“I know you ain’t talking to me like that!” I don’t know about you but I have thought or said those words many times when people have spoken to me in ways that I felt were unacceptable or inappropriate. When people have spoken to me in condescending tones or in a patronizing manner, I immediately address their rudeness tactfully, or at least I attempt to. There is something about disrespect and disrespectful communication that shake me at my core. Honestly, it makes my blood boil, and I always feel the need to address it immediately and emphatically, yet diplomatically. As a personal commitment to myself, I always speak up.
Dealing with rude people who I don’t know or don’t have a relationship with is difficult enough. But interacting with people who speak to me in degrading, offensive and patronizing ways who also claim to love and respect me is extremely problematic; it is downright painful. Listening to a person who claims to love me speak to me in a demeaning way makes me feel a whole range of emotions, and none of the emotions are positive. And even though there are many psychological and communication theories that explain the impact of tough tones and rough words, I am convinced that my son expressed it best when he was just 4 years old. He said, “Mommy, when you yell at me like that it hurts me in my ears and it hurts me in my heart”.
Wow! The comment stopped me in my tracks and made me realize how careless communication damages the spirit and sometimes causes irrevocable damage in a relationship. Like my son so eloquently expressed, hurtful words and hurtful tones linger in the heart and can reverberate in your ears for weeks, sometimes months and sometimes years. And the sad part is that you can never recall the words or delete the encounter etched in the minds of your loved ones. You can’t un-ring the proverbial bell.
So I want to offer a few tips that may help you when and if your loved one has a temporary and infrequent communication lapse. In other words, when she/he has a melt-down and has a bout of temporary insanity and speaks to you in a disparaging way. And I emphasize two words: temporary and infrequent. If you and your partner have frequent communication lapses (yelling, biting comments, condescending tones, insults, etc.) or consistently communicate with each other in disrespectful ways that is indicative of a larger problem. Consistent disrespect is beyond the scope of this post.
Tip #1: Recognize that people who feel or have been wounded often yell the loudest and the most. People who don’t feel acknowledged, cared for, appreciated and protected, in general or in the moment, often respond in ways that are totally disproportionate to the situation. Their over-the-top responses and comments are not always all about you. Their responses are usually about their own emotional triggers that have been activated by something or someone. And, many times they are usually not emotionally aware that the have been triggered; they don’t know what’s going on until it is too late. They are just responding and reacting without thinking or considering the impact of their words or identifying the origin of their discontent. They are just lashing out and unfortunately causing all types of emotional trauma in relationships. Does that sound like you?
Tip #2: Recognize that people who feel or have felt powerless may respond aggressively to perceived slights. It is a known fact that people tend to be hyper-sensitive and over-react when they feel vulnerable, weak, helpless and hopeless. When some people don’t feel in control of their circumstances or they don’t feel in control of themselves, they may also project their feelings on to you. Instead of looking inward to effectively address their discomfort, they look outward, and oftentimes outward in your direction. If they are emotionally immature or/and under a significant amount of stress, they may also resort to blaming, shifting responsibility, justifying, yelling or other manipulative tactics in efforts to point the finger at you. Why? Because looking at themselves is too painful or too overwhelming; sometimes it is just emotionally too hard for them to admit their own pain, issues, mistakes and failures. Also, the hard truth is that most people are better at causing pain for others than they are dealing with or feeling their own pain so lashing out is unfortunately their first defense. Of course that does not absolve them of their responsibility to act in a loving way, but it is something to keep in mind.
Tip #3: Recognize that some people don’t know how to access or explain their emotions and feelings and so they act out. Yes, I said it – adults have tantrums, terrible tantrums. Some adults act up and they act out when they are unable to express their thoughts, feelings and perspectives in way that makes them feel heard. I have even known couples to resort to what I call low level communication – name-calling, cursing, sarcasm, and innuendo when they feel incapable of adequately conveying their sentiments. In fact, when some people are unable to identify their emotions and articulate their feelings they “hit below the belt” and will sometimes say things that feel unforgivable. If or when they are unable to say “I feel frustrated, I feel scared, I feel ashamed, I feel disappointed, I feel angry, I feel lonely” or whatever the emotion is, they are more prone to respond in childish ways that are emotionally destructive and spiritually damaging to the relationship.
Being spoken to in a way that feels disrespectful is never good; it can feel insulting, embarrassing and humiliating. And when you don’t respond in a way that (you perceive)restores your respect or challenges the disrespect, it can make you feel cowardly and ashamed. But if we are honest, we all can admit that we have had communication lapses. We all, at one time or another, have done some yelling or have been yelled at during our life. And we all have also been the recipient as well as the perpetrator of some offensive and patronizing interactions too.
So here is the take-away. When your spouse, partner or loved one has a communication lapse, remind yourself that the reaction is not always solely about you. Some of their reactions may be their own internal emotional stuff surfacing. So don’t always make it about you and don’t always make it your sole responsibility to placate her/him. Remind your partner that you love her, that you are willing to listen, and that you are willing to help as long as it is done with and in love and with and in respect. Trust me, just knowing that you are willing and ready to listen to him is healing and prevents him for feeling that you don’t care. Not being or feeling heard is a something that we all have felt and it does not feel good, right?
Like I said before, infrequent communication lapses are problematic enough and need to be addressed. But consistent, out of control rants should never been tolerated. As long as communication lapses are the exception and not the rule, be encouraged. You can work on yourself to better identify, process and engage your own emotions. And, you can practice communicating with you partner in a direct, yet loving way.
So if you have a communication lapse, quickly admit your mistake, apologize for communicating in a dishonoring way, and commit to do better. Get help, practice new techniques, read some books and go to relationship coaching. Don’t let a temporary lapse cause you to lose a permanent relationship. Get help! You deserve it and your partner does too. (From the upcoming book ; ” I Have Learned A Few Things About Love”)
We will discuss more tips at the “Are You Ready For Love” Seminar. Have you registered? Click here! Are You Ready For Love? Hope to see you there!