Tag Archives: couples

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. 

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. 

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.