Relationship Fitness

S14: Communication Skills E2: Hang with Your Wisdom

In “Relationship Workout for Men,” Season 14 Episode 2 titled “Hang with Your Wisdom,” Vince explores the first essential communication skill: staying wise and composed, especially when faced with conflict. He discusses the importance of not getting defensive or judgmental, keeping a peaceful state of mind, and focusing on facts rather than personal attacks. Vince emphasizes how crucial it is to remain empathetic and view the partner as a teammate rather than an adversary during disputes. This episode is a guide on maintaining one’s wisdom amidst challenging conversations, aiming to foster more constructive and fair resolutions in relationships with minimal drama.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 14 Episode 2: Hang with Your Wisdom

In this episode, we’ll discuss Relationship Workout Communication Skill #1: Hang with Your Wisdom

As discussed in Season 1: Why You Should Care, at a high-level, as a guy, you would do well to commit yourself to relationship excellence – a commitment to intentionally being the best partner you can be. 

And in Season 2: Your Mind, we explored how staying in the present moment can help you in maintaining this commitment to Relationship Excellence, even if the life situation before you is throwing daggers in your direction. Regardless of what’s going down, you’re all about cooperating with an all-about-we approach to the relationship, trying to fairly resolve whatever issues are on the table, as discussed in season 7 on kindness.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Sure, in times of calm, we can all talk the talk about being all for fair cooperation, but it’s when the shit hits the fan that we really get tested. And when the room is starting to funk up something terrible, the first question becomes, are you hanging with your Wisdom, or are you dancing with your Demons (as discussed in Season 2, episode 7)?

In other words, are you really ready to engage in a challenging conversation?

The thing is, if one or both of you is triggered, then it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to have a fruitful conversation around the issue. For instance, let’s say she’s triggered and calls you a complete idiot or ass for saying or doing [fill in the black]. Wow, how do you respond? 

If you get triggered as well, then you might retaliate by saying something like “Well, you’re a complete bitch for saying [fill in the blank]!” Or you might get defensive with a defiant “I didn’t do that!” Or you might just ignore her altogether. 

Well, it doesn’t take a relationship Guru to know that none of these triggered responses has a high likelihood of moving the ball forward to getting this issue resolved.

But how do you know if someone is hanging with their Wisdom or dancing with their Demons? Here are 14 ways to keep in mind.

1.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, then you maintain a peaceful state of mind that is reflected in calm breathing, versus if you’re dancing with your Demons you find yourself breathing erratically with a mind that is racing uncontrollably.

2.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, you’re all about honestly talking to all the facts to gain a better understanding of what happened, versus self-selecting and distorting the facts to build your case in an attempt to win and be right.

3.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, you assertively express your point of view, while remaining open to changing your mind when you hear new information, versus using power plays such as yelling, threats, rages or intimidation to win.

4.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You truly let go of the issue if it’s determined the issue isn’t worth fussing over any longer, versus using passive weak anger plays such as crying or giving the silent treatment to win.

5.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You take ownership and responsibility for your contributions to issues, versus blaming her for what’s wrong or denying anything is wrong at all

6.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You listen to her because you genuinely want to know her point of view, versus not listening to her because you don’t really care about her point of view.

7.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You validate her feelings, versus de-valuing her feelings.

8.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You see her as part of your relationship team, versus approaching her as the adversary

9.     If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You’re compassionate toward your partner’s situation, versus negatively judging her and her point of view as somehow being wrong.

10.  If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You don’t feel a need to be in complete control of your partner, versus attempting to control the situation to maximize your position or inflict some level of pain on her.

11.  If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You respect that your partner has a point of view and don’t take this point of view personally, versus getting defensive when accused of a wrong doing and focusing more on proving your innocence.

12.  If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You have the ability to see things as varying shades of gray, versus seeing things as black and white.

13.  If you’re hanging with your Wisdom, You show respect for your partner, versus often putting her down.

14.  If you’re having with your Wisdom you want to be the best partner possible, versus if you’re Dancing with your Demons you frequently want to have things your way: It’s your way or the wrong way.

Put simply, it’s really important that both people hang with their Wisdom to have an effective conversation. If one or both of you is dancing with their Demons, then expect a challenging conversation or even a full-on fight. Watch out, as Ego can be in complete control as the conversation / argument becomes all about winning, controlling and being right. It basically feels like you’re at war, as you negatively judge your partner for having a different point of view.

That said, one way to tell if a person is dancing with their Demons is to observe if he or she has become defensive, taking the issue and what’s being said personally.

Put simply, it’s important not to get defensive

Staying open, curious and receptive — instead of going on the defensive — is crucial to hanging with your Wisdom and working as a team to find fair resolutions to the inevitable dilemmas. 
 When people become defensive, their ability to problem-solve drops dramatically, as all thoughts and energy are devoted to self-protection and getting their way. Ever see an adult act with the emotional maturity of a child? 

At a high level, defensiveness feels like a need to protect ourselves from the other person. At a deeper level, however, defensiveness is about trying to protect ourselves from the (extremely) uncomfortable feelings that the current life situation is creating inside us. 

At still a deeper level, defensiveness is about protecting our egos, exposing any uncertainties we may have about ourselves. For example, if your lover calls you stupid, then you might get defensive and name-call back. But why? If you’re secure in your self-esteem, then why not think she’s entitled to her point of view? If this happens to you, try asking her why she thinks you’re stupid? 

Who knows, by staying receptive you might find ways where you could do better in the relationship. Or you’ll find out that there has been a misunderstanding that could use clarifying between the two of you.

What is so sinister about defensiveness is that you might think your defensiveness helped you navigate through the current life situation. For example, let’s say she tells you she’s unhappy with her sex life. You respond defensively by saying, fine, we won’t have sex anymore. Case closed. But has the real issue been resolved? No. All that was left in the wake of the defensiveness is a partner who feels even more alienated — a path to further misery together (and, in this example, an MIA sex life).

In her book, When Words Hurt: How to Keep Criticism from Undermining your Self Esteem3, Mary Lynne Heldmann lists four things not to do when you’re feeling defensive:

1.     Don’t Defend: Don’t go over the top defending your innocence. If you are innocent, then calmly and simply state the relevant facts in support of this innocence.

2.     Don’t Deny: If you did contribute to the issue, then fess up and apologize.

3.     Don’t Counterattack: Approach your partner as part of the same team, and not as the enemy. Maintain your calm, and again stay with the facts, regardless of how she might be treating you.

4.     Don’t Withdraw: As men, when our partner is in fight mode, often we just want to get the hell out of there (either physically and/or mentally). Of course, call a timeout if you’re at the risk of losing it, or she has completely lost it to her Demon’s control. However, stay in the difficult conversation as long as you’re actively hanging with your Wisdom and think there’s still potential for further understanding to be gained.

Bottom line: When you feel yourself becoming defensive and taking things personally, then it’s extremely helpful to do a full stop and start breathing. Don’t re-engage until you have some level of peace of mind and can work from a place of Wisdom.

So that’s Relationship Workout Communication Skill #1: Hang with Your Wisdom.

Next, we turn to Relationship Workout Communication Skill #2: Set the Cooperative Intentions, the topic of our next episode.

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