How Do I Ask My Partner to Attend a Coaching Session with Me?

Do you feel that your long-term relationship could benefit from couples coaching but you are concerned that your partner is not open to the idea of seeing a coach? I am often asked, “how do I get my partner to come with me to do couples work”?

In my workshops and one-on-one sessions, I teach individuals and couples how to express their feelings and needs using the non-violent communication model by Marshall Rosenberg. The four step process ends with making a request—not a demand—to have your need met.

Couple’s therapist Ellyn Bader also has an interesting perspective on expressing needs to our partner. She points out that a lot depends on the wording we use. To translate that into NVC wording, we can express our need for something, but the request has to be a true request, not “I want you to”, not “I need you to”, and certainly not “You need to”.

Bader feels that saying “I need you to go to couples coaching with me”, will most likely result in your partner feeling he or she has no choice. They might feel cornered, resistant and get defensive, as there is no room to move. Fears or shame can be triggered for them around seeing a coach or sharing your private conflicts and challenges. They might not even feel they can express their feelings when approached this way. The more autocratic we show up when we express a need, the less likely it is that our partner will want to be open and cooperative.

Here is a better way of approaching the topic. “I really want to go to coaching. I hope you will join me. Here is why I want to go: I realize when you and I get into conflict I don’t handle it the best way possible. I want to learn to understand you better so we can create a better relationship. I want to become a better version of myself and connect at a deeper level with you.”

Notice that all of these are I-statements. You avoid blame or finger pointing. You simply take responsibility for yourself and the change you want to make. You give your partner a free choice to change or stay the same. Ellyn Bader even advises not to use the word “need” at all. Approaching your partner from a softer place allows them to give generously from an open heart and to express their own concerns or hesitations.

It can also help if you highlight the personal gain for your partner when going to couples coaching. You probably have specific topics you want to work on. Let your partner know that you are willing to also work on what they want to change in your partnership. For example, you want your partner to acknowledge your feelings more, and your partner wants to improve your sex life. Knowing they have a potential gain by agreeing to sessions gives them a motivation to come other than the fact that you want them to.

If despite making a request rather than a demand, your partner is not willing to come for sessions, you have the choice to make an appointment for an individual session to do your own relationship work. Even when only one person changes, the relationship itself changes. All relationships are a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. Others reflect to us what we believe, think and how much we love ourselves. Our partner always reflects our core wounds from childhood.

Some potential questions to examine in individual sessions could be:

– How has my partner disappointed or hurt me in ways similar to how I was disappointed or hurt as a child?

e.g. My father discounted my feelings and fears and my partner does the same.

– How might I have disappointed or hurt my partner in ways similar to how he or she was disappointed or hurt as a child?

e.g. My partner had a mother who was controlling and demanding. Each time I become controlling or demanding, I remind him of his mother. As a child he felt not good enough and guilty. When I let him know that he is not acknowledging my feelings, he is triggered into not being good enough again. He feels guilty.

– How do I let myself down in ways that are similar to how I feel let down by my partner?

e.g. I don’t take good care of my own feelings.

– Where am I expecting my partner to take care of me in ways I am refusing to take care of myself?

e.g. I expect him to acknowledge my feelings when I am not willing to sit and work through my own feelings.

– What am I making these disappointments mean?

e.g. My feelings, needs and fears don’t matter and will never be acknowledged in a relationship.

– What am I making our challenges mean about the possibilities I have for happiness in romantic partnerships?

e.g. I can’t be myself in a romantic partnership. I have to suppress my feelings and fears. I will never feel safe or accepted to be me.

– What is my limiting story around love and relationships based on my childhood wounds?

e.g. Men are not capable of acknowledging feelings and fears. Women need to make sure they don’t show up as “too needy”, or they lose their partner.

– How do I set my partner up to respond in a way that perpetuates my childhood experience?

e.g. I don’t express my feelings and fears calmly, and instead, I get very stressed and anxious. I express myself loudly and anxiously, using control to manage the anxiety. That triggers my partner into feeling the same way he felt when he was a boy.

 

Contact me for a free phone consultation on either individual sessions or couple’s coaching. I also offer packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Having Our Needs Met in Relationships

She looks at her watch and says in annoyed tone: “You are home late, again! You always come home late! Do you have to go to the Gym after work every day?”

His reply is defensive: “Yes, I do! That’s the only time I have to myself. You don’t ask me for permission to have your hair done or your nails! You like to go into work early at least three or four times a week and I always have to take the kids to school instead of going to the Gym.”

