Steve and I have been married for 27 years. We work with couples and individuals who are dealing with relationships both romantically and professionally. What we have discovered is that no matter how skilled you are in communication inevitably it takes two to make it work. Fortunately one person can set the tone, lead the way, and then the other party will often follow.
Recently I came across an article in the Psychotherapy Networker magazine (www.psychotherapynetworker.org) by Terrence Real titled, A Matter of Choice. He highlighted a story about a married couple where they both thought they were right. That was a familiar scenario from my clients to my own personal life. Real asked the question, “What is more important to you, to be right or to be married?” I liked this because it forced the client to pay attention to criteria and puts their righteousness in perspective.
What was even more helpful was a simple formula to help when you begin to notice yourself becoming critical, argumentative, nagging or self-righteous. If you do start to get caught in any of these states first pause, then breath, then think and then choose. I find this a simple process that is easy to remember and practice. Also I like how it integrates both the mind and the body. When you pause you are becoming aware and are using your cerebral cortex, the executive center of your brain. Then when you breath you are engaging your body by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system which will reduce your stress and make you more available to actually for the next step. The next step is to think, which again engages the cerebral cortex and now you have the peace of mind to think about what you are going to say in an appropriate way. Lastly you choose, which I believe is the linkage of the mind and body, in a harmonious way to be resourceful in your choice of managing whatever the situation entails.
Perhaps it takes two is not only about the people involved, but your relationship with your mind and body to enhance your communication with all people.
Suggestion: Practice; Pause-Breath-Think-Choose