In celebration of our ninth anniversary, Neil and I decided to attend a weekend workshop for couples to enrich our relationship. Actually, I caught Neil at a weak moment when he agreed to go and said later, “I can’t wait to talk about my feelings for 2 ½ days”.
The workshop was led by Ben Cohen, PhD, a therapist in Boulder who specializes in the work of Harvel Hendricks and Helen Hunt, co-authors of the book, Getting the Love You Want. The weekend was not just about talking about feelings, but a combination of lecture, written exercises, demonstrations, and dialogue to give us practical skills to deepen our connection.
The whole weekend was empowering for both of us and one of the most insightful practices we learned was how to eliminate ALL negativity in your relationship. That sounds like a tall order but the premise for this is compelling:
Behind Every Criticism is a Frustration
Under Every Frustration is a Hurt and Unmet Desire
Turn Every Criticism into a Request
This practice has completely changed our communication style, especially regarding areas that frustrate us. This is how it works:
Criticism: Why won’t you load the dishwasher properly?
Frustration: I feel like you don’t ever listen to me.
Request: Could you load the dishwasher the way we agreed?
Criticism: You never tell me what’s going on with your family!
Frustration: I feel left out and unimportant.
Request: Can you keep me in the loop when you have new information regarding your family?
Criticism: You always make us late for church!
Frustration: I feel embarrassed and humiliated when we walk in late.
Request: Can you be ready to leave earlier so we can get to church on time?
The frustrations are not so much about the actual incident, but how it makes us feel, such as unheard, unimportant, and humiliated. That is why turning your criticism into a request for what you DO want is such a mindful and empowering practice.
What frustrates you and how could you turn it into a request today?