by Dr. Bill Austin
Has this ever happened to you? Your partner comes home and shares a problem that took place at work. He or she is hurt by a rude remark a co-worker made. Of course we feel angry with someone upsetting our partner, so we may say things such as,"Why don't you tell that person off? Just quit that stupid job." Then we notice that our partner is upset and says to us, "I can't talk to you." Then we are upset and say, "I was just trying to help."
We know that most of us men are "fixers." Someone presents us with a problem, and we think it is our job to offer a solution. When our partner shares a problem, we jump to the "fix-it" mode. If we are a Thinker (referring to the Myers-Briggs personality profile), we are a person who lives primarily in our thinking world, a world of thoughts, standards, logic and principles. If a decision is to be made, we will use this mode and try to fix the problem with a thought.
The reason our partner is upset with our fix-it mode is that it cuts her off from working through the problem and the feelings associated with it. She may also interpret our fix as saying we think she is not capable of handling the situation. If she is a Feeler, she needs to work through her feelings. This may take time, and she may to need to talk about it at different times.
The reason why feelings take more time and need more than one hearing is that sorting feelings is like peeling an onion. There are layers of feelings. Often we are not sure what our feelings are until we begin talking and sorting. Usually a feeling will have other feelings attached to it. For instance, anger is a secondary feeling that is connected to primary feelings such as guilt, fear, or hurt.
The reason our partner is upset with our
Karen, my wife, and I have found a nice way to deal with this problem. If Karen wants me to be a reflective listener, she will say, "Bill, I need you to help me sort out my feelings about a problem I am having." That tells me how I am to listen. I will reflect what I hear her saying. Then there will be times when she says, "I need your advice about a problem. What would you do?" Then I listen to problem solve.
It is important to tell our partner how we want him/her to listen to us. So it is important for our partner to tell us what kind of listener she needs or else we will jump to what is natural.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700