Do What I Say!: Improving Communication

Celia started talking right away. “I know what my family should be doing. If my daughter would dump her fiancé, go back to school and quit that terrible job, she’d be happier. My husband needs to stop eating junk food, exercise on his lunch break, and watch less TV. My parents ought to downsize and get out of that big house. If only my sister would count her blessings, quit cheating on her husband, and focus on her kids. If everyone would listen to me, they’d be happier, healthier and living better lives.”

“So what happens when you tell everyone around you what to do?” I asked apprehensively.

“No one listens,” Celia lamented. “My daughter moved the wedding up, my husband started hiding the junk food at work, my parents began a big remodel on their house and my sister spends even more time with that man.”

I hesitated but had to ask, “And why are you here, talking to me?”

“I need you to teach me how to make people do what they’re supposed to do. It’s for their own good and it’ll make my life so much easier!” Celia sunk back into the couch, looking relieved. I, on the other hand, felt all of her anxiety settle into my stomach.

What’s interesting is Celia could be quite right in her assessments of everyone around her. But here’s the challenge: it doesn’t matter. Let me say that again; it absolutely doesn’t matter if Celia is right or wrong about her family members. What matters is that her opinions get in the way of connecting with the people closest to her. Do we all seek advice and opinions? Of course. But none of us want to be in relationship with someone who constantly tells us how to live.

So how do I get rid of Celia’s anxiety that’s now swimming around in my stomach? First, why is Celia focused on everyone around her and not herself? (Turns out she’s really unhappy with her own life.) Second, how can Celia communicate her ideas in non-invasive ways? (Suggesting a hike with her husband goes over much better than calling him fat.)

Often those closest to us get the brunt of our opinions. This week where do you need to temper your words?