Relationships: 9+3=11…really? Mindfulness and Patience in Action

I approached the department store service center with my return items – 12 in all. The clerk greeted my arrival with a broad and friendly smile.

“May I help you, ma’am?”

“Sure, I have receipts and a bunch of clothes to return.”

I stacked the items neatly and strategically on the counter to facilitate the credit process. The clerk began the scan. My suspicions about her competence surfaced when she muttered complaints about malfunctioning equipment. After a series of obvious missteps, she printed out the return slip. Before she handed it over to me, I addressed her.

“There are 12 items returned, do you count 12 items scanned?”

I watched her counting.

“Yes, there are 12.”

My suspicions continued to nudge me, while my patience bug bit equally.

“Two heads are better than one. Do you mind if I count, too?”

She handed me the receipt. I did my count—twice.

“There are only 11 items returned on the receipt.”

“What? Really?”

I handed her the receipt. In the amount of time it would’ve taken me to count 200, she responded.

“No, there are 12.”

I reached  and co-held the receipt. With pointed finger tapping the paper, I began to count— 1, 2,….11.

“By golly, you are right. There are only 11 items returned on the slip. Are you sure there are 12 items here to return? Let me count them—-again.”

I quickly muted my flippant ‘you-have-got-to-be-kidding’ auto response.  I smiled, gritted my teeth and tolerated her doubt. Together we meticulously made two piles—-shirts with pants and a dress pile. She counted out loud.

“Okay. There are 1, 2, 3… Nine shirts and pants… And…… three dresses ..sooo…. “

“YES! We have a winner!” My thoughts were quickly crushed as she continued.

“That’s only 11. .. 9+3=11.”  She looked at me and beamed with the thrill of her victory. I did an abrupt double take and stood patiently.

“No…. ” I drawled slowly. “9…+…3 …=… 12.” I tightened my lips so no rude words could escape and nodded affirmatively. Mentally, I scrubbed the entire department floor with a toothbrush before she scrunched up her face and returned her glance to me. Her confusion remained apparent.

“Are you sure?” After another eternity of silence, she agreed. “Oh, yeah. I guess 9+3 is 12.”

“Guess? She… guesses?” My internal dialogue ranted. I imagined I saw her using her fingers.

She fumbled ineptly to identify the 12th item missing from the 11 item credit receipt.  I rapidly took charge. Within 30 seconds, I found the item – a dress – she had neglected to scan and return.  We completed the transaction. She smiled and thanked me for my patience. I squeezed a grin back.

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day.” I exited without creating unpleasantness, or filing a complaint of stupid incompetence. I had lost enough time. Mistakes will be made—-often exceptionally dumb ones.

Later, I told my husband the story. He shook his head.

“If this had happened to me, store personnel would’ve had to peel me off the walls!”

I wondered what stirred my ample burst of patience with the clerk. There is an old adage (from where I do not know) that goes something like; “Patience is a virtue. Catch it if you can. Seldom in a woman, but never in a man.”

While I do not really believe that patience is a gender-based virtue, just sometimes…. Well, anyway, here are three skills which pushed my patience button that day:

  1. I have learned to tolerate mistakes from others.
  2. I made a conscious cognitive shift to choose ‘this’ – patience – over ‘that’ – rudeness and impatience.
  3. I practiced mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

The clerk taught me a lesson that day: if I could have seamless patience with her, I could be patient with my husband, no matter what he did. After all, he can count and knows that 9+3 = 12.

Communication through Feedback: Couple Differences about Toilet Paper on a Shoe

Imagine you attended a business event and spotted an acquaintance wearing an outstanding pair of shoes and— trailing toilet paper stuck to them. What would you do?

When I coach couples with dissimilar communication styles, I pose this scenario to gain a better understanding of their values and habits regarding feedback. The great toilet paper debate is a springboard to the broader question. We discuss and compare their self projected communication output with others to patterns they describe with each other. How does feedback to others contrast and compare with what occurs between them?

The he said/she said—or gender— choices vary. Yet one striking set of answers occurs frequently:

  • He said, “I wouldn’t say anything.”

The man confessed he would not risk embarrassing the individual.  He admitted he would bypass providing a genuine compliment because, even without mention of the toilet paper, his feedback posed an unacceptable gamble of being offensive. He agreed his choice reflected his own preference if he was the potential target of the feedback. He would not want someone to bring the toilet paper to his attention.

  •  She said, “I would not hesitate to say ‘that’s a great pair of shoes and they will look even better when you remove those four feet of toilet paper trailing behind you’.”

