Confession: I should have used the skills
Confession time. I spend all day working with the skills and know the skills, but, when a specific situation arose this past weekend where I should have used the skills with my boyfriend did I use them. No! Oops.
And not using the skills made the situation waaay worse. Like jumping to every possible bad scenario under the sun, the world is going to end, worse. Why? Because both of us had these expectation that weren’t reached and when expectations aren’t reached it’s easy to take something small and turn into something 100 times worse. Which is exactly what happened.
What was the problem? It was this. My boyfriend is living in a different state for the summer doing a prestigious internship. Yes, I understand it’s a great opportunity for him. Yes, I know that the summer isn’t that long. Yes, I’m so glad I’m doing this in a day and age where there is modern technology. Knowing all of that doesn’t make it any less hard as long-distance relationships are work. He’s not a huge talker so has had a hard time wrapping around WHY we have to talk every single day. Wasn’t a couple of times a week more than plenty because what could we possibly talk about every.single.day? Lots actually. Can you tell her grew up in a family of brothers because doesn’t her know that girls ALWAYS have things we can talk about.
Then one night, he said he was going to call and he didn’t. And I was mad. Like really, really mad. I’d looked forward to that call all day and a piece of me was hurt that it hadn’t happened. A couple of frustrated texts were exchanged and we both went to bed trying to figure out why this one thing just exploded. When we talked the next day, it boiled down to this: I was upset that he hadn’t called by a certain time as I assumed that it meant he wasn’t calling at all; He’d thought that as long as he called, it didn’t matter when he called which he was was planning on doing, just later than I expected.
See. It was something so small. Too bad it didn’t stay that way.
Here’s how using just a step or two of the skills would have made a HUGE difference in this particular situation (and, hopefully you’ll see how important it is to use the skils).
If only we had used steps 2 and 3 from the skill of Preventive Teaching where we talked about the behavior we wanted in a given situation and provided a reason that was meaningful to other person as to why before the situation arose. Then, we wouldn’t have been frustrated when unspoken expectation weren’t met—and they weren’t. I was expecting him to call me by a certain time. He thought all that mattered was that he called. Now, knowing where the other person is coming from and why their viewpoint is important, has allowed us to come up with a solution that works for us. Because I don’t like not being able to plan around when he calls, he now calls in a set timeframe. Because he likes have some autonomy as to WHEN to call, he can choose when in that time frame he makes the call.
If only we had used the steps of Effective Communication to clarify and reflect back these expectation before we encountered this situation, we (mostly me) wouldn’t have spent a sleepless night going over everything that was, and wasn’t, said and making assumptions as to what the person was thinking. Let me tell you, even when tensions are running high, you can still use the steps effectively and it does wonders to deescalate the situation quickly.
If only we had used the steps from Effective Praise, we would have focused more on the things that the other person is doing right than the one thing they weren’t. Instead of freaking out over the one time he didn’t call, I would have thanked him for all the times he HAD called. I do know that the best way to change behavior is by focusing on what is right rather than what is wrong. Which meant that if I’d done the steps, I would have gotten the change I wanted without a huge frustration. Which would have been a win/win for both of us.
For all of those concerned about the outcome of all of this. Don’t be. We’re better than before as it showed us we could do better. When we finally talked about this, we used the steps of the skills and they easily helped us work through everything and reminded us WHY we need to use the skills. Guess there’s something good that comes from #FirstFight.