Over the weekend I was looking at a paper with interpersonal effectiveness skills explained. It hasn’t been gone over yet in group, but my therapist has been working with me during the individual sessions on interpersonal effectiveness skills. I was specifically looking at the section called GIVE. GIVE is used to help better interact in a relationship. You are supposed to be Gentle with your communication; act Interested; Validate the other person’s thoughts/feelings/behaviors; and keep the conversation light with an Easy manner. As I was reading over this worksheet, I realized that I have no idea how to talk to people. I was trying to list ways that I could be gentle and I came up empty. Same with validating the other person and keeping things light and easy. The only thing I know how to do is act interested, but I’m usually NOT interested, so I don’t act it.
I said something to Jay a while after perusing the interpersonal effectiveness worksheet. He jerked back, like I had slapped him, and said, “Wow, you really don’t know how to talk to people!” LMCAO He’s so right, and I told him so. I’m pretty sure this is one of the things he has been saying to me for a long time now, but I was unsure how to go about changing it. Now, I actually have a way that may be helpful.
I spoke with my therapist about GIVE this morning. She went over with me how to go about being gentle, validating the other person, and using an easy manner.
I told her that I have an especially hard time with being gentle. I just don’t know how to do it, especially if I’m mad. She said that when angry, one has to really work to push that anger aside so that they CAN be gentle. Some of the ways to be gentle are by being careful with your tone of voice, showing courtesy, avoiding name calling, and avoiding judgment and “should” statements. The key here is to respectfully communicate without judgment, sarcasm or criticism. Avoiding guilt trips and manipulation is another key element. Manipulating someone is apparently the opposite of being gentle and non-judgmental. It’s like saying, “I think you should act this way, and since you aren’t, I’m going to make you feel a certain way so I can get the results I want.” Not only are you judging their actions, you are attempting to control them. Definitely not acting in a gentle manner.
We did not discuss ways to act interested, but here are some of my ideas. Give the person your complete attention. I know that I have a habit of picking up my phone or my tablet when Jay is talking. In my mind I’m just multitasking. I can still hear him, but at the same time I am doing something that I’m wanting to do. All he sees is that I am ignoring him and brushing him off for something else. Asking questions is another way of showing interest, but be careful not to do it in a way that seems like you’re interrupting. Ask clarifying questions, or repeat what they said, just so they know that you heard them. I think looking a person in the eye is another way to show interest, but I’m also aware that this sometimes makes the other person uncomfortable.
I’ve had issues with properly validating people, too. I was always under the impression that you had to agree with the other person in order to validate them. Jay would tell me that something I innocently said had hurt his feelings. I would then take ten minutes explaining to him why he shouldn’t be hurt, why he shouldn’t feel the way he did, and why he took it the wrong way. Of course, this would just make Jay angry, as it would make anyone angry. His feelings were being invalidated. The first key is to not judge. Once again, avoid using “should”. There is no “should” in feelings. Things affect some people differently than they do others. There is no right or wrong way to feel. In order to validate someone’s feelings, a short, simple sentence to let them know that you really hear what they are trying to communicate about how they feel is all that’s necessary. If I had just said to Jay, “Wow, I hear that I hurt you. I’m sorry,” he most likely wouldn’t get upset. Not most likely. I have said that to him before, and he lets his hurt go. He just wants to be heard and validated. My therapist told me that you can accept and validate someone’s feelings without having to agree with them. She told me you don’t have to AGREE, but you do have to give them the freedom to think and feel whatever they want. Don’t tell them what they should or should not feel. Don’t argue about what they are feeling. Just let them feel it without judgment.
The last part of GIVE is to keep the conversation light with an easy manner. I was told that this is more of an attitude and not specifically so much what you say. It’s more about having a lighthearted demeanor. Joking with the other person, smiling, and laughing. I’m told that smiling goes a long way and is a big part of one’s demeanor. I guess I’ll have to try it more often. Another part is just being personable, which I have a hard time with. I can be straight-laced and professional all day long, but when it comes to being personable, I have a little trouble. I’m pretty stiff with people, mostly because I feel uncomfortable. One more thing for me to work on. Being at ease with yourself and others helps to keep things light and easy.
I’m glad I have it set in my head how to better interact with people. Not just people in general. This is for relationships that you want to keep and nurture. The hard part is going to be putting it into action, but, I’m confident that, with a little (or a LOT) practice, I should be able to improve Jay’s and my relationship.