She indicated she would be relaxed with her response and comfortable with however the receiver handled it.

Haven’t many of us faced a similar “toilet paper” type issue? What have you done? And as a person with trailing toilet paper, what would you want people to tell you?

In couple communications, attitudes about compliments and the line between negative and constructive feedback are important. Couples often are not clear/do not agree on the difference between the two. The result is a history of conflict, poor communication, or incomplete communication.

In this next week, initiate a discussion with your partner, good friend, or close colleague. Discover similarities and differences in values or habits regarding compliments, constructive feedback, sensitivity to criticism, and other feedback issues. Your communication will improve.

Push back with your opinions and experiences. What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions. 

Relationships and Respect: Words in Anger and Name-Calling

I joined the food ordering line behind a forty-ish fellow, who at that moment spun around. He first began glaring and then shouted in the direction of someone behind me.

“You can’t insult ignorant people!”

I turned in time to see a 30 something woman shoot up an unfriendly finger gesture.

“But you can kiss ignorant people’s asses.”

Yes, for real, that was the scene. Then I observed each party resume conversation with their lunch mates, ending a dispute which was evidently on a roll before I arrived. Oh my goodness-gracious, gramma would say.

These were words spit in anger for sure. Somebody was having a bad day—-or was about to begin one. I know I felt their nasty exchange imprint a stain on me. Then I began reflecting on how couples disrespect each other and perpetrate similar negativity —-and often excuse it.

Couples will argue vigorously on subjects they later admit were unimportant. Yet one or both will sustain emotional wounds from words said in anger. Later, attempts are made to excuse the ugliness—

“You know I only said that because I was angry.”

“You know I don’t really mean that.”

“I was just trying to get back at you for what you said.”

“You were ignorant first.”

—as if any of these disclaimers was enough to erase the sting and was a sufficient method of amends. Ugliness cannot be retracted so easily.

Years later those “in anger” incidents—-name-calling, insults, I-don’t-love-you’s, and lies—- return to haunt the couple if left unrepaired.

If you are incapable of just “saying no” to engaging in angry battles leaving word war wounds, remember that what you say is never harmless or doesn’t “count” because you said it “in anger”. You allowed yourself to become out of control. How can that be an excuse?

The hostile pair in the restaurant will likely never meet again. I imagine they have forgotten the angry exchange. I have not. I recall it periodically to keep myself in line.

 

  • Push back with your opinions and experiences. What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions. 

No Secrets in Marriage: Relationship Goal or Loss of Privacy?

Do you believe a great marriage is only built on no secrets? I think it depends on what you consider ‘secrets’.

Each partner will always know more about themselves than does the other. We can think we know it all or have told it all— that is seldom the case.

Consider this. Undisclosed information can be divided into secrets, surprises, and privacy.

  • Secrets are the kinds of things we advise our kids not to keep.  This helps      protect them. 

In committed adult partnerships, keeping secrets often suggests the need to hide something bad or cover up information. Hiding this secretive knowledge might function to prevent:

1. Verbal or physical abuse

2.  Surrendering individual rights to decision making

3.  Triggering of anger, frustration, or upset

4.   Loss of face

5.  Collapse of the relationship.

 

  • Surprises, in general, are considered the good things we hold in confidence temporarily.  But even so, not everybody appreciates surprises.

 

  • Privacy is an individual right to which we are all entitled—even in our intimate relationships. But how much? If we overvalue our privacy, intimacy is blocked. Too little privacy can compromise individuality and personal rights.

 

All three categories define limits in a marriage. The impact of secrets in a marriage depends on your marriage goals and the (healthy and unhealthy) relationship boundaries formed by secrets, surprises, and privacy.

 

  • Push back with your opinions and experiences. What do you think?

 

 

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions.

 

 

 

TMI in Relationships: Have Anything to Complain About?

Like me, you have probably heard people state they ‘have nothing to complain about’. I think they are wrong. We always have something that we could complain about—-if we wanted. Our lives are not perfect.

On the other hand, there are those who always have something to complain about— and do they ever complain! Yes, I know. Getting it all out and sharing everything with your partner is supposed to be good for you. Right? Wrong! Some of you may confuse complaining with the ‘delicate art of venting’.

There can be TMI in relationships—especially in couples, when one has an ‘emotional hot potato’ to release. Usually the emotional overload gets tossed at the other and the heat remains in the relationship. OOOPs! One feels better and the other feels worse. Discomfort remains and has only shifted places. It may be TMI all the way.

