Speak Up! The Negative Effects of Self Silencing

We all have a desire to “keep the peace,” and because of this, we tend to do a lot to maintain our relationships. Often, one of these tendencies is to self-silence—to not speak up for ourselves, express our needs, or vocalize our needed boundaries. We think that filtering ourselves, or keeping our needs to ourselves helps us to “keep everyone happy.” 

New research, however, shows that there are a great deal of negative effects that come from self-silencing. Not only does this practice not help us develop the types of relationships we deserve to have, but it actually is detrimental to our physical health as well. Researchers have found that individuals who self-silence—particularly women—have increased carotid plaque buildup, which could lead to a stroke or other cardiovascular problems.

Speaking up—respectfully and effectively—to get our needs met is crucial for our mental and physical health. Here are three ways to effectively speak up:

Making the implicit explicit—when someone says or does something that hurts your feelings, don’t keep it bottled up inside. Instead, say something like, “I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by this, but when you did ____ or said ____ I felt hurt (or specifically state what you felt). What did you intend to mean by that?” Saying something like this phrase is effective because it offers the other person the benefit of the doubt—we are not accusing them of anything, however it asks the clarifying question to better understand the other person’s intention. 

Look for solutions—When you and another person have differing needs or opinions, ask the question, “What can we do to get everyone’s needs met?” This helps convey that there are options and that no one’s needs are less important than another’s. 

Create healthy habits—Create a routine where you and your spouse/significant other ask each other, “What can I do to make your day better?” This helps build the rapport between you and your spouse to say, “I want to work for your good.” Likewise, when we are in this habit of asking and being asked what we need to have a good day, it makes it easier for us to ask for something when a need arises. 

For more on how to effectively communicate our needs with others, tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am EST/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130 and check out God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts!

Family Food or Family Feud—Surviving or Thriving During The Holidays

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The holidays are wonderful, however, as some of us may have experienced during Thanksgiving, they can also be very stressful. Spending time with extended family can often lead to arguments or strained relationships. While we all made it through Thanksgiving, chances are, you’re preparing for Christmas, New Year, and the entire holiday season where you may be spending more time with your extended family. So how do you recover from the family conflicts that may have occurred over Thanksgiving, and what do you need to do to prepare to see them again in the coming weeks?

Theology of the Body reminds us that families are School of Love, but too often they feel like battle grounds especially when it comes to disagreements about politics, religion, sexuality, and all the other issues that families feel passionately about. When we get into these discussions with family members, we can forget that the most important thing isn’t winning the argument, but rather, loving the person. The question we need to be asking ourselves isn’t “What can I say to convince my idiot cousin to repent of his idiotic ways?” But rather, “How do I need to respond to my cousin (or other family member) in a way that makes him feel genuinely heard and cared for even if he knows I don’t agree with him?” People aren’t projects. The more we can remember that, the more we can be effective witnesses to the people we love, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for managing conflict with extended family:

Will I Be Able To Follow This Up Tomorrow? –When you’re tempted to argue with your extended family ask yourself, “Will I be able to follow up on this tomorrow?”  In other words,  Having a fight with a relative you only see two or three times a year is not going to do anything except prove to that relative that you are a jerk. Evangelization is all about relationship; that you know a person, understand them, and truly care–not from a distance, but in a personal way–about their lives. If there isn’t any reasonable way for you to build a discipleship relationship with this relative that can allow you to lead them, over time, to a deeper relationship with the truth, the best thing you can do is plant a seed by showing them how God’s grace allows you to remain unruffled, calm, and confident in the face of those big differences that divide your family.  If you can manage to stop yourself from acting like the foaming-at-the-mouth religious lunatic they already think you are, they might just start to respect you, which gives you a better chance to represent the faith effectively in the future.

Redirect the Traffic–Even if you decide that you do have a strong enough relationship with this relative to enter into a real conversation about a contentious issue, avoid a head-on collision by redirecting the traffic. Rather than getting drawn into a “battle royale” at the family table, say, “Listen, this isn’t really the time to hash all this out, but if you’re genuinely interested in discussing this with me, I’d really love to discuss this with you over lunch sometime (or dinner at my house, or some other shared activity). Let’s table this for now and make a plan to really talk this out.” This approach allows you to weed out those relatives who just want to play the “Let’s fight” game while still allowing you the opportunity to disciple people who are genuinely interested in an authentic dialog. Plus, you’ll gain tons of credit from the rest of your family by showing them that you have the grace–literally and figuratively–to prevent THIS family get-together from turning into a ten-car pile-up.

People Aren’t Projects–If someone does take you up on your offer to get together for a follow-up conversation, remember “people aren’t projects,” they are people who deserve to be understood and loved. Before you say anything about what you believe–especially before you say anything about what you believe about their opinions, their life, or their choices, make sure you understand them so well, that even they agree that you get them. Don’t focus on lecturing. Focus on asking question, “Tell me more about why you think that way? Help me understand why that is so important to you? How does all this affect you?” Show the other person that you are more interested in loving them than in changing them. Ironically, they will be much more open to hearing what you say–and even changing their mind or ways–when they feel genuinely understood. That said, don’t think of this approach as some kind-of sneaky technique. Think of it as an opportunity to get to know someones’ heart and to let God’s grace flow from your heart to theirs.

For more tips on dealing with conflict and keeping peaceful relationships, check out God Help Me! These People are Driving Me Nuts! and make sure to tune in to More2Life—Monday through Friday on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, SiriusXM 139.

Find out more about our tele-counseling and spiritual direction services at CatholicCounselors.com

Are Cola Wars Killing YOUR Marriage?

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We all have our preferred brands: Our favorite kind of soda, our favorite brand of ice cream, or even our favorite type of laundry detergent. But did you know that our personal brand preferences can have a serious effect on our relationships and even cause divorce? It’s not as silly as it sounds.

A new study conducted at Duke University reveals that “preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.” Researchers discovered that the more powerful or influential partner in the relationship usually determines what brands the couple uses, however this can have a negative effect on the happiness of the lower power, or less influential, partner. Power, in this case, is indicated by an individual’s ability to shape or influence their partners’ behavior. Because of this, the less powerful partner usually loses out on buying his or her preferred brand, which could cause increased levels of unhappiness long term.

In other words, when one partner is consistently choosing their preferred brands without considering your preferences it can lead you to feel uncared for and undervalued.  Plus, since these are such little things, no one wants to make a big fuss about it, so the petty resentments can pile up into one big mountain of, “You ALWAYS get EVERYTHING you want! When do I get MY turn?”

Take heart, however, because knowledge is power. With this information about brand influence, we have options for how to negotiate this potential problem. First, we can talk to our partner and learn to compromise. For example, one week we will buy Diet Coke and the next week we will buy Diet Pepsi. Second, we can adopt new preferred brands. For example, instead of buying either of the originally preferred brands of cereal, we can go to the store with our partner and find a cereal we both enjoy. The point is, the devil really is in the details.  Even though any one of these micro-conflicts is no big deal, a little thoughtfulness, over the long haul, goes a long way. Taking small steps like these can have a big impact on the overall health, well-being, and happiness of our relationships.

For more tips on how to have a happy and healthy relationship, check out When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love or contact us at Pastoral Solutions Institute on the phone (740.266.6461) or online at CatholicCounselors.com

“I Can’t Believe You Said That!” When Words Hurt

shutterstock_332011016When things get heated, our “fight or flight” response kicks in, but sometimes our reaction is to take the “fight” response a bit too literally. When someone speaks rudely to us, or yells at us, we yell back and attempt to “out argue” the other person. While this may be our instinct reaction, it’s not the most effective way to deal with these situations.

Theology of the Body reminds us of the power of words by pointing us back to Genesis and how God created the world. Specifically, God spoke the world into being. Words have creative power, and God shares that power with us in the hopes that we will use it to build each other up and be co-creators with Him as we work to cooperate with His grace and encourage each other to be the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we were created to be. But we can also use those words to destroy each other and we often do.

Here are three More2Life Hacks on how to respond when words hurt:

1. Be Confident And Be Clear–No one ever deserves to be spoken to disrespectfully or hurtfully. Even if the other person accuses you of doing something that they found hurtful or offensive, no matter what you may or may not have said or done, you don’t deserve to be spoken to cruelly or disrespectfully. Be clear about this and be confident in your right to insist that, while you are willing to listen to anything the other person wants to say, you cannot listen to anything that is said in a cruel or hurtful manner. Being clear about this doesn’t only benefit you, it benefits the other person and your ability to address whatever the problem might allegedly be.  If there is a problem that needs to be discussed, it deserves to be discussed respectfully and effectively. Be confident and clear about the need to insist that “respect is the price of admission” to any conversation a person may want to have with you.

2. Use Do-Over’s–If you feel attacked in a conversation, resist the temptation to just lash out or shut the conversation down completely. Instead, assume that, given the chance, the other person will be able to say what they are trying to say respectfully. Give them that chance by asking for a do-over. Say something like, “I’m feeling really attacked right now. I want to hear what you’re trying to say, but I need you to be less aggressive about it. Tell me again what you’re trying to say.” Often, when we hold up a mirror like this, the other person will appreciate the opportunity to see how they are coming across and adjust their behavior. Do-overs allow you to reset the conversation and move forward in a more respectful and productive way.

3. Don’t Feed the Troll–If someone is saying cruel or disrespectful things to you, don’t defend yourself. Don’t try to talk them out of it. Don’t argue back. Any attempt to argue someone out of their unkind view of you will inevitably backfire as the conversation will begin going in circles with new accusations being hurled and as the previous defenses are overcome. The best thing to do in this situation? Don’t feed the troll. As before, stop the conversation and give the person as chance to do a do-over. If that fails, simply say, “I’m really sorry you feel that way. I hope you can get past it. If there’s something you’d like to talk through when you’re feeling a little less angry I’m happy to hear whatever you have to say, but I can’t talk about this with you this way.” Then be done. If you have to say anything, simply repeat that formula, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you can get past it. I’d love to talk to you when you’re in a different place, but I can’t do it like this.” Trolls don’t like to eat broken records. If that’s all you serve them, they’ll look for other places to feed.

