Tag Archives: communication tips

Marriage Negotiating Tips from FBI Top Negotiator

dog fight morguefileI came across this Forbes article that gleaned negotiation and communication tips from Gary Noesner, former Chief Negotiator for the FBI, a man who talked many a deranged individual out of their destructive plans, including David Koresh.

I was intrigued by the concept of the Paradox of Power he discusses. This means the harder you push, the more likely you are to be met with resistance. I think we know this deep down, and we display defensiveness and push-back when others come at us in an attacking manner. Yet, we sometimes forget that the key to a successful negotiation or outcome is often in the way we approach our spouse or coworker or child or boss or whomever we have an issue with. Instead of a calm, conciliatory manner, we may approach in an angry or hostile manner. Displaying power may work well in the animal kingdom to throw off predators, but it doesn’t work too well in family life.

What works? Staying calm. Listening. Acknowledging. Then moving forward toward a solution. Noesner says it very well here:

“If the communication skills we developed in the crisis negotiation arena are successful in convincing the most desperate people in the world to cooperate with a 90% success rate, then surely some of these you know active listening skills, these de-escalating cooperation building skills certainly have applicability in the world of business and in people’s personal and family lives. If you’ve got somebody you’re dealing with that’s angry, remain calm and in self-control, listen carefully, and acknowledge their point of view. Then, once you have a calmer atmosphere, you can work towards resolving the problem satisfactorily. I think that is a tremendous diffusing tool that people can use.”

I’m certainly going to try to take his advice to heart. What communication strategies seem to work best in your marriage? Do you find they help you at work also?

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

The Parenting Lesson that Works Wonders in Marriage

blogpicSometimes a great parenting technique works wonders in marriage, too. Not that we should treat our spouses like children—we shouldn’t. But it’s more a reflection that children’s needs are in fact human needs. A need recognized in children often exists in adults as well.

Case in point, Seattle marriage therapist Claire Hatch, LICSW, recently wrote “Marriage Advice You Can Learn from Your Kids.” Her advice struck a chord with me both in how I should interact with my children and with my spouse, particularly when expressing a problem or complaint.

She explains that a child who thinks she is “bad” is not going to be interested in self-improvement. Instead, when she is treated like a “bad girl” or criticized, “she has to raise her defensive walls high to protect her ego from messages that feel critical. Which means she’s not really listening to you.”

That comment was a strong reminder to me that the way in which we complain or criticize may in fact be closing the other person off to us. We may be ensuring that they don’t listen to us, which is of course the opposite of what we want. Bad feelings may turn into hopelessness and a lack of motivation to change.

On the other hand, if the child feels loved and accepted, she can relax that defensive wall and hear you out. Your suggestions just might make it through that wall.

While our spouse is hopefully more emotionally mature than a child, he or she still has the need to feel appreciated, accepted and loved. But when we’re upset, we don’t communicate any of these. (Well, maybe you’re better than I am.) We usually just focus on our criticism or complaint.

What your spouse might conclude when hearing regular criticism is “I can’t make her happy,” or even “I’m a failure as a husband,” says Hatch. While you need to address issues in marriage, you’ll be much more effective in getting your spouse to listen if your loving messages outweigh your critical messages, she adds.

Her ideas for you to try to soften criticism include:

1. Verbalize appreciation regularly so the criticism comes off as less harsh.

2. Be curious and invested in what is on your partner’s to-do list, supporting and helping him or her as a loving spouse.

3. When raising a complaint, verbalize the difficulties you recognize your spouse faces.

What do you think? Are there other parenting tricks that you use in your marriage?

Check out Claire’s web site at http://www.clairehatch.comand read her full article at Marriage Advice You Can Learn from Your Kids.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Minimizing the Combat Zone in Your Marriage

man woman on beach morguefileWe all have our negative patterns in marriage that may be based on our personality tendencies and our common reactions to one another. I found a recent New York Times article that provided some helpful hints for avoiding the “combat zone” or at least minimizing it.

Counselors teach conflict resolution skills and better communication skills, because they know sometimes the way we react or even phrase something can make a big difference in the outcome of what can become a heated conversation. Conflict isn’t always to be avoided; in fact, it can help bring us closer when used appropriately. So, here are the tips from Bruce Feiler who wrote “Lessons in Domestic Diplomacy” for the NYT:

  1. Beware of the transitions in your day. The times when people are either coming or going are the source of the biggest fights within families, say researchers. For example, getting yourselves and/or your children ready to head out the door, or coming in after a long day of work, wondering what will be for dinner and who will be making it. These are the vulnerable times. The “most highly charged” time of day was between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. So, give one another a bit of space and time and don’t bring up difficult topics until things are calm.
  2. Sit at the same level, with the same posture. This is important, particularly if one partner tends to adopt a “power position” i.e. in a higher chair, standing over the other, or with laced fingertips behind the head and feet up. Higher positions create elevated testosterone, reduced cortisol and increased feelings of superiority.  On the flip side, sometimes a spouse adopts a frequent “lower position” i.e. slumped, slouched, or arms crossed. Instead, sit alongside your spouse in your discussions.
  3. Select your seating surface well. Researchers found when people sit on a soft, cushioned chair, they are more accommodating and generous, while those who sat on a hard wooden chair were more rigid and inflexible.
  4. Go to the balcony. When things begin to escalate, imagine in your mind that you are on a balcony overlooking your interaction, suggests Bill Ury, founder of a Harvard program on peace negotiations. From the “balcony” you can see the macro view, calm yourself down, and see alternatives that you might not see if you didn’t disengage. Often there are other alternatives you haven’t considered. “The goal is to expand the pie before dividing it,” says Ury.
  5. Keep it short. The most important points in an argument are found in the opening minutes. After that, it’s just repetition and escalation. So say what you need to say, then take a short break or walk to prevent the escalation.
  6. Avoid saying “you always” and “you never.” In fact, switch from “you” to “we” so that you don’t sound so accusatory.
  7. Say you’re sorry, and most importantly, take responsibility for your choices/actions, even if you aren’t feeling very sorry during the argument.

What tips do you have to keep your disagreements from creating divisions in your family?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

8 Tips Behind the Perfect Apology

In a marriage, every conflict point is an opportunity to learn about yourself and your relationship, says Relationship Coach Nancy Pina. But in many relationships, our reaction to conflict often means either quickly apologizing to smooth over the tension, or holding onto the hurt and stewing about it. Neither strategy allows the kind of reconciliation that can enhance the marriage.

In an article for Hitched Magazine (see it here), Pina says other common apology pitfalls include:

  • Not apologizing because you feel you haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Not looking at the deeper meaning behind the argument.
  • Blurting out a quick apology out of obligation to gloss over blowups.

She explains the method of making an apology that leads to emotional healing and allows the offended partner to hear it and accept it includes the following:

  1. Be compassionate. Don’t base the need for apology on your own feelings. Just because YOU wouldn’t be offended doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t have the right to be offended.
  2. Don’t be defensive and try to wiggle out of the conflict.
  3. Express regret. Say, “I am sorry that my behavior/words/tone hurt you. “Communicate your understanding of what caused the conflict, and say you regret it,” says Pina.
  4. No Buts. Saying “but” after an apology negates it.
  5. Ask for forgiveness. This can be hard when you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, but if that’s the way you feel it communicates a lack of respect for your partner’s feelings.
  6. Still hot with conflict after you apologized? Try a cooling off period or writing out your apology to allow it to sink in.
  7. Learn your spouse’s emotional trigger points and learn his/her perspective as a way to improve your relationship in the future.
  8. Honestly assess your spouse’s accusations or feedback. Use it as a teachable moment about your own behavior. Being hope and honest can help you enrich your marriage and your commitment.

Once you’ve made the perfect apology, don’t forget to adjust your words/behavior so that you don’t cause the same hurt again.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by jscreationzs courtesy

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

6 Marriage Strengthening Tips

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Recently, the Today Show shared some good advice for keeping your marriage strong. I wanted to pass along the items they reported that have been shown to strengthen relationships:

  1. Language matching. In strong relationships, couples often pick up one another’s verbal lingo and match phrases or words. While it can be annoying to some of us, apparently it’s a good thing when you’re so much “on the same page” that you use some of the same common words and phrases.
  2. Spoil your spouse. Do something unexpected or generous for him or her.
  3. Be true to yourself, or “let your freak fly.” When you are being your true self, and you feel your spouse loves you despite your flaws, it increases your levels of trust.
  4. Fight fair, and avoid blaming and name calling.

Some actions to AVOID:

  1. Don’t smother your partner with support or constantly offer solutions to their problems. Instead, listen and ask questions.
  2. Don’t storm out or withdraw. Taking a time out is OK, as in, “I need to take a walk and get a break. Can we talk about this in an hour?”

Related Links:

Great article from CBSOnline.com about common marriage myths, including the myths “Never go to bed angry” and “Always be 100% honest with your partner.” Watch the video for some short, but very useful advice.

Dr. Michelle Gannon posted a response to last Friday’s post. She offers Too Tired for Sex: 10 Tips to Help. Read her professional advice on dealing with that all-too-common problem.

Female infidelity is apparently on the rise, especially with women who are financially more independent. This CNN article talks about how female infidelity is different, the reasons for it, and the signs of such trouble.

Photo Credit: ©Mat Hayward/PhotoXpress.com