Be selective about the role of complaining and venting in your relationship. Check signals with your partner for TMI and NEI (not enough information). When your emotionally based communications and actions begin to overwhelm your partner, find an alternative way to discharge them. Similarly, when your ‘nothing-to-complain-about’ attitude warps into emotional distance, begin to vent appropriately.

Push back with your opinions and experiences.

What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions. 

Marriage Improvement and Nagging for Change: Tomatoes Can’t Be Baseballs

Have you gotten a melody, jingle, or phrase stuck in your brain that twists and resists purging? My recent struggle was with a message on a church marquee. Usually the sayings are corny ‘no duh’ platitudes.  I easily dismiss them; however, here’s one I could not shake: “Tomatoes Can’t Be Baseballs”.  For miles, I failed to delete that phrase from my mental spin——

Surely a tomato can look more like a baseball— you can paint it white and add stitch-looking dotted lines. You might get by with throwing it around—-depending on its ripeness. But….. hitting it with a bat? A foam bat would….Enough! I failed to make meaning of it. Next  my mind flipped to the challenge of people and change. People are not tomatoes or baseballs.

Have you wanted (or nagged) your partner to change? Is she a tomato and you want a baseball?  Did you expect your husband to change after you married him? With the strength of habits and experience of history, many believe their partners cannot change their basic nature. I disagree.

External factors can impact the extent of personal change and physical attributes play a role. But personal change and self-improvement are primarily fueled by imagination, motivation, generation of choices, and action, of course.

A healthy person’s capacity for change is shaped by his/her own expectations. People can accept influence from others to change. Influence in the form of ‘you first’ carries the greatest weight.

You can not make your partner change—only yourself.  But if you want to increase the odds that your partner will change, set expectations of change for yourself and DO IT!  Nix the nag! Then look for the impact of your influence on your partner.

  • Push back with your opinions and experiences.

        What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions.

 

 

 

 

Couples Communication: If He’s not Listening, are You Communicating?

This is kind of like the ‘tree-falling-in-the- woods’ question. You know… does anybody hear it?

Consider the differences.  Simply talking is not communicating and hearing may not involve listening.  Don’t we ALL know that? Even bad communication requires a sender and receiver. So a speaker without any listeners cannot be communicating— anything. Good communicators do not talk when no one is listening and still expect results.

Let’s move on.  Couples often struggle with communication.  Conflict erupts rapidly and resolution can be stubborn, especially when they get into arguments about intentions and interpretation—-the scene of  “that’s-not what-I-meant-but-oh-that’s-what-you-said”. Have you had someone insist they know what you meant better than you do—that their interpretation of what you said trumps your intention? Frustrating!

If you are the speaker, no matter how effective you are at communicating in the workplace or with friends, if your significant other or spouse does not “get it”— resist pointing fingers. S/he is not the only poor communicator. You also are.

Like the tango, it takes two to communicate—both well and badly.

The next time you are itching to blame or accuse the other of being the poor communicator in your relationship, slow down and stare into the mirror.  It reflects back at you. Battle temptation to take that route. Mutter to yourself, even if unconvincingly, “I have not communicated until what I meant is what my partner understood.”

Humility is very becoming in these circumstances.

 

  • Push back with your opinions and experiences.

     What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions.

 

 

 

 

Sex, Emotion, and Intimacy: Are You Sexy to Your Wife?

Sex is not a dirty word. Emotion is not wimpy. Intimacy is not a stupid buzzword. If you are not getting “enough” sexual attention from your wife, stop blaming her. Maybe you need to jump into bed with intimacy?  Have you lost your sexy AND intimate edge with her?

What makes a man sexy to his wife? Even in the face of the gender stereotypic turnoffs—- pot bellies, poor grooming, couch potato syndrome, sports’ addict focus, boozing, smoking, and immature behaviors—- male initiative to generate emotional intimacy turns a marriage sexy. Intimacy is what bonds the couple together and creates the experience of a close connection.

The other day my wonderful husband was unshaven with coffee breath and dressed in house grubbies when he unexpectedly blurted out a sincere and emotional, “I love the sh_t out of you, babe!!” His provocative emotional expressiveness was accented by his endearing “in-love” look. I am clueless as to how I triggered his spontaneous communication—–but it was a huge intimate turn on for me.

What turns YOUR wife on? Quickly—-name five things. You can’t? No wonder you’re not sexy to her. Start an intimate discussion tonight and invite her to join in with you.

 

 

  • Push back with your opinions and experiences.

  What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Dr.Patt@HireCoach.com for permissions.