As Tori sat on the couch watching another Hallmark movie, she vacillated between being so angry she could spit nails and crying in self-pity.
It was her birthday and her partner Pete of 20 years had forgotten–again.
She wanted to ream him up one side and down the other the minute he stepped in the door after working late–again.
Pete was a firefighter and although working long hours was part of the job, lately it had gotten so much worse with all the overtime.
She wanted to tell him how hurt she was that he didn’t love her enough to acknowledge her special day.
She wanted to walk out and go to her sister’s who lived a few blocks away.
She wanted him to be really, really sorry and to apologize.
Although she wasn’t that big on gifts, she did want him to do SOMETHING–anything–that would prove she was important to him.
As she sat there waiting for him, she remembered some article on the web that the best way to communicate is to tell the person immediately exactly what you are feeling.
Somehow, that advice felt good but then another thought crept in.
She recalled hearing a podcast a few weeks back where the two of us were the guests and we suggested that no solution ever came in the height of emotion and accusations.
While it would briefly feel good to yell at Pete, she knew he’d get defensive and tell her that he never did anything right where she was concerned so he didn’t even try.
Then he’d walk away hurt and angry.
She didn’t want to fall into the same communication hole they always fell into.
She needed to have a new plan.
Here’s what she learned about saying what’s on your mind when we had a coaching conversation with her…
(See if any of this could be helpful to you as well)
1. Saying what’s on your mind is a bad idea when you’re emotionally overwhelmed.
When your emotions are swirling, you don’t have the clarity to really say what’s in your heart.
You react from old tapes and usually end up saying what could end up damaging the relationship.
Tori realized her heightened emotion would only push Pete further away and that’s not what she wanted.
2. Give yourself some space to allow your thoughts to settle so you can discover what you really want before you speak.
When you can allow your thinking to settle, what you really want tends to bubble up into consciousness.
When Tori allowed all her stories about how Pete didn’t love her to fade away (they actually had had a nice weekend together a couple of weeks ago), she discovered that she was lonely on these nights he worked late and she missed him.
It was powerful for her to have the insight that it wasn’t so much that he forgot her birthday but that she missed him.
3. Talk about what’s really important and make a request.
Tori had gone to bed that night and didn’t hear Pete when he came in.
In the morning when they both woke up, Tori snuggled into his arms and told him that she missed him and asked if they could talk about how they could spend more time together.
He told her he did realize that he had missed her birthday and he wanted to make it up to her.
He also said that she was important to him and there might be an opportunity for him for another job with more regular hours.
Now of course not all difficult conversations go that easily but in our experience, people who open their hearts and invite rather than accuse have a far better chance to resolve differences and get back to loving.
If you’ve had difficulties saying what’s on your mind, know that it doesn’t have to be that way from now on.
There are ways of communicating that invite cooperation and more love rather than defense and fighting–while still being true to what’s inside YOU.