Finger Pointing Words

I’ve been to counseling as an individual and counseling as a couple. One of the things that has been repeated over and again, almost like a mantra, is using “I” statements to express how I feel. Maybe I’m just slow. Alright, I know that I’m slow at times. I don’t think that I’m the only one, though, when it comes to understanding what exactly that entails. I have worked with a number of clients that have repeated the same thing; “I know how to communicate. I used “I” statements.”

Good for you. I’ve said the same thing. It wasn’t until I went to a workshop at Sandler Training in Wexford, PA, that I finally grasped the absolute right way to use “I” statements. They put us through an exercise that really opened my eyes to the application of this useful tool. I modified the exercise to be applicable to a situation in which I found myself. I used the same tactic with one of my client couples. At the end of the exercise, both of them just sat there looking at one another. Their communication had reached a new level; the likes of which neither of them had, until that moment, yet experienced.

So what was this mind blowing revelation?

The exercise at Sandler put us in a mock networking event. The rules were simple. Go around the room, talking to people as you would in a real networking event. The only stipulation was that we couldn’t use I, we, us, our or any derivative of those words. We had to talk about ourselves and what we did in an extremely abbreviated fashion. The person who slipped up first had to sit down and was out of the game.

For those of you who know me on a personal level know that I love the sound of my own voice. In other words, I love to talk. As a coach, I am constantly having to remind myself that I have two ears and only one mouth; I should use both proportionately. It should come as no big surprise that I was one of two people left standing when the exercise came to an end. My approach was very simple.

Jeremy Cid. Professional relationship coach and founder of Always Opening Doors.”

Then I would fire off one question after another as they answered the preceding one, always including the word “you”.

What do you do?” “Where did you go to school?” “How long have you been with company Y?”

Having those restrictions placed on my vocabulary that is against everything I have ever learned about communication was, again, one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. Not only on a professional level, but on a personal level as well. Stay with me, I promise I’m getting to the point.

What I learned is that when it comes to communicating with another person about how we feel, it simply is not enough to use “I” statements. The secret, that is so hard to accomplish, is to eliminate common words from our vocabulary. Words like she, you, he, him, her, our and any derivative of the like. This allows for all of the focus to be put on us (the speaker) and our feelings, without placing any focus on the other person, what so ever. We have to refer to the situation itself, excluding any reference to the person who “wronged” us.

When I’m yelled at, it makes me feel like I’m a child being scolded. I don’t feel like I am an equal part of this relationship.”

Apply any situation and any feelings to this and the result is the same; a way of expressing ourselves that allows our partner to see what we’re feeling without having to try and look over that defensive wall that is built as soon as the word you escapes our lips. Even if neither person is in the wrong for anything, eliminating “finger pointing words” opens the door to begin to see how the other person really feels.

As a coach, it is not my responsibility to give my clients the answers. It is my responsibility to ask the questions that will lead the people I am trying to help to find the answers for themselves. I ask the questions that will lead them to setting attainable goals so that they can move forward and achieve the type of relationship they desire. I have challenged myself to stripping the word you, and any of it’s derivatives that places the focus on the other person, from my vocabulary.

While working with a client couple after the workshop, I did the same thing. They were addressing a situation that had occurred a couple of days prior in which neither of them were happy with how they had handled things. When I asked them to recount what happened, both individuals used finger pointing words when talking to me and you when addressing each other. Both of them started getting worked up again and I could see those defensive walls getting higher with every use of she, he or you. Once both of them had finished their sides of the story, I asked them to tell me what happened again, this time, avoiding the use of those finger pointing words. Instead, referring specifically to the situation.

When I’m called a b@#$%, I get angry”

And so the questioning began. I guided them to expressing what they felt and what the results would be if that continued to happen through a series of open ended questions. If either person slipped, I stopped them and asked them to try again. Upon reaching the point of expression where person A had expressed, “When this happens, I feel ___. When I feel ____, I want to ____. If I keep feeling ____, then ___ will happen.”, I would ask the other person how they felt about what they heard.

