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All allusions to clients, case histories, or coaching scenarios in these columns have been altered so they no longer resemble any person, living, dead, or just hanging out at the mall.
Leading a dual existence has become so commonplace in many sectors of professional and academic life that this phenomenon has become a cliche. We've all heard the stories about the professor of ethics who is thrown out of university for misconduct, or the pacifist/conscientious objector who is arrested for random acts of unprovoked violence.
Alternatively, there are people with outstanding reputations in their public life, but when we take even a superficial look at their domestic existence, we find that many of them don't "walk the talk" at home. I recently read an article by a very wise man (who prefers to remain anonymous) who stated that our true character is determined by the way in which we are perceived by our own family members.
Are we seen by our family as a tyrant, a despot, or perhaps as someone who cancels the pizza order before it arrives? Domestic bliss has become more and more difficult to achieve in our day and age, as seen by the increase in domestic violence and divorce, not to mention the exponential growth in the demand for John Grey's book "Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus".
A friend of mine who serves in the Chicago Police Force once confided in me that most of his colleagues, if given a choice, would rather run to the scene of a mob of lunatics sporting Hamas lunchboxes and handheld nuclear devices than to show up in the eye of the storm of a domestic struggle.
Some police precincts have reported that domestic violence often proves to be the most fatal of all police work. My cop friend once told me of an incident in which he arrived on the scene of a domestic struggle. As he and his partner were about to knock on the door, a television came crashing out of the living room window and landed on the front lawn not far from their feet. When the husband answered the door, understandably enraged, the policeman didn't show his badge but rather stated that he was a television repairman. The assault and battery suspect began laughing so hard and continuously that he allowed the officer to read him his rights, handcuff him, and get him into the squad car with no resistance whatsoever.
While we certainly hope that our marital relationships never get out of hand like the story above, it's a good idea to keep our relationships in check as a preventative measure. While we don't have to agree with everything our partners say or do, we can make a monumental effort to make them feel like we are on their side and are listening to them, which does wonders for improving our relationships.
Take a few moments to have fun with the following ideas:
The first step is language. I don't mean English, Hebrew, or Aramaic when I say language. I am referring to the nuances within our tongue of choice. Most of us process information predominately in one of three ways: Visual (Seeing), Auditory (Hearing), or Kinesthetic (Feeling). This often translates itself into the actual words that we use. If your spouse uses a large number of visual words or phrases, such as "You don't see what I'm talking about", "I can't picture another night without going out" then he/she is probably a visual thinker. If you respond to your spouse in an auditory (hearing) way, such as "I hear what you are saying", "It sounds okay to me" then for all intents and purposes, the two of you are speaking different languages. This language gap will not draw us any closer together at best, and can place a wedge in our relationship at worst. Take a few moments and try to find our what your partner's dominant way of communicating is and then try to speak in the same language. Do you see what I mean? Does this idea ring a bell? Are you getting a good feeling from this plan?
If you tell your life partner that you love them with an angry or banal tone of voice, the message will be lost and will probably backfire on you. When you try to calm down your better half while speaking in a shrill and frenetic tone of voice, your efforts will prove futile. When speaking, try to match your tonality with the message your are relating. The meaning of your communication is the response you get. If you aren't getting the response you want, then change what you are doing until you get what you want, and in this case, chose appropriate tonality that matches the content of the message you are trying to relate.
Rate and Speed of Speech
If your soul mate speaks slowly and you respond while racing off a mile a minute, something is obviously going to be missing in the interaction. Try to match the rate and speed of your companion and you will be able to continue to plant the seeds of domestic bliss in more fertile ground. The best communicators in the world are those that show the greatest amount of flexibility.
While these techniques may seem simplistic, they really do work, as long as you don't forget to have a sense of humor when employing them. Will these tips alone come to the aid of a dysfunctional marriage that could use the help of a skilled marriage counselor or social worker? Probably not. However, if we are in decent marriages that we would like to improve, or in good marriages that we would like to make even better, these tools can work wonders.
Once we develop greater rapport with our partners, we will see miracles begin to happen in our lives. With this newly found or improved domestic tranquility, we can now focus on creating greater rapport with our children, which will be the subject of the next column. Until then, we can pray that we can live in a world with fewer flying TVs.
In addition to his personal coaching practice, Ben Goldfarb has led corporate trainings at Philips Medical Systems, Israel Aircraft Industry, and Marvell Semiconductor. He is the founder and director of Paradigm Shift Communications. For more information, send an e-mail to email@example.com, visit the PSC website at www.pdshiftcoaching.com, or call 972-(0)2-641-6673 to arrange a complimentary phone consultation.
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