For more information on how to effectively respond when words hurt, check out God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts! and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, SiriusXM 139.

More2Life Hacks—Bouncing Back from Tough Times in Marriage

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the various problems we all experience in marriage Sometimes, we can get so focused on the problems that we think things will never be different.   Here are three More2Life Hacks that will help you bounce back from tough times in your marriage and re-experience the love and joy you crave!

1. Check your Commitment–Happy couples know that recovering from marital struggles starts with being even more committed to their vows than they are to each other.  What do I mean?  At various points, even the happiest husbands and wives become frustrated with each other and can feel like their spouse is undeserving of their commitment.  But where less happy couples use this as a justification for withdrawing their love and entertaining thoughts of divorce, happy couples remind themselves that their commitment is to their marriage, itself, even more than to their feelings for their spouse.  This allows couples to not catastrophize their problems and, instead, get to work on the problems.  Research shows that couples who make this greater commitment to their marriage bounce back from problems more quickly and are happier overall, than couples who regularly allow tough times to call their overall commitment to each other into question.

2. Re-Engage Through Care-taking–Every couple gets stuck in arguments from time to time–even for extended periods.  But happy couples know that sometimes they have to disengage from the fight and find little ways to remind each other of their love for each other BEFORE re-engaging the discussion.  While struggling couples either adopt a “fight til we die” approach or simply give up the fight from exhaustion, happier couples adopt a pattern that allows them to alternate between arguing, intentionally stepping away to build rapport, and then re-engaging the discussion from a more secure base.  If you’re going through a rough patch, don’t stop talking about it altogether, but take breaks where you intentionally choose to do little things that remind each other that your relationship–and your commitment to loving each other– is bigger than this present problem.

3. Seek Help–Happy couples know that when a problem starts to feel overwhelming, it’s time to seek new resources.  When you feel tempted to stop working on a problem–or stop working on your marriage altogether–see that as a sign that it’s time to get help.  Read a new book together that offers new ideas for improving your relationship. Go on a Marriage Encounter or Retrouvaille weekend.  Or seek professional marital therapy.  Research shows that most struggling couples wait 4-6 years before seeking professional assistance but that just makes problems grow.  Seek help early to get the new skills you need to reclaim the peace and joy in your marriage.

For more tips on how to make your marriage thrive, check out “For better…Forever! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.” AND spend time with us every weekday at 10am ET by tuning in to More2Life on EWTN Global Catholic Radio.

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

Not Listening! Three More2Life Hacks for How to Get Your Feelings Heard

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Sometimes it feels almost impossible to get your family, friends, or significant other to listen to your feelings and meet your needs. Here are three More2Life hacks, inspired by my book, God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts! that will help you effectively communicate your needs and start living a happier, healthier life!

1.  Don’t Bury the Lede–When writers don’t start with the juiciest parts of the story, it’s called “Burying the lede.”  Often, in our attempt to either be polite or give people all the facts, we talk around things rather than stating our needs and feelings up front, then we get offended when people’s attention wanders or they miss the point.  When communicating, state your need or feeling up front.  For instance, “I’d really like to get some time together, when are you available this week?” or “I was really frustrated with the way thus and such turned out. Let’s talk about how to do that better next time.”  If you really want people to listen, don’t start with “Once upon a time” and get to your point around chapter three.  Start with your point.  Let any additional context come out in the conversation.

2. End With A Plan–When you talk with someone about your needs or solving a problem, don’t ever end the conversation without clear follow-up points. Too often, we feel like venting is the same thing as problem solving.  Clients tell me all the time, “we talked about that problem a lot.”  But when I say, “Great, and what did you decide to do about it.” I’m met with stunned silence.  When people say, “I talked to him about that.” What they usually mean is, “I complained about that.” Complaining isn’t communicating, venting isn’t problem-solving.  If a problem or need is important enough to talk about, don’t leave the conversation without know who is going to follow up with what, and when you are are going to check in with each other about it.  If you want to feel listened to, always end with a plan.
3. When Words Don’t Work, Don’t Use More Words–When someone doesn’t want to listen to you, when they ignore your needs or refuse to deal with a problem, continuing to talk about it is not only fruitless, it is counterproductive.  If someone doesn’t want to deal with a problem, one of the best ways to delay it is to simply agree to talk about it more without ever agreeing to do anything.  If you have spoken to someone about your concerns a few times without getting any result, stop using words.  Take action.  Ask yourself what steps you will need to take to address the problem or meet the need on your own, then do it.  If the other person complains, firmly, but gently, point out that you tried to enlist their help but they refused to talk about it, so you had no choice but to handle it. Then explain that next time, if they want a say in the solution, they should help you make a plan when you come to them in the first place.  Don’t get caught up in the game of talking something to death so nothing ever has to change.  When words don’t work, take action.

For more tips and tricks on how to improve your communication and relationships, tune in to More2Life, Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.