For individuals in a relationship with a difficult partner who have not found their way of communicating effective when things heat up and get out of control, I have found a technique derived from the Yale Communication Model to be extremely effective.
The technique is as follows:
1. Use An “I” Statement On How The Other Person’s Behavior Makes You Feel And Then A Component That Addresses The Other Person’s Behavior.
“When you yell at me like this, I get really scared, and also feel hurt and belittled.”
“When you treat me like this, I start feeling rejected and unimportant and then I try to avoid you and don’t have the energy to do what needs to be done.”
“I know that you are really angry, as we both are. But yelling at me like this is not going to get me in your corner. In fact, it’s actually getting me more scared and pushes me away and will only contribute to a worsening of the situation between us.”
2. State What You Want.
“What I need from you is to talk to me rationally about what is going on for you rather than in a tone that is disrespectful and belittling.”
3. Set Limits On The Behavior If Necessary.
“Look, I need a time-out here. I can’t take you yelling at me. We can’t carry on this conversation if you are going to continue be red-faced and screaming in this way. This needs to stop. You clearly need to cool down and regroup. I’m going to have to end this discussion for now if you cannot adjust your tone and behavior. You need to think how you are speaking to me, and if it continues in this way, it’s going to make it impossible for us to connect.”
“Look, if this abuse does not stop, you or I will have to leave the house for a while or I will call the police.”
“I know that you are really angry. But yelling at me is not going to get what you want. In fact, it’s only going to make me shutdown and push you away.”
4. Don’t Go It Alone
It amazes me how empowering this strategy can be. Many of my clients report an improvement in their relationship and how using this simple strategy can help build a sense of self-respect and empowerment in a difficult relationship over time.
However, not everyone feels comfortable or has success in implementing this without consistent practice and some professional guidance. Some people even say, “Wow I could never do that!” As with starting any new habit that is difficult, it takes practice, consistency and some guidance.
If you are in a relationship and dealing with a difficult/angry partner, please feel free to contact me for a consultation.