Shortly after meeting, Barb says to Jane, “My husband doesn’t talk to me,” and Jane replies, “Neither does mine.”
The two of them have an instant bond.
A man and woman start chatting one day in the coffee room at the place they both work. They quickly discover that they both hate their jobs. Their instant connection blossoms into an intimate relationship.
Within five minutes of the first hello two women discover they had both survived sexual abuse as children. Wow! Each knows the other understands and they bond.
A man and woman are medicating their unhappy lives in a bar when they meet.
They connect through their unhappiness and their liquid solution.
The problem with all these scenarios is that the connection is formed at the level of the wound, problem or complaint.
It’s hard to build a happy, productive life or a lasting relationship on a complaint.
People get tired of their marriages and their friendships. They often feel stuck and sometimes hopeless.
The question is, how do you avoid starting relationships based on a negative focus?
If you are already caught in one, is there a way to fix it?
At the heart of any solution is language.
Pay attention to your language, the questions you ask and how you respond to questions from others.
It doesn’t matter that Jane and Barb’s husbands have been poor communicators; what matters now is how they get their husbands talking again and rebuild their marriages … or leave them and move on.
It doesn’t matter that the two people in the bar have used alcohol to medicate their unhappy life situations; what matters now is how they will turn their lives around so they can be happy.
Getting out of the alcohol sinkhole is only one piece of that.
If someone starts a conversation with a complaint, respond with a question or comment around solution.
If they engage in discussing solutions, you are off to a good start in a new relationship. If they insist on focusing on the negative, move on.
If you are in a relationship based on a negative, use language, the only tool you have, to shift the focus.
If you fail to steer the relationship into a positive focus, with or without outside help, move on.
You have no obligation to stay in a negative, unhappy place.
People often take their more serious complaints and problems to health care workers, and the endless stream of people’s problems leads many to burn out.
Furthermore, the suicide rate for health care workers is much higher than in the general population.
The principles I’ve just outlined, however, apply to health care workers too.
People come to me with horrendous problems, some dating back to childhood.
Often I’ve been there myself, but that is not where we connect.
Yes, we deal with past stuff, but only to the extent necessary for creating a better present and future.
We focus on what is needed to restore hope and happiness and achieve whatever other positive outcomes the client seeks.
That way, clients get what they want and I don’t burn out.
I invite you to reflect on how you use language to connect with others.
You can reach Registered Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact