Appreciation: a key to being heard

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, the masters of relationship had 20 times more positive interactions than negative interactions during everyday interactions, and five times more positive than negative interactions during times of conflict.  Our ratio of positive to negative interactions is strong when our relationships are full of fondness, affection, gratitude and humor.  When we create rituals that build gratitude and affection for one another, we are putting our relationship in what Dr. Gottman calls “the positive perspective”. When our relationships are in the positive perspective, we are more able to hear our partner’s needs. 

When expressing our needs, it can be helpful to include what we appreciate and what we admire about the other person. When we express that, we can help our partner be able to hear us.  

When we are deeply entrenched in the negative perspective, or when our needs have been building up, it can be hard to stop and express appreciation. In his book Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs describes this pattern as “the crazy cycle.” He says that when a man feels disrespected, he responds without love. When a woman feels unloved, she responds without respect.  He says that the one who considers him/herself more mature should be the one who takes the first step towards expressing love and respect. 

 

Fighting in front of the kids

When is it appropriate to fight in front of the kids?  In John Medina's book Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded), he talks about "One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home... Given that stress can powerfully affect learning, one might predict that children living in high-anxiety households would not perform as well academically as kids living in more nurturing households. That is exactly what studies show. Marital stress at home can negatively affect academic performance in almost every way measurable, and at nearly any age... Careful subsequent investigations showed that it was the presence of overt conflict, not divorce, that predicted grade failure.” (Brain Rule #4: Stressed Brains Don't Learn the Same Way, emphasis mine).

Therefore, we can consider ways to reduce how much we fight in front of the children, and how we teach them conflict management strategies.  Some ideas:

  • Having a regular time when we bring up conflicts when the children are out of earshot, so that conflicts don't build up over time.
  • Looking for regular ways to express fondness and affection for one another, so that we can maintain the positive perspective.
  • Taking breaks to calm down so that problems don't escalate.
  • Focusing on keeping mealtimes positive, so that kids develop a positive association with eating.

If you think a certain topic may be upsetting to you or your partner, try to avoid talking about it in front of the kids. Wait to bring it up when you are alone.Starting at around age 4, we can have small disagreements in front of the children, but it is important that they see us physically make up at the end.  

Check out this article for more information.  

More tips and tricks