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"I am so impressed by the resources you're providing couples here. As someone who's counseled a ton of couples anticipating marriage, thanks!"

 

                - Gary H.

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Hi There

I'm Kaylene. I love God, and I love people. 

 

As a girl I daydreamed about falling in love, getting married, having a family, and all that good stuff. (Yes, I was the girl who owned a bride dress-up kit by the age of six). But as I grew, this daydream turned into an interest, which turned into a passion for studying relationships.

 

After getting my Master's degree in Family Science, becoming a Family Life Educator, and a few years teaching at the university level, I discovered the joy in passing along what I had learned about the nature of interpersonal relationships to others who wanted to expand their relationship "tool kit" the same way I did.

 

This blog has come to be the gathering place of various truths and bits of wisdom  I have gathered through my professional studies, personal interest, and lived experience.  

Through it all, I am reminded of one central truth: marriage is sacred, and is a mirror of Christ's love for us. By learning more about it, not only are we investing in our own relationships - we are learning more about how God wants to relate to us, too.

This is the divine reflection.

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The 3 Step Formula to Clarify Relationship Mix-Ups and Misunderstandings

June 18, 2018

 

This post will be short and sweet because its sunny out! And also because this is a pretty compact relationships lesson. No muss, no fuss. Guaranteed to please. :) 

 

Today I’m passing on a 3 step formula that you can use in almost any situation to avoid misunderstandings and bring clarity to your relationship.

 

I’ve also included one of the top tips to set your relationship up for success.

 

Are you excited yet? I am!

 

This trick was taught to me in college as part of a relationships and personal development class and it really stuck with me. It’s an easy way to iron out misunderstandings and get you back on the same page with your fiance, spouse, friends, or your family. (I've even used it to coach 4th graders in conflict resolution!) So you can TOTALLY master this.

 

It’s a very simple trick, which is nice because most of the time, relationships are anything BUT simple, (am I right?!)

 

So let’s dive in!

 

This strategy is great to use any time you need to double check what someone means, what someone’s intentions are, or how you have interpreted a given situation.

 

The reality is that we as humans are EXCELLENT at jumping to conclusions. Which unfortunately, often leads us to relationship misunderstandings, mix-ups, and hurt feelings.

 

 

 

 I mean... we've all been here, right?

 Seriously though, I struggle with this as well. 

 

 

The purpose of this formula is to give you an easy way to get clarification on how you have perceived events, while still holding the other person accountable for their actions.

 

Even if you believe that your initial perception is right and correct, it is still a good idea to confirm with that person so that you can move forward with your conversation and relationship.

 

This communication “hack” is called a "Perception Check" and it has 3 parts. There are also two “flavors” or types of perception checks that you can choose from.

 

One is more universal, the other is more appropriate for your close relationships. We’ll start with Perception Check “A” and then talk through Perception Check “B”. Two different formulas that you can use as you see fit!

 

In order to help explain this, I've come up with an example:

 

Let’s say that your guy has been getting more and more friendly with his ex lately. He’s been taking a lot of calls from her, and drops everything to talk with her on the phone. Just now, you see that she has texted him a message that reads “thanks for last night ".

 

 

 

Perception Check A:  The Universal Approach

 

 

Step 1:  Describe the Behavior

 

 

State what you have observed, and describe this action/conversation as neutrally and with as little emotion as possible. (And as specifically as you can)

 

You need to be specific and non-judgmental in your description of their behavior so that there’s no confusion about the instance to which you are referring, and to reduce the chance that they will be defensive.

 

The most common mistake in this step is for people to describe their interpretation of their partner’s behavior, instead of the behavior itself.

 

“You were ignoring me” “You think it’s a waste of time”, or “you said I looked fat.” are all examples of your perception or interpretation - and are not a true behavioral description (unless they actually used the words “I think you look fat ” which in most cases, doesn’t happen).

 

 

 

Here’s an example of what NOT to say in a behavior description:

 

“You have been giving all of your attention to your ex lately! You always take her calls and you’re always texting her, and you’ve started ignoring me.”

 

 

 

Do you see how this sets you up for an argument?

 

Most likely he will retaliate with defensiveness:

 

“Not always! I didn’t text her all day on Saturday!” or “What are you talking about?! I’m not ignoring you!”  