The result was that one person was able to express that they were scared of being left, so they reacted on that fear. The other person felt as if they weren’t really a part of the relationship, like they were one of the children. I wish that I could express the change in the air around us as the couple heard how the other person really felt. Like I said, they had never experienced that before and both of them sat in stunned silence. A silence that was broken by one of them asking me, “Where were you when I was in therapy?” We all laughed and hugged at their break through. We then had the discussion about what goals they could set for themselves for the week to help keep them moving forward.

I want to close this out by stating that I am not bashing therapy or counseling in any way. I think that it can be extremely beneficial for those who have that specific goal in mind. The goal of dealing with the past. The goal of coaching is not to delve into the past. The goal is to determine how a person can get to where they want to be. It’s about looking forward.

If you would like to learn more about eliminating finger pointing words from your vocabulary, please feel free to contact me at Always Opening Doors. All consultations are free to help you determine if I can be of any assistance to you and/or your partner.

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Pittsburgh Couples on TV

This morning at 7:00 am.

Today is a very special day for me, my company and some very dear friends who have stuck with me through thick and thin. We begin shooting the pilot for our new reality series, It’s Not Over.

The show is going to focus on local couples (for now) who have lost the spark in their relationships or who just want to find a way to bring back that spark that brought them together in the first place. I have teamed up with a few other local companies to really bring something special to these real life couples who are opening up their hearts and homes in order to keep their love alive.

The show is a celebration of those who realize that love alone is not enough to keep a couple together. It takes work. So I am offering my services as a relationship coach to them, then sending them off to celebrate the new beginning in their relationship.

Vague, I know. But I don’t want to spoil all of the details just yet. We have been shooting footage for the past couple of days, getting some beautiful footage for the opening and closing credits. So if any of you local yinzers want to be a part of this, come on out and share your story with us.

You can email me at alwaysopeningdoors.aod.com for the address or for more information.

It’s NOT Always The Thought That Counts

Thoughts do not generate results; actions do.

Growing up as a child, and even now as an adult, I hear people say, “It’s the thought that counts.” Cynics will usually follow up with something that is equally cliché such as, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

I will agree that there is some truth to the first statement. I am more inclined to agree more with the second statement. Of course, that is relevant based solely on your individual belief on what constitutes an eternity surrounded by fire and brimstone. I do not want to instigate a debate on Heaven or Hell, their existence and how one might acquire access into either place. Rather, I am going to focus more on the first statement and why I believe it is NOT always the thought that counts.

If you are driving down the road during a horrendous storm and you pass someone who is broken down on the side of the road, emergency lights flashing, do you stop to offer assistance? Do you even think about it?

I believe in the genuine ‘good nature’ of people and will assume that you at least think about it. But thinking about it does absolutely nothing to help the individual that is stranded.

Does it?

I will go even further out on a limb and speculate that you (we) will often think about our partner in a given situation. Maybe they are running late for work. Perhaps we think about offering to help or even go so far as to actually offer. If you pay attention to your partner and know them in the way that couples who cohabitate do, you will have likely learned some of their patterns and rituals when getting ready in the mornings. Maybe she likes to take a cup of coffee with her to work. If you know this about her (or him), instead of asking if you can do anything to help or think about asking – just get up and fix her coffee for her. Better still, redevelop your own pattern so that you can do this each morning.

If you are in the middle of an argument, you may think about being the bigger person by taking action to change the course of the conversation, even if you are not in the wrong, but decid against it because of pride. Swallow your pride and take action. The thought alone does nothing to improve the situation.

The next time you think about someone – TELL THEM.

The next time you see a stranger stranded on the side of the road, take the time to stop and at least offer assistance. Even if you don’t know the first thing about fixing a car. Who knows, maybe their son or daughter was in a terrible car accident and they were on their way to the hospital when their car decided to crap the bed. Worse still, in their haste to get to their beloved child, they left their cell phone sitting on the kitchen counter and have no way to call anyone for help.

What ever the situation or with whomever you are engaged (or could be engaged), take action on those random acts of kindness. Take action on those thoughts. Thoughts alone do not generate results. Action does.