She retorts angrily: “You make it sound as if I only think of myself but I am working full time like you and I am sitting home alone with the kids, every night after I have run them around to their classes. You never help me! Once in a while, you could come home earlier and make dinner for everybody!”

This was the role play my partner and I acted out for one of my talks on non-violent communication just a couple of weeks ago. When I introduce my clients to the four steps of NVC, based on Marshall Rosenberg’s work, they seem so easy and straightforward. Yet, it is so ingrained in most of us to have conversations in which one or both people get defensive and feel attacked due to us using generalized critical statements and blaming each other. When we do not feel safe in a conversation, our fight or flight response sets in. We either attack, or we withdraw and shut down. Despite the anger on the surface, deep down both partners long for nothing more than a safe space to connect and express how they feel underneath the anger.

IMG_3345 cropped

Let’s look at how we can change these patterns of defending, withdrawing and attacking, using our example. What are the needs of both parents? She has the need for support; he has the need for alone time. They both have the need for recognition of what they do.

Based on those needs what do they feel? She feels alone and unsupported, he feels controlled. They both feel unappreciated.

Before you read on, put yourself in her shoes and using the four steps of non-violent communication find a more successful way of expressing her feelings, explaining her needs, and finishing with a concrete request made to her husband. Remember to make neutral observations free of judgments in regards to him going to the Gym. Then use “I” statements which reflect that she is taking responsibility for her own feelings. Nobody makes us feel a certain way. Our feelings are a result of the meaning we give our perceptions. Next help her express her needs, values or desires which are at the root of her feelings. End with a request that can be negotiated between the partners.

NVC 4 Steps

Here is one possible way for her to communicate using the four steps of NVC and a calm neutral tone: “I have NOTICED (step 1) that you tend to go to the gym after work and by the time you come home, the kids need to go to bed. I FEEL (step 2) a bit left alone when you come home late almost every night. I WOULD LIKE to (step 3) spend more family time with you and the kids. WOULD YOU BE WILLING (step 4) to come home earlier once or twice a week, so we can spend more time together?

Now, let’s not forget that he also has feelings and needs. How can we help him express his side of the situation?

He could for example say: “I FEEL (step 2) that I only have time after work to exercise. I NEED (step 3) to have some alone time. I also FEEL (step 2) unappreciated and taken for granted when I give my gym time in the morning up to take the kids to school. I really appreciate that you work full-time and run the kids to their after-school activities.” (He has recognized they both feel unappreciated and is giving her the appreciation they both need.) Step 4 is negotiating her request: “I am willing to come home early on Tuesdays and Thursdays if you can commit to taking them to school the next morning? I WOULD also sometimes LIKE to hear that you appreciate what I do.”

Now it is up to her to respond, to acknowledge what he does for the family and to perhaps make a concrete request to cook dinner once a week. If one of the partners is struggling to connect with their feelings and the needs underneath, the other one can help by asking, “I am wondering if you feel…?” or saying “Do you perhaps have a need for…?” and offering, “Let me know how I can help you get what you need.” Implementing a process like NVC takes patience and practice because most of us have never learned that our needs matter, how to connect with our more vulnerable feelings underneath our anger and to express our needs without blame or judgement.

To learn more about expressing our needs you can contact

Angelika for individual sessions or Shadow Energetics Workshops

905-286-9466 or

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

For 2016 workshop dates and locations go to Upcoming Workshops.

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Accepting, Acknowledging and Honouring Feelings and Needs Builds Bridges

She is in the kitchen cooking. His parents are expected in an hour and she is starting to feel stressed that things aren’t ready yet. She asks her partner to set the table. In the past he has experienced being laughed at and judged for how he has set the table and he is not keen on experiencing this judgement again. He is also just finishing an e-mail, so he can relax when the guests arrive.

He says, “It’s too early to set the table now. Why are you always making such a big fuss about setting the table? And why are you so stressed about having my parents over? I’ll do it when they get here.” She replies, “Why can you never do what I ask you? I am slaving away in the kitchen and you are doing nothing. Now I also have to set the table. You never bother setting the table properly anyways…” And the couple is “off and running” with judgments and criticism instead of having a productive communication.

When we are communicating with our partner—or our children for that matter—and we have the sense that we are not getting through, what might be in the way are our power selves. Our primary personality parts or primary selves are often power selves. They have been helping us to survive in this world for most of our lives. We are so used to those voices that we often think that’s just who we are.

To figure out what some of your power selves and/or primary selves are, consider for a moment into what energy you tend to shift to cover up your vulnerability. Do you have an angry power self? A rational power self? A controlling power self? A moral power self? A righteous power self? A pusher primary part? A strong perfectionist part? A spiritual part you shift into? A psychoanalytical self? The list goes on. All those voices or energies help us to feel stronger and in control. In relationships, however, they keep the other person at a distance.

The more we are in touch with our vulnerable authentic self and can communicate from an Aware Ego, the more clearly our partner can hear us without needing to go into his or her power selves and put his or her defences up.

Accepting, Acknowledging & Honouring Feelings & Needs QUOTE 1

Our judgements in a partnering relationship give us the feedback that our disowned selves are operating. When we are coming from our primary selves, we tend to judge more harshly. If I am over-identified with the rational mind, I will judge a partner who is more emotional and makes his or her decisions from a feeling place. If I am identified with being extrovert, I might judge a more introvert person as slow or too quiet and might not understand why they need quiet time alone to think. The introvert in turn might judge the extrovert as being too loud, too quick and for needing or craving social interactions. When there is a doer and a dreamer in a partnership, they will judge each other’s approaches to life. Or if I am over-identified with that voice that worries what other people think, I might judge my partner for dressing more relaxed, not having good table manners or saying something inappropriate.

However, “the thing you hate the most and judge the most is the medicine that you need the most” (Dr. Hal Stone, founder of Voice Dialogue). What Hal Stone means by that is that whatever our partner is showing us is most likely an energy we are not in touch with. In order to be whole human beings and have the true freedom of choice of how we want to feel and act in each given moment, it is a good idea for us to consider embracing that trait which we judge.

Often judgments go both ways as in the example above. So what is happening with the couple in our example? They are mirroring each other’s shadows. They are judging each other for what they themselves have disowned. He is judging her for making a “silly” request, for caring too much about appearance and for being controlling and conscious of time. He is identified with a more relaxed attitude towards meals and having guests. She judges him as being lazy and unhelpful and incapable or possibly too uneducated or too carefree to meet her standards of perfection.

The couple has different priorities and different needs. How differently would the conversation go if they used non-violent communication to acknowledge the partner’s feelings and needs and express their own? A successful conversation could sound like this:

She :”I am starting to feel a bit stressed because I am worried that we won’t be done when your parents arrive. I am anxious because I want everything to be welcoming. Would you please set the table now?”

He: “I have noticed that you are feeling stressed. I know you like things to look nice and make sure that our guest are comfortable. Thank you for doing all this work. I would still like to finish my e-mail so that I can forget about work and relax when my parents get here. Is it okay with you, if I set the table in half an hour?”

She: “Thank you for letting me know about your e-mail. I understand that you would still like to finish. If you could make sure to use the new table cloth and find matching napkins, that would help me a lot. Can you please make sure we are done with the preparations when your parents arrive? I would like to be able to give them our full attention when they get here.”

Accepting, Acknowledging & Honouring Feelings & Needs QUOTE 2

They have both acknowledged each other’s feelings and needs. They have also clearly and non-confrontationally expressed their own feelings and needs. Setting the table has become an acceptable request, instead of a silly demand. How do we know if we have made a request, rather than a demand? Our partner has the option to either say no, or to negotiate how and when he or she meets the request.

The Four-Part Nonviolent Communication Process developed by Marshall Rosenberg includes: Clearly EXPRESSING what I observe, feel and require, and making a clear request; openly RECEIVING what my communication partner observes, feels, needs and requests.

The steps of non-violent communication are not complicated. However, it requires discipline to remember to communicate with I statements, expressing how we feel, and without generalizations (“You always”, “You never”) or why-questions which can be taken as criticism (Why is the table not set? Why are the children not in bed yet?). When you use the words “I feel because I…” it reminds all communication partners that what we feel is not because of what the other person did, but because of our perception and a feeling choice we made regarding our perception.

Accepting, Acknowledging & Honouring Feelings & Needs QUOTE 3I often hear one partner saying, “I just don’t understand why he/she feels this way!” That statement is a hidden judgment. It prevents us from building a bridge. Change it to “I am willing to understand how he/she feels.” It helps if we can truly empathize and understand why our partner has a certain feeling or need. However, ultimately it is immaterial if we understand on a rational level; we need to respect feelings without judgments, even if they are different from ours. It helps if we can really empathize. What is needed is to arrive at a point where we can accept the other person’s feelings the way they are. In order to communicate most successfully, we need to move beyond needing to be right and beyond making the other person wrong. If we want our feelings and needs to be respected, we need to stop judging other people’s feelings and needs and begin to truly accept and respect them.

