think needs to change, in this example, “You don’t listen to me”.

When I’m the one bringing up an issue, I think I’m just presenting an obvious problem, in a calm and reasonable manner.

But in the ears and eyes of the recipient, “bringing up an issue” like this sounds like nothing but complaining, blaming, and criticizing.

Why do I bring up an issue? In the hopes it’ll improve our relationship. In the hopes that you’ll get my point, agree with me, and change your behavior (to one I like better).

We call this strategy Complaining For Change.

Everyone uses this strategy in every relationship. With spouses, dates, ex’s, co-workers, employees, family members, you name it.

It’s like a bad movement that went viral long before anyone heard of Facebook.

It’s the #1 default strategy we use to improve our relationships. And it consequently, always, no-exceptions-ever, backfires.

The whole strategy rests upon a fantasy. The fantasy is, if you say, “You don’t listen” to your partner, that he’ll go, “Really! OMG, I’m so sorry I haven’t been listening you to. I’m such a doofus. You deserve to be listened to all the time, and every word you speak is gold to me. I promise it will never happen again, I’m really sorry about that, I love you, baby! Tell me again, what did you want me to hear?”

But has that ever happened in real life?

Nope, never!

We use the example of “You don’t listen”, but you can insert any other topic or issue.

“Am I the only one cleaning up around here?”
“Do you really have to spend that much money on clothes?”
“We really need to talk about the stuff in the garage!”
“Why don’t you want have sex anymore?”
“You’re going out with your friends again!?”

Or with our kids, we say things like, “Your room is a mess”, with the fantasy that they’ll go, “Oh, I’m sorry, dad, I’ll get it cleaned up right now, thanks for telling me”.

What actually does happen when someone tells you, “You never listen to me”? Do you want to listen more? Or less? What actually happens when you tell your kids, “Your room is a mess”? Defensiveness, resistance, more arguing.

When we complain for change, we make things worse.

As a matter of fact, we end up with less of the very thing we were trying to get more of. It produces the exact opposite of what we were hoping for.

“You never listen” produces less listening.
“Why don’t we ever have sex anymore?” produces less sex (Think about it, are you more or less attracted to your partner when he/she says that?)

Complaining For Change is basically a relationship tragedy.

It’s meant to make our relationships better, with more love, connection, and friendship. But instead it grinds down our love, patience, and good will and produces more of the problems we’re trying to solve.

So what to do instead?

We recommend two simple tips (granted, not always so simple to practice).

1. Quit Complaining For Change
2. Find and deliver specific appreciations

We mean #1 very literally. Just quit it. Knock if off. Don’t ever do it again.

Next time you catch yourself complaining, you’re better off zipping it and not saying another word.

Because everything you say after that point is only taking your further down a negative rabbit hole. You already know you’re not going to like where it’s taking you, so stop going in that direction.

As to #2, find and deliver specific appreciations, it’s the fastest and most effective antidote to Complaining For Change. It’s like kryptonite.

Sure, it’s not meant to fix all your relationship issues, nor are we recommending that you don’t deal with your legitimate challenges. But until you have a better method than complaining, you’re better off not talking about your problems and making things worse.

Whether it’s your spouse, date, brother, sister, anyone, find something to appreciate about that person and tell them.

Appreciations are to human beings like water and sun is to a plant. Without them, we wilt. With appreciations, we puff up and shine. Delivering appreciations uplifts the other person and supports them to be and bring out their best.

More importantly, it forces your mind to look for something you like in your life. It gets your focus off of what you don’t like. Every time you find something specific to appreciate, you’re reminding yourself that you actually have some of what you want in your life and relationships, that it is not all crap, and that uplifts YOU.

Every appreciation feeds BOTH of you, and you actually begin to create an upward spiral of positivity in your relationship.

This appreciation practice will disappear a good bunch of your problems. Most breakdowns stem from one or both of you not feeling seen, loved, valued and appreciated. As for the rest of your issues, your head and heart will be in a much better place to deal with … anything. With love and appreciation as the frame, it is more possible to work on your challenges together or by yourself.

Try it. Many couples have saved their marriages from implementing these two steps alone. Parents have had breakthroughs with their children. Co-workers have had miraculous shifts in their relationships at work.

And then get help for effectively dealing with the genuine conflicts and problems that inevitably show up in every relationship. So you can use them to bring you closer to one another, instead of farther apart!

For that purpose, consider attending our two-day Give Yourself to Love training. It offers powerful cutting-edge paradigm shifts and practical tools for improving relationships that stay with you for the rest of your relationship life!

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More here: loveworksforyou.com/gytl

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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