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This post was originally published by Holly L. Harrison on 9/11/2013. Pictures have been added to the post, clearer titles have been included, and minor edits have been made for clarity (1).
There is one phrase I tell all of my clients to memorize who are coming in for relationship work because it is so important:
“Am I a good person to talk to right now?”
I love this phrase because it neatly sums up so much in one sentence! The message here is that no one is good to talk to all of the time. This is okay and it just means you are normal. Also, it is okay that you get hungry, lonely, sad, sick, angry, and just plain worn out sometimes. You might even be a mix of all of the above! The key is to recognize your own emotional and physical state to make a determination of your readiness for conversation and interaction.
Those with effective communication habits already have made a habit of doing an internal check on a regular basis, and especially before every important conversation they have at home or at work. They may not outright say to themselves, “Am I a good person to talk to right now?” but they do some form of assessment.
The effects of not doing an internal self-check can be devastating on a relationship. When that self-check is not done, your communication can potentially be fueled from negative emotions such as anger, fear, jealousy, and sadness. So, what is the typical reaction to conversation fueled by negative emotions? Potentially more harmful emotion based conversation hurled right back at you from the listener that continues to escalate on both sides. Hurtful and demeaning communication habits can lead to distance in a relationship, broken trust, and possibly even a relationship ending.
Remember—you are completely normal for wanting to say some negative statements based on your emotions at times; the only part you can change is recognizing when your emotions are getting the best of you and removing yourself from the situation.
how to best use this phrase if you are a couple:
1. When first practicing this self-check, pick out routine times to assess yourself. Maybe try breakfast, lunch, dinner, and right before bedtime. This will give you the opportunity to start to figure out your best, okay, and worst times to communicate on a general basis.
2. Do a self-check whenever you begin to have strong negative emotions, and regularly throughout the wave of the emotions until you are back to your typical emotional state.
3. Remove yourself from any conversation and wait to respond to a text, email, phone message, etc. until you have cooled off and had some time to more objectively view the situation. For example, waiting a day or even two days can be very helpful. A good night's rest can do wonders.
4. If you find that during the majority of your day you are irritable, angry, sad, frustrated, etc. and not a good person to talk to, then this is an indicator that you might need some extra support in processing and working through your own emotions. Or maybe you are reeling after a bunch of stressful events that happened all at once, and you need some time and additional self-care. Either way, it is vitally important to the success of your relationship that you recognize when you are utilizing conversation fueled by negative emotion, or healthy, constructive, and fair communication.
Work on setting your conversations up for success! Practice incorporating an internal self-check several times throughout your day until you have created an automatic habit. I definitely am realistic in that there is usually never a perfect time to communicate about important topics; however, I do believe there are BETTER times to do so.
The majority of the work in healthy communication involves just recognizing your own internal state and then responding back appropriately when you have cooled off and had some time to recognize the really important issues versus the not as important ones. Really, this is most of the battle. When two people are cognizant of their internal states and communicate when it is a better time for both of them—it is amazing to see the progress and effectiveness soar!
Thank you for joining me today. If this post was helpful, please hit the Facebook Like button below or share the blog on Twitter.
Talk to you next week.
All the best,
Holly L. Harrison
PS Can I send you an email about once a week? The email will have links to my latest blog post in case there is a topic you are interested in. As the business grows and I add more products and services, I will mention in the email what has been added. The email newsletter is currently being worked on, and once it's ready I'll start sending it out. Thanks for your patience!
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Holly L. Harrison, MA, LMFT