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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Repeating and "You" Sentences

Uploaded: Sep 12, 2014
Repeating is a sign that we don't feel heard, or we feel misunderstood; that our mate is brushing aside our words and the meanings behind them. So we repeat (turn up our volume) in the hopes of being heard; often it just leads to escalation, and then our primal brain kicks into fight, flight, or freeze.

Repeating ourselves is pretty straightforward; we say the same thing multiple times. I'm not sure how aware we are of repeating ourselves, as when I bring it up to a wife or husband in couples counseling, he or she seems surprised. So begin to notice if you are a repeater.

"You" sentences, on the other hand, are either poking at our spouse, or are another way of brushing aside what our mate has said; by turning it back on him, getting the heat off of me. They are accusatory, critical, or contemptuous.

Let me give examples of the "You" sentences: You never listen to me. You never take my feelings into account. You're too emotional. You don't pay attention to money. You always do what you want. You don't load the dishwasher properly. You don't drive right . . . fill in the blank.

Our brain is wired from earliest evolution to survive, and when it perceives threat, we will either fight (yell), flight (walk away from our mate in the midst of an argument), or freeze (go silent, hunker down until it's over).

Often couples have differing reactions to perceived threat (i.e. one yells, the other either freezes or flights). So in addition to not feeling heard or understood, their primal reactions are misunderstood and that can escalate the interaction even further.

Note: These differences can show up on the intimacy side too, often called the pursuer/distance or wave/island dynamic.

We have to get out of these cycles I together====.

Recognizing them is the first step. Try just this one experiment this week: If you are the talker, say, "I don't feel heard," or if you are the listener, say "I'm not sure what you mean by that, can you tell me more?"

Leave out all the rest (the editorial, as we like to say at our house). No repeating, no "you" sentences.


Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 12, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Chandrama, I would add those who finish almost every sentence with "and" or "but"...then carry on, endlessly. They clearly need a lot of attention. The only way to get a word in is to rudely interrupt. This is, unfortunately, a particular problem with us women.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 13, 2014 at 9:32 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

Thanks for bring up this important topic. I will write about it soon in a new post. Do you mean it is the women who have to rudely interrupt the men, or the other way around?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Chandrama, I am saying that it is typically women who have the "and"/"but" issue, and that they need to be rudely interrupted by either men or women to get a word in. We had one of them, an old friend, in our home for a few days recently, and she simply could not get a grip, even after we pointed it out to her several times. We were so glad to see her go.

I think men tend to have a different issue, which is domination of the conversation. My husband has a tendency in this direction.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm


All this focus on trying to compute the perfect way to be heard or have an effect on someone who is probably not listening or who does not care - I find it tantamount to blaming the victim in a way. It's like saying, sure you have some legitimate gripes, but if you would only express them perfectly you would have gotten some satisfaction, so the problem is really in how eloquent, or be positive, or whether you make eye contact, or smile, or have the right body language ... and I think it's BS.

Where I am coming from is thinking of my Dad. He never wanted to hear, accept or deal with/negotiate about the things he did to hurt people. A solid member of the 1%, why should he have to? Nothing could touch him and he knew all he had to do was deny, dismiss, stonewall or whatever until whoever was not telling him what he wanted to hear. The root problem is that this is who runs the institutions of our country from the Government on down to the family ... we talk about democracy and Constitutional rights, but our institutions are almost all hierarchical tyrannies.

What we need in this world is not hundreds of different things that powerless or abused, unhappy people or people with just new ideas on how to do things have to think of before they utter a sound about their problems ... we need institutional methods to ensure people's rights, respect and dignity.

My $0.02


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