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Old 01-26-2013, 07:29 AM
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StudentofLife StudentofLife is offline
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Question If you can't say anything nice....

That phrase, "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all." is something I noticed used here for the first time in my reading. It's a rough one for me to read, and it brings up a question or two.
I grew up in a family where this phrase was The Law. Don't ever say anything about my parent's terrible marriage, or how they'd go weeks without speaking to each other, and my father would go months without speaking to his kids. Later, it was The Law about my mother's severe hoarding issues, which continue to this day. Don't ever talk about how she values piles of old newspapers more than she does her own children and grandchildren, who can't visit her because there is literally not one place to sit in her home. Pretend everything is fine, all the time. Stop speaking entirely if you have to, that's better than ever saying anything that might make anyone else upset.
My question is how can someone learn these communication skills necessary to have the types of relationships a lot of you have? Today I tried to communicate something to someone I love, something I knew would upset them, something "Not Nice". It's taken me a year and a half to be able to even bring the topic up. I can't help but feel that this is not only ridiculous, but something that would doom a poly relationship to failure.
I spent hours yesterday looking for something that functions like this forum but is dedicated to the topic of communication in relationships. I didn't find anything that looked like it would help. Does such a forum exist?
Where did you learn to communicate? Have any of you had to overcome entire lifetimes of conditioning in order to have the type of love in your life that you want?
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Old 01-26-2013, 03:51 PM
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Default Passive or Courteous

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Originally Posted by StudentofLife View Post
Have any of you had to overcome entire lifetimes of conditioning in order to have the type of love in your life that you want?
"if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" is something I've heard in my life, for sure. My parents had the old (current?) approach to parenting; treating us like we were a chore to take care of, and that controlling us was more important by far than helping us grow into healthy adults.

Unfortunately what I seem to have learned from this is that silence is courteous. That, speaking up should only happen when it is absolutely necessary. Generally this means that when I communicate it is well after the point when it could be done constructively. This is being passive and then explosive... which if you've been following along at home is a very infective way to relate to people.

"be assertive, and keep in mind your audience" or something like it is a mantra would have much rather learned in my formative years. This approach ensures that little issues don't become big issues (at least not because it was never discussed) and that tone, detail, and volume are customized for the person I'm talking to.

Having said that though, I do still see that "if you don't have anything nice.." has a place in relating to people. This is the phrase I think of when I hear people whine on and on about their parents or spouses (or whatever) at a party. This idea that everyone is thrilled to hear them pat themselves on the back about how shitty their lives are. That's not really the scenario we are talking about here, I just wanted to clarify that I don't think the phrase needs to be thrown out all together, but that it is more of a time and place issue.
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Old 01-26-2013, 04:33 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Quote:
"If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all."
The word "nice" also means "accurate." Most people go with the definition of "nice" that is "pleasant" or "agreeable." But the word "nice" here to me is for "accurate" -- accuracy in your manners.

So this phrase used as a reminder to others on their manners -- is about "time and place." More specifically, THE HOW and WHEN of your communication. Not the TOPIC of conversation. More like...

Quote:
"If you can't say anything accurate for this time/place don't say anything at all."
"Is this the time? Is this the place?" I use with my kid rather than "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" because I find that is clearer for her as she learns her manners skills in childhood.

I do not want to shut her up and not have any communication at all. That will not serve her as an adult. But, time and place matters. So... just PAUSE it there, kid. If at this time you cannot contribute accurately to the conversation (ex: kid stuff smack in the middle of big adult conversation about mortgages) hold on, and we'll get to yours in a bit. (She struggles with interruptions right now too -- waiting for the moment to add to conversation. Young kid.)

There are times where difficult topics MUST be broached. You cannot ignore the times where it is time to apply conflict resolution skills. Ignoring things that need addressing is not "nice-accurate." Ignoring things can lead to bigger problems!

Quote:
My question is how can someone learn these communication skills necessary to have the types of relationships a lot of you have?
Communicate with people and learn what works and doesn't work from direct experience/observation. Take a class, read books.

I think I communicate well with my real life people but I'm still taking a local Non-violent communication class with spouse.

Could look up communication things online -- here is one example. Sometimes business models, while geared toward business communication sometimes really spell it out well. Communication styles, the verbal, the paraverbal, etc.

Quote:
I spent hours yesterday looking for something that functions like this forum but is dedicated to the topic of communication in relationships. I didn't find anything that looked like it would help. Does such a forum exist?
Yes. I don't know about other systems but there's lots for NVC.

Quote:
Where did you learn to communicate?
At home. While my parents did not have all the skills to teach and they were not great at conflict resolution skills, they did teach manners, ettiquette, polite conversation, etc.

Then more in real life. Certainly at college -- it was required to take at least the one oral communications class for GE's.

Then more in personal growth stuff -- books, classes, etc.

Quote:
Have any of you had to overcome entire lifetimes of conditioning in order to have the type of love in your life that you want?
Not my experience. At least not to that implied degree.

My own home life didn't cut off all communication. It wasn't perfect and it isn't how I raise my own kid -- but neither was it like yours sounds.

Part of growing older is to reconcile the believes and teachings of childhood with the beliefs of adulthood. We all come with our peculiar mixture of "baggage" -- nobody is baggage free. But taking the time to reflect and sort and cast off things that no longer serve one well -- beliefs, habits, attitudes, etc -- helps one travel light in Life's Journey.

