I found another one. Another phrase that is likely disrespectful toward the person it is said to. You may
recall that we’ve had a similar conversation in the past. We took a look at my use of the phrase “I know.” In that blog we discussed the beauty of affirming our partner’s communication with us instead of responding with disdain or dismissiveness.
I was recently working with a couple in a session where both parties were in the room together—a surprisingly rare occurrence. One partner said to the other, “You didn’t think to ask me first!”
It instantly became clear to me that this partner deserved my immediate attention. I asked the partner who had not spoken if they would please leave the room, and they did. Then I asked the remaining partner, “Do you understand how prefacing a comment with ‘You didn’t think to’ lacks basic respect and is, in fact, disrespectful?”
The client said, “No. I don’t. Why is it disrespectful?”
“Because it is a question or a statement, depending on the punctuation that follows, that is preloaded with a belief that the other party did something dumb.”
“You are trying too hard. You are thinking too much. I’m just sharing my truth.”
I continued, “You can share your belief without being insulting. Speak to your partner with respect and honor. Talk to your partner as though you care about what they think and what they have to say. Not as though they are, or did, something dumb.
“We all do dumb stuff at some point in time. There is little question about that in my book. However, even when we do dumb stuff, we want to be treated respectfully. The proof, if you require it, is simply in how you wish to be treated when you err. Do you want whoever notices to say, ‘You didn’t think to not drive in the snow?’ No. If the person comments at all about your fault, you want them to still show you basic respect because you probably already know that you erred.”
My client responded, “But some stuff just needs to be called what it is: dumb.”
I asked, “What are the names of your last two supervisors?” My client earns about $300,000 per year.
“Mr. Checker and Mrs. Lloyd.”
“Would you ever have said to either of them, if they did something that you didn’t like, ‘You didn’t think to consult with me before you did that?’ Some people may say something of that nature. However, would you?”
My client said, “No. I wouldn’t.”
“Then why would you say it to your partner? Our partner deserves our respect. They deserve to know that we are in their corner, even when they do something that we don’t like or that we think is stupid. Just like we do.”
“So now you are suggesting that I have a professional relationship with my partner?”
I said, “No. I am suggesting that you create a respectful relationship with your partner; I am using your professional relationship with your supervisor as an example for you to refer to. You are probably respectful to your supervisor because you want to keep your job. Be respectful to your partner because you want to nurture your relationship.”
“Why do you understand my point or what understanding do you have about my point?” I asked.
The client noted, “You are illustrating how I can choose to be kind and respectful instead of condescending.”
“Exactly,” I said.
There are things we do and say when we’re triggered and irritated while talking to our partner. Some of them are indicators of contempt and frustration. We have the opportunity to keep our eye on these indicators and to check ourself when they show up. When they show up, we get to be the first to admit, “Whoa. I am out of line. That wasn’t right. I apologize.”
This is a rich awareness. If our partner notices us catching ourself, they may be apt to do the same. They may begin to check themself when they are being snarky, disrespectful, or dismissive. And if they are unable to do it themself, they may give us permission to lovingly point it out and may appreciate our feedback. It can raise the level of function, skill, and care for all involved parties.
Admittedly, there are numerous cultures that exist between supervisors and subordinates. Some supervisors yell at their subordinates. Some subordinates yell back. If we respect our supervisor, let’s allow that to be an inspiration for the communication in our personal relationships. If we ask ourself, “Would I say that to my supervisor?” and the answer is, “No,” that may be just the indicator that is necessary to not say it to our partner.
Moving forward, as we each work to create a loving culture in our relationships, let’s create an awareness (and hopefully some structure) that will help us stay on track. Most of us can lose our way in our communication, and at some point, it would be great if we could find our way back to the best path on our own. One way is by listening to our words. That can be very loving.
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Frank Love coaches individuals toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.