Angelika

Relationship Coaching & Belief Change Work

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Conscious Parenting – Finding Authentic Compromises Versus Bargaining

Just a few days ago, a memory from seventeen years ago came to my mind. Back then, I was a relatively young mother, who was still partially figuring out what kind of a parent I wanted to be. As an elementary school teacher, I had worked out which rules apply to having a classroom full of 6 year olds as opposed to a classroom of 10 year olds. As a foster parent of a little girl I had—through trial and error—worked out what she needed during those four years that we fostered her. She needed so much more of everything parents can give: more reassurance, more consistency, more love. What I hadn’t worked out, yet, was a conscious awareness of needs—mine and other—and negotiating true compromises.

At that time, I was witness to what struck me as a very odd scene between an Egyptian friend of mine and her 17-year-old daughter. The topic of the conversation was the daughter’s curfew on a Saturday night. The daughter suggested 11:30. The mother countered with 8:30 which resulted in a dramatic response from the daughter. So the mother went to 9 o’clock and the daughter countered with 11 o’clock. Half an hour and several more outbursts of emotions later, they ended up with 10 o’clock. The daughter was pleased as punch.

When the young girl had left the room, I turned to my friend, who had made a big show of having given in, and said, “What was all that about?” She smiled and said, “I knew we would end up with 10 o’clock. She will be exactly home at the time I wanted her to be home.”

I was flabbergasted, especially as I was a “no-negotiating-by-any-means type of parent” back then. The bargaining or sometimes blackmailing that they seemed to be doing on a regular basis in her family around her three children’s needs seemed unnecessarily exhausting to me, but most of all inauthentic.

Now, there is bargaining and there is mitigating everybody’s needs. The difference between bargaining and negotiating compromises is tremendous.

Bargaining vs Negotiating by Greendoor (1)

What values and beliefs are we teaching our children by bargaining? They are learning that their needs are not worth being met without a fight. We are teaching them to be deceptive instead of open with what they want and need. We are teaching them to think of how they can win, rather than how everybody can win.

Negotiating means finding a compromise to meet everybody’s needs. Negotiating is not about who wins and who loses. Negotiating is about being creative in finding a win-win. We are teaching children that there is a way to have your needs met and that everybody can have their needs met. We are teaching them to express how they feel, to honestly ask for what they want or need, and to trust that a creative solution can be found. We are teaching them to collaborate rather than to compete for their individual gain.

I used to think that the parent has to be the boss and makes the rules. I still believe we have to remember that our child is not the boss of us but that a democratic boss opens up some decisions for discussion. When we refuse to acknowledge needs and refuse to negotiate to find compromises, we are teaching the next generation that they can never get in life what they truly want. The outcome of those experiences are grown-ups who don’t know what they want or need and don’t even attempt to express their wishes. We raise pleasers who are only able to follow the wishes of others. We raise people who feel their only strategy to get their needs met is by lying, being secretive, or being manipulative. They have no concept of living from integrity, their own personal integrity. They learn that they cannot be their authentic selves.

 Integrity De Angelis

Over Easter, we were spending time with friends and family. The more people are in the mix the more needs are sometimes colliding and need to be negotiated. One child ended up crying because she had hoped for a particular activity. The response of the adults present was mixed. The opinion that she should not get what she wanted because crying is not an adequate way of expressing your needs was voiced. The parent of the child felt she was trying to manipulate her way to what she wanted through this behaviour. That parent would have been me 15 years ago! I was an “I don’t negotiate” kind of parent. I strongly believed children shouldn’t get what they want by crying, sulking or throwing a temper tantrum.

Today, I believe that it is important to differentiate. There is more than meets the eye in a situation like this. If a child chooses to sulk, cry or get angry, we have to understand that they have already learned this is their only option. There certainly are more appropriate ways to express one’s needs. They might also truly just be expressing their sadness, disappointment or anger. We have to teach children that their needs and feelings matter and that they will be met if it is at all possible. They have to learn how to arrive at compromises to have everybody’s needs met. Life is about win-win, not about how to achieve a win over others.