HTH!
Galagirl

Last edited by GalaGirl; 01-26-2013 at 04:42 PM.
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Old 01-26-2013, 04:34 PM
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You're absolutely right. Silence was seen as being courteous, but when it's a rage-filled ominous silence, the quiet before the storm, it goes from polite to nerve-wracking. And I believe in a lot of cases, it might turn implosive rather than explosive, leading to depression, and self-numbing behaviors on order to silence the anger that can't be expressed.
I also agree with you that the flip side is learn when to use it. There's a world of difference between people who use others as one gigantic ear to dump their shit into at completely inappropriate times, and people in relationships struggling to improve but without the tools to do so. In the first scenario, silence would in fact be golden. In the second, the gold has turned to dross.
It also makes me wonder if gender plays into it. Assertive communication may have been more encouraged (or tolerated?) for males in my generation than for females.
Interesting thoughts for me. Thank you, Marcus.
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Old 01-26-2013, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by GalaGirl View Post

Ignoring things can lead to bigger problems!


Sometimes business models, while geared toward business communication sometimes really spell it out well. Communication styles, the verbal, the paraverbal, etc.



Yes. I don't know about other systems but there's lots for NVC.



Part of growing older is to reconcile the believes and teachings of childhood with the beliefs of adulthood. We all come with our peculiar mixture of "baggage" -- nobody is baggage free. But taking the time to reflect and sort and cast off things that no longer serve one well -- beliefs, habits, attitudes, etc -- helps one travel light in Life's Journey.

HTH!
Galagirl
Thank you, GalaGirl. I did look online, but had mistakenly thought the business sites would not be of use. I will look again.
I have never heard of non-violent communication, but will also spend some time trying to learn about that.
It's the reconciling you bring up that I struggle with. I know intellectually that communication needs to happen, but it feels "wrong" to actually try to speak if there seems to be a chance my words will cause anxiety. It's incredibly frustrating. One of my friends recently told me, "I know you understand, you just don't believe".
I so appreciate your taking the time to give me some new directions to look into.
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Old 01-26-2013, 05:29 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Quote:
...it feels "wrong" to actually try to speak if there seems to be a chance my words will cause anxiety.
Anxiety for who? You? Or the other guy you are talking to?

Galagirl
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Old 01-26-2013, 05:52 PM
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Sorry to have been unclear. I meant if my words will cause anxiety for the person listening to me. My baggage is all about not upsetting someone else by telling them things they don't want to hear. I was raised to stuff my own feelings/needs as far down as necessary in order to not upset anyone else around me.
And maybe I am being too literal here, but just for the record, I am a woman, in a relationship with another woman. There are no guys involved, at this time. :-)
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Old 01-26-2013, 06:13 PM
ThatGirlInGray ThatGirlInGray is offline
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Originally Posted by StudentofLife View Post
I meant if my words will cause anxiety for the person listening to me. My baggage is all about not upsetting someone else by telling them things they don't want to hear. I was raised to stuff my own feelings/needs as far down as necessary in order to not upset anyone else around me.
This is similar to the way I was raised. My mother was (and still can be) very non-confrontational, so the atmosphere around our house was generally "Don't say/do anything to upset Dad!" My reaction, though, was to say "Fuck it" to tiptoeing on eggshells around anyone. Through my 20's if I wanted to say it, I said it. It's only now in my mid-30's that I'm learning to walk that "appropriateness" line, and I still struggle with determining IF this is the right time for bringing up something negative (Do we have the time and, if needed, privacy to deal with this right now? Do they have the emotional resources to deal with this right now? WHY DO I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT ALL THIS, WHY CAN'T I JUST SAY WHAT I WANT??) and I, too, deal with feelings of guilt if I think what I'm going to say will upset someone else. Logically I know that, guilt or not, it needs to be addressed. But I also don't yet know how to let someone know ahead of time that I have something more serious that I want to discuss without making them anxious about the upcoming conversation. Nor do I want to spring it on them with no warning.

So, really, this was a really long-winded way of saying I don't have any concrete ways to help you, as I'm still figuring this out myself, but I understand where you're coming from, I sympathize, and I wish you luck!
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Old 01-26-2013, 07:06 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Quote:
I meant if my words will cause anxiety for the person listening to me. My baggage is all about not upsetting someone else by telling them things they don't want to hear. I was raised to stuff my own feelings/needs as far down as necessary in order to not upset anyone else around me.
If that is reframed as
I worry my words will cause anxiety for the person listening to me because _____?
What would you put there in the blank?

Galagirl
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Old 01-26-2013, 11:28 PM
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StudentofLife StudentofLife is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GalaGirl View Post
If that is reframed as
I worry my words will cause anxiety for the person listening to me because _____?
What would you put there in the blank?

Galagirl

I worry my words will cause anxiety for the person listening to me because the stability and support of our relationship are a vital part of her ability to deal with her serious health issues. For her to be told that relationship is in crisis might cause her to feel added stress, anxiety, and fear. She is already struggling to get through each day, and may not have the stamina to cope with any added pressure without her health degrading further. Therefore, I worry that my words could literally cause damage to the already fragile health of someone I love deeply.


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