 

 

This sets the WRONG tone, and will not be productive.

 

That’s why you want to keep a neutral, almost clinical description of their behavior. Don’t worry, you can talk about your interpretation of their behavior later. For now, just stick with the facts. And be specific. If they said something, try to repeat their words, not paraphrase.

 

*This kindly, but without room for argument, holds them accountable for their actions.

 

 

Aim for something like this:

 

“I’ve noticed that over the past 2 weeks you’ve been texting your ex throughout the day. There have also been times where you paused what we were doing to take her call, like while we were eating dinner last Friday. I also just saw she sent you a message that says “thanks for last night”.

 

Clear. Simple. Factual.

 

No emotive or inflammatory language, and no blaming. 

 

 

 

Step 2: Offer Two Interpretations of Their Behavior

 

 

The reason you offer two interpretations is because, let’s face it, you’ve already come up with a negative interpretation in your head (or maybe a few negative ones?)

 

Whatever is going on, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of he’s a jerk, he wasn’t thinking, he doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t trust you, he couldn’t possibly love you anymore, etc. but you NEED to balance that negative interpretation out with a possible positive interpretation.

 

 

You must offer two interpretations of their behavior: one positive and one negative. 

 

 

Offering a positive interpretation shows that you haven’t prejudged them, and that you don’t automatically assume the worst about them.

 

It makes it easier for them to be open with you when they know you are more interested in understanding them than pinning them as the "bad guy". It also is a way for them to save face, and gracefully make things right with you.

 

A negative interpretation reveals that this scenario has crossed your mind as plausible, but a positive interpretation says you’re still open to another side to the story.

 

 

 

 

Here's what not to do:

 

“Is there something going on between you two, or do you just not like to spend time with me anymore?

 

 

 

When you offer two negative interpretations like this it’s basically like saying “So, are you a jerk, or are you just insensitive?”  

 

When you only give them those two options, how do you even expect them to respond??

 

“Uh... I guess the second one...? The insensitive one…?”

 

Yeah right.

 

My guess is that they won’t take kindly to only having two negative options given to them, because either way, they lose!

 

 

 

Try something like this instead:

 

“This makes me think that something romantic could be going on between you two, or maybe that there is a big crisis in her life that you’re trying to help her with.”



 

Step 3: Request clarification

 

 

Ask the other person to clear things up for you, and explain what they meant, why they did that, what’s going on, etc.  

 

(This one can also be combined with step 2 fairly easily.)

 

 

This one is easy:

 

“Can you please tell me what’s going on?”


 

 

 

Putting it All Together:

 

 

Here’s what our example perception check would sound like all together, as you would normally say it:

 

“I’ve noticed that over the past 2 weeks you’ve been texting your ex throughout the day. There have also been times where you paused what we were doing to take her call, like while we were eating dinner last Friday. I also just saw she sent you a message that says “thanks for last night”.

 

“This makes me think that something romantic could be going on between you two, or maybe that there is a big crisis in her life that you’re trying to help her with.”

 

“Can you please tell me what’s going on?”


 

 

 

 

Perception Check B: The Personal Approach

 

 

This one is a little bit different, and requires you to be more vulnerable with whoever you are speaking to. Vulnerability enhances connection and intimacy, but it can be scary to own up to your thoughts and feelings. In this perception check, there are still 3 steps, but you open up about what those gremlins of doubt and fear are putting into your mind.

 

 

Step 1:  Describe the Behavior

 

(This one is the same as the last one!) State what you have observed, and describe this action/conversation as neutrally and with as little emotion as possible. (And as specifically as you can)

 

“I’ve noticed that over the past 2 weeks you’ve been texting your ex throughout the day. There have also been times where you paused what we were doing to take her call, like while we were eating dinner last Friday. I also just saw she sent you a message that says “thanks for last night ”.

 

 

 

Step 2: Tell Them About "The Story You’re Making up in Your Head"

 

We all do this, don’t we? Something happens and before we know it, our brain starts making connections and weaving a story of what they "really meant", how we have fallen short, or how others have let us down, and why. We come up with a complete narrative in our minds to explain away one tiny interaction. 

 

Most of the time, these stories we make up are the product of our own shame, guilt, or fear. Those pervasive thoughts are like little gremlins, trying to steal our joy.  

 

Don't let the little gremlins of shame, anxiety, or fear whisper in your ear and write the narrative of your perception. 

 

(Use a perception check instead!)

 

 

The good news is that those little gremlins can’t exist in an environment where you feel loved, secure, and accepted. And you can’t truly experience that freedom without first allowing yourself to engage in (at times excruciating and uncomfortable) vulnerability.

 

By acknowledging that this is the “story you’re making up in your head” you are communicating that this is what you fear or think is true, but you understand that it might not be.

 

 

You're still leaving room for a positive interpretation of their behavior.

 

 

Sharing that story might sound like this:

 

“I know this might sound silly, but the story that I’m making up in my my head right now is that you’re disappointed with our relationship and you regret letting your ex go, so you’re just waiting for the right time to break up with me to get back together with her.”

 

VULNERABLE.

SCARY.

HONEST.

 

But this also leaves the door wide open for profound connection, acceptance, reassurance, and intimacy. 

 

 

Step 3: Request clarification

 

 

(Same as before!) Ask the other person to clear things up for you, and explain what they meant, why they did that, what’s going on, etc.  

 

 

Here's an example:

 

“I don’t know what to think… can you tell me what’s really going on?”

 

 

 

Putting it All Together:

 

 

Here’s what this perception check would sound like all together:

 

“I’ve noticed that over the past 2 weeks you’ve been texting your ex throughout the day. There have also been times where you paused what we were doing to take her call, like while we were eating dinner last Friday. I also just saw she sent you a message that says “thanks for last night”.

 

"I know this might sound silly, but the story that I’m making up in my my head right now is that you’re disappointed with our relationship and you regret letting your ex go, so you’re just waiting for the right time to break up with me to get back together with her.”

 

 

“I don’t know what to think… can you tell me what’s really going on?”

 

 

 

This second type of perception check is a very big statement to make, and really does require a certain level of trust. But think about the possibilities of how that conversation could unfold! When these kind of open and transparent statements are met with empathy, it goes beyond a simple clarification and becomes a moment of profound connection, which enhances your relationship. 

 

 

*On a personal note, I've actually used this perception check before. It was TERRIFYING!!  But it turned out remarkably well. I felt very brave when it was all over, and it may have saved my friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

Although we’ve only used one example to demonstrate how to put together a Perception Check there are plenty of other times where one of these may come in handy. Maybe he said something that didn’t quite make sense, or that didn’t sit well with you. Maybe your mother calls you constantly “just to check in” and she just called... again. Perhaps he forgot an anniversary, stayed out late, or otherwise hurt your feelings. Maybe you haven’t heard back yet on that job you were SO excited to interview for. 

 

If there’s any room for a mix-up or misinterpretation, or you feel yourself forming a negative interpretation, (or those shame gremlins are trying to run the show) … use this formula to bring some clarity to the situation, and open up your communication.  

 

 

One word of caution: you have to be prepared for them to say “yes” to whatever your negative scenario or interpretation is. You can’t ask them to tell you the truth of the matter, and then be upset with them once they do.

 

Most of the time, they will be able to clarify, clear up, and further explain things so that your relationship can resume it’s natural positive state, but just know that may not always be the case. It is a risk you take, but in my opinion the truth is always worth it.

 

 

So go forth and conquer your communication mix-ups and misunderstandings!

Be brave enough to be vulnerable with those you trust, and be humble enough to question your own perceptions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, here’s my relationship tip:

 

Happy couples assume the best about each other. (This has been corroborated through relationship research, by the way!)

 

They always, without fail, choose the most generous conclusion about the other’s intentions and behavior.

 

Whatever the situation, successful couples choose to believe the best about their partner, and give them the benefit of the doubt. That doesn’t mean they never have doubts, rather, they intentionally cultivate a positive perspective when it comes to their partner.

 

They may still need to use these perception checks, and still have tough conversations but their “default” setting is to err on the positive side when it comes to their spouse.  

 

The reality is that you just can’t trust someone who doesn’t assume the best about you.

 

Make this a habit in your relationship, and see how your trust and intimacy grows! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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