When our children are getting emotional, let’s sit them down, help them to express how they feel, for example “disappointed”, “angry”, or “unimportant/like I don’t matter”. Let them know they have a right to feel what they feel. Then put everybody’s needs on the table, for example: “You want to play this game which takes an hour, Anna wants to watch this movie, Mom has a headache and wants to take a nap, Dad has to start cooking dinner, the dog has to go for a walk and Peter needs a ride to work. We have two hours left. What do you suggest?”

Then sit back and trust them to be creative to work out a compromise which is a win-win situation for everybody. Let them be the problem solvers. If they are struggling to come up with ideas at first, make suggestions. Negotiating teaches them to truly listen to others and to care about everybody. Our job as parents is it to be a role model and reminder of non-violent communication and to hold the knowing that a peaceful solution can be found.

The more compromises the children get to create when they are young the more we can count on them growing-up to become balanced adults who know what they want, who believe that their needs matter and who naturally are striving to create win-win situations in all areas of their lives. After all, our children are the leaders of the future who need to be able to negotiate peace for our world.

Angelika

Life Coaching, 905-286-9466

 greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 Angelika wide picture for blogs smaller

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The Surprising Purpose of Anger

The central idea behind Marshall B Rosenberg’s system of Non-Violent Communication is people’s needs and whether they are being met. NVC shows us how to express ourselves in ways that increase the likelihood of getting what we need. It also teaches us how to listen to and respond to the messages of others from our heart. Once the needs of all people involved have been acknowledged and understood, compromises or solutions can be found. We have a natural inclination to help others out and make life better for them. When we are approached with a true request, we tend to grant the request, if possible.

If anger is present, it is more likely that the interaction is not going to be very constructive. Suppressing or denying anger never works. We need to ask what is going on underneath the anger. Anger is like the indicator light in your car. We wouldn’t ignore that warning light. It gives us useful information about what our engine needs.

check engine light

The first thing we need to let go of is blaming others for our anger. Nobody makes us feel angry. The behaviour of others might be the trigger for our anger but not the cause. When you find yourself thinking “He/she is making me feel angry because…” stop and reframe. We are never angry because of what others say or do. We are angry because of what we are telling ourselves about the situation.

“The cause of anger lies in our thinking—in thoughts of blame and judgment.” (Marshall Rosenberg, Non-violent Communication, 143)

Here is an example: If you have agreed to pick me up at 6:00 but you show up at 6:30, am I angry? It depends on what I make this mean. Do I tell myself that you don’t care about me or my time and that you are disrespectful toward me? Do I judge you as unreliable and inconsiderate? Do I stress myself out because we might now be late for something? These are all stories which will make me feel angry. If I don’t give your lateness any meaning, don’t take it as a personal attack, I don’t feel angry. If you arrive late and my need is to spend time purposefully and constructively, I might feel frustrated or angry. If my need is for 30 minutes of quiet time or to finish something myself, I might feel pleased.

It is not you who has made me feel angry, it is the story I tell myself based on my underlying need. When we are connected to our needs, we don’t need to move into anger. Instead of engaging in righteousness, we can connect with our own needs and those of others. Instead of believing we are angry because somebody else made us feel this way, we can shift to “I am feeling anger because my need for… is not met.”

Marshall Rosenberg quote

We have the choice to take four steps toward expressing anger constructively:

  1. Stop what we are thinking or saying and breathe
  2. Identify our judgmental thoughts and stories
  3. Connect with our feelings and needs underneath the anger
  4. Express our feelings and unmet needs
  5. Make a concrete request of how our needs can be met

When I share the steps of non-violent communication with my clients, three different hurdles usually show up. One, many of us have never learned to recognize what our needs are. Two, nobody has ever taught us how to express them. Three, we need to be okay with the other person denying our request.

Here are some examples for beliefs that we need to balance at a subconscious level to communicate more successfully:

  1. My needs are important / as important as other people’s needs.
  2. It is safe for me to express my needs.
  3. I am willing to communicate my emotions.
  4. I express my needs calmly and clearly.
  5. My needs are acknowledged / heard.
  6. I deserve to have my needs met.
  7. I love myself when others deny my requests.
  8. I listen with an open heart to other people’s feelings and needs.
  9. I respect and honour other people’s needs.
  10. I lovingly accept others as they are.

For examples of non-violent communication please read my blog “Communicating More Successfully”.

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For Belief Change Coaching and Relationship Coaching contact Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca