Bah Humbug. Why It’s Okay to be More Like Scrooge at Christmas

The name Ebenezer Scrooge, the principle character from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol has become synonymous for embittered miserliness and especially for someone who does not embrace the ‘spirit of Christmas’. At the start of his journey he cares nothing for people and is only interested in money. By the end of the story Scrooge was a changed man. He discovered the true meaning of Christmas. His name became synonymous with altruism and generosity. He was Mr Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is a story of redemption. It is a tale of values and how to focus on what truly matters in life. It was set in a bleak time of abject poverty and the social injustice of the casualties of the Industrial revolution. The story has resonance with modern-day austerity cuts where the most vulnerable in society have had to pay for the mistakes of the most affluent (. . . steps off soapbox. . .) Back to the main point.

humbugChristmas seems to start earlier every year. Cards and decorations appear in the shops around August. It has little or nothing to do with the values that Scrooge rediscovered by the end of the tale. Modern-day Christmas is driven by the values of the pre-enlightened Scrooge. In a perverse twist and turn around, those who decry commercialism are branded ‘Scrooge’ or ‘Ebenezer’ or chided with the statement ‘bah humbug’.

It’s true that Christmas is a real hugger-mugger of a festival and means different things to different people. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens did a lot to bring together disparate traditions and associations surrounding the Yuletide season. He helped us to re-embrace the pagan and yet at the heart of the story, there is a universal sense of humanity. So we have a pagan festival, hijacked by the Christian Church, in part, unified by Dickens and now hijacked by commercialism. Christmas is something that can now only be purchased and if you don’t have money then you are excluded. No doubt it will continue to evolve and mutate with more ‘traditions’ added. Hopefully, somewhere in the mix there will be space to re-discover what Scrooge discovered: If it’s not about people then it truly is humbug.

Happy People-mas

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About the author

Picture: Dr Gary Wood author of Unlock Your ConfidenceDr Gary Wood is a social psychologist and life coach. He is author of Unlock Your Confidence which is based on his confidence-building workshops. Gary is based in Birmingham and Edinburgh where he runs his own training and coaching practice and research consultancy. He also offers coaching worldwide through Skype. Contact Gary by email to see how his solution focused (life) coaching approach would benefit you or your organization. See: Testimonials from former clients.

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How to be More Persuasive and Convincing: Use the Rule of Three

It’s not difficult to persuade anyone of the prevalence and significance of the number three in Western culture. It’s everywhere, from sport (three points for a win, hat-tricks),  fairy tales (Bears, Pigs, wishes), literature (Musketeers), films (Amigos, Stooges),  to religion (the Trinity), interior designers (three ornaments on a shelf) even stand-up comedy (the rule of three elements in a joke). We even say that bad new comes in threes! There is something intrinsically satisfying about the number three to our pattern-seeking brains.

In psychology there are also plenty of triads such as Sigmund Freud‘s id, ego and superego (in psychoanalysis) and Eric Berne‘s parent, adult, child (in transactional analysis). I was surprised at just how many there are, so much so, that when writing my book Unlock Your Confidence I found it useful to use a triangle device to communicate the essence of psychological theories, without getting too bogged down in the details. I tested in workshops and it was a fast and effective way of introducing new material without taking away from the hands-on, experiential nature of the workshops. People really seem to get ‘three’.

It turns out that the rule of three offers a blueprint for persuasiveness. Kurt Carlson (Georgetown University) and Suzanne Shu (University of California) in their research paper ‘When Three Charms but Four Alarms’, find the ideal number of claims to include in a persuasive argument. People, firms and products should all use the ‘charm of three’ when making positive claims. Two is not convincing and adding a fourth point is viewed as a step too far.  It actually has a detrimental effect and increases scepticism..

This post is deliberately brief as the rule of three has endless applications. I figure your time would be better spent updating your CV (resume), updating your websites, rethinking your presentations, sales pitches, marketing and advertising campaigns or just the humble negotiations in relationships. There is no need to come up with as many convincing reasons as long as your arm. Three will do nicely.

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A Psychologist’s Year in Cafe World – Part One: Just Being Sociable

Psychology impacts on just about every aspect of being human, and playing a computer game is no exception. After rejecting countless invitations from strangers (a.k.a. Facebook friends) to accept imaginary gifts or send culinary items, I relented and decided to see what all the fuss was about. It was the beginning on a year playing Café World (CW).  My primary motivation was just to have fun. Some of my real world friends accepted my invitations and it became another way of keeping in touch. However,  I also quickly learned that CW is a very socially oriented game. As a social psychologist this really appealed to me.

CW is a café-themed computer game where players build and furnish their fantasy cafés and complete tasks, which involves “cooking” dishes, serving drinks and interacting with other cafe owners in their neighbourhood. This includes requesting items, returning favours and joining forces to complete team tasks. In my “neighbourhood” I noticed that the one player points ahead of the rest, was also the most reliable in responding to requests.  In CW, even though it’s a competition, you succeed by co-operation. However, some people are slow to grasp this. There are also various challenges where players form teams to tackle time-bound catering goals.  Where there is a limited time to cook an insurmountable numbers of dishes, it isn’t possible to go it alone. It is these challenges that bring out the worst in people. There are some hilarious posts on Facebook profiles of bitter disputes that breakout over non-cooperation. Warnings and ultimatums are issued stating “If you don’t respond to my requests, I will no longer respond to yours”. People are accused of being “amateurs” and “not taking things seriously”. This minority, who take things far too seriously, complain, hassle and become quite aggressive with statements such as “How can we expect to succeed if you are not pulling your weight?”. They can become abusive. People gently point out that “it’s a game and none of us are getting paid for this”. For some, this does not seem to matter. They become so engrossed that they become the bullying celebrity chefs we so often see on television. This begs the question, if people behave like this playing a game, do they behave the same in the real world? What are they like as colleagues, team players and team leaders? Do we all play computer games by the same rules as we live our lives by? Did CW turn make these players a little too “enthusiastic” or just shine a spotlight on their behaviour?

Early on, I took the lead from the top player in our neighbourhood and I simply responded to all requests. I’m sure that some people hoped to prosper by taking without reciprocating, however I didn’t let their behaviour alter my strategy. I like the idea of succeeding by cooperation, so I just played my part and didn’t worry about the motivations of anyone else.

CW also appealed to my sense of fun and irony. Other non-players would scoff and tell me that I had too much time on my hands. I was told that I need to get a real life or run a real café. The implication was that my time should be put to better use. Part of me liked the fact that I was playing a “dumb game” and should know better. The gross assumption was that playing a computer game can tell us nothing about ourselves and other people. As I wrote at that start of this, psychology impacts on just about every aspect of being human, and playing a computer game is no exception. CW did not make me a more socially-oriented person, I was that before I started playing. I like the lesson that we can succeed in life by co-operation. Whether pixellated virtual reality of Café World or the “real world”, co-operation for me is not just a means to an end, it is an end point, a terminal value, in and of itself.

In the following parts I will consider how playing Café World can help us to reflect on goal-setting strategies, time-management, cognitive flexibility and transferable skills.

See also:

The Clitoris, the Penis, Political Correctness and Biological ‘Factness’

Pic: Social Psychologist, Dr Gary Wood discusiing gender stereotypes

In my previous post, The Myth Busting Sexual Anatomy Quiz, one of the answers in particular prompted comments and questions. I stated that the clitoris is not a mini-penis as it is often described but rather, biologically speaking, the penis is an enlarged clitoris? But how can this be and does it really matter?

Firstly the ‘clitoris as mini-penis’ description assumes a primacy of the penis. It assumes the penis comes first (pause for sniggering). There’s also the not-so-subtle suggestion that the clitoris as mini-penis is an under developed penis and therefore an inferior organ. So yes it does matter because these assumptions are biologically incorrect.

Male development requires hormones to suppress female development and further hormones to enhance male development. This makes female anatomy the platform for male development and so technically the penis is an enlarged clitoris. Of course this sounds provocative because it goes against the ‘received wisdom’ or ‘gender spin’ that gives primacy to the penis.

If we compare the female and male genitalia we can see how the embryonic tissue developed down the two routes:

ovaries = testes

labia majora (outer lips) =scrotum

labia minora (inner lips) = underside of the penis

glans (head of clitoris) = glans (head of penis)

shaft (erectile tissue) of clitoris = shaft (erectile tissue) of penis)

vagina = no comparable structure in male.

It’s notable that the word ‘vagina’ is used for female genitals where in fact this only applies to the birth canal. So in describing the female anatomy in everyday language, we put the emphasis on reproduction. The collective term for female genitalia is the vulva, which includes the clitoris, the only organ in the human body solely for sexual pleasure. The everyday use of ‘vagina’ for female genitalia is more gender spin as it keeps the emphasis on penetration and again ‘sidelines’ the clitoris.

Then there’s the G-Spot to contend with. That’s it, let’s get the emphasis back up the vagina in a quest for the orgasmic grail. There is certainly not universal agreement that the G-Spot really exists. Supposedly located on the anterior wall of the vagina, no structure has been identified and evidence is largely anecdotal. Recent academic  research suggests that:

the special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris’ root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction.

read_confidence_posts_r_jus copyAgain, the clitoris is often thought to be a ‘tiny’ structure whereas its root extends deep into the body. So what some women experience as the G-Spot may be a by-product of the movement of the clitoris. More evidence, if any were needed, that the clitoris is not an inferior penis.

If you found this post interesting:

Other popular sex and gender posts by Gary Wood include:

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Too Much, Too Soon? The Facts of Life

Having been involved in SRE teaching in inner city schools I felt I just had to comment on the story that a new Government programme  is expected to be added to the curriculum that will require  primary schools to give all pupils sex education lessons under Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education.

In association with a theatre-based project I ran some workshops in schools to discuss the themes of  a play. We asked that the groups were no bigger than 20 but instead some schools insisted that the groups should be 50+. In effect it had become a mere tick-box exercise for some schools.

A new report from the  Family Education Trust argues “Making PSHE statutory would inevitably reduce the influence of parents over what is taught”. In the report “Too Much, Too Soon”, author Normal Wells (and director of the FET) argues that

“Schools are currently required to consult with parents with regard to their sex education policies and to be sensitive to their wishes.

“However, making PSHE part of the national curriculum would inevitably make schools less accountable to parents in what is a particularly sensitive and controversial”

Now while I agree that parents should be more involved with education, it has to be stated that all parents aren’t trained teachers.  And presumably Normal Wells and The Family Education Trust do not hold the same view of religious education in schools which is compulsory and it has to be said, fairly sensitive and controversial. Why don’t we give parents responsibility for their children’s religious education? However I doubt whether Mr Wells would agree with that as he claims that compulsory sex education in schools “raises the very real possibility that some schools would be forced to compromise their beliefs on controversial areas such as contraception, abortion and homosexuality in the name of consistency”. Ah! Never let the facts get in the way of a ‘good’ belief system, eh?

And exactly how are the topics of contraception, abortion and homosexuality connected? They are often trotted out, unchallenged, as the ‘unholy’ trinity. However, they are only connected when you adopt a particular moral standpoint. Then it’s not a question of ‘too much, too soon’ which suggests a developmental argument. The title of the report misdirects in order to sneak in a religious perspective. They are separate arguments, made to look like one.

And why should it be assumed that all parents are comfortable talking about sex when they may have had very little formal education on the topic. So, where’s the objection to balanced lessons on sex education being taught in the classroom, by qualified teachers with knowledge of key stages in learning development? That’s what they are trained for! Surely, professionally planned and delivered sex education will  enrich dialogues between young people and parents.

My own view is that psychology should also be on the curriculum especially developmental psychology so that young people gain some valuable evidence based insights. As an educator, ultimately, I have to be an advocate for education over ignorance every time. The reason why schools should deal with the subjects of  sex  (and religion) is that they can offer a much broader perspective and employ a host of teaching methods and resources. Sex education should not be a platform for moral crusades. What we need is education without the editorial. The facts of life should be about the facts of life.

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My colleague Dr Petra Boynton has writtten an excellent piece on this topic.

Let’s Blame It On Our Hormones!

It’s often argues that hormones make men and women behave in radically different ways. It’s interesting that it’s part of the male gender stereotype that men sulk and this is blamed on their ‘male hormones’. By contrast, the female gender stereotype is that women ‘give the silent treatment’ and this is blamed on ‘female hormones’. Now don’t you think that these seem pretty similar outcomes for radically different hormones?

Fortunately, for us, our hormones don’t know they are supposed to be boys and girls. They just get on and do their jobs. Men and women have the same hormones. Women have testosterone and men have also have progesterone and oestrogens. In fact the old label of progesterone’ as a ‘female hormone’ actually got in the way of research into the hormone and its implication for the health of both women and men.

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Myth Busting Human Sexual Anatomy Quiz

Pic: Dr Gary Wood - Author of Sex, Lies & StereoypesWe have many taken-for-granted assumptions about the biology of men and women. So, I offer this, provocative, human anatomy quiz to help explore and unpack some of those assumptions.

The Questions:

  1. True of false? Women are biologically the weaker sex.
  2. True or false? Men have male hormones and women have female hormones.
  3. True of false? Women have testosterone.
  4. True of false? The anus has an erotic capacity for both men and women.
  5. True of false? The anus has an erotic capacity irrespective of sexual orientation.
  6. True or false? The correct name for the female genitals is the vagina.
  7. True of false? A clitoris is like a tiny penis.
  8. True or false? The clitoris is the only organ in the human body with the sole function of sexual pleasure.
  9. True of false? The ovaries and the testes are formed from the same embryonic tissue.
  10. True or false? Biologically, the ‘default’ value of humans is female.
  11. True or false? Women are incomplete men.
  12. True or false? Men and women are so different that they may as well be from different planets.

The Answers:

  1. False. Men are biologically the weaker sex  (on account of the Y chromosome which means it doesn’t protect the male so well from hereditary diseases)
  2. False. Men and women have the same hormones; it is only the relative levels that differ. Furthermore, men differ from other men and women differ from other women in terms of hormone levels.
  3. True. Women have testosterone. Men also have progesterone and oestrogens.
  4. True. The anus has an erotic capacity for both men and women. As the genitals and the anus share much of the same musculature and nerve endings, it is often difficult to tell where an impulse originates.
  5. True. The anus has an erotic capacity irrespective of sexual orientation (gay, straight, bi or indifferent).
  6. False. The vagina is the birth canal; the collective term for the female genitals is ‘vulva’.
  7. False. A penis is an enlarged clitoris. See also answer 8.
  8. True. The clitoris is the only organ in the human body with the sole function of sexual pleasure.
  9. True. The ovaries and the testes are formed from the same embryonic tissue.
  10. True. Biologically, the ‘default’ value of humans is female. That is why the penis is an enlarged clitoris and also why men have nipples.
  11. False. More accurately, men are women who made a bit of a detour (in the earlier stages of development)
  12. False. From biological evidence, the similarities between men and women are greater than the differences.

So where does this take us?

Well, in the direction of a twelve point personal research plan to check out the answers and then consider how these facts impact on our social interpretation of biological sex, that is our gender roles (and our attitudes to sexuality).

[Material adapted from Sex, Lies and Stereotypes, by Gary Wood]

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Gender, Cave People & an Apology for Psychology

If I have to hear another ‘it’s a throwback to cave people’ explanation to explain gender social roles, I’ll scream. In fact I do! Much to the dismay of people sitting in the same room.  It’s all the worse when it comes from people who should know better. I mean, we expect it from stand-up comedians but here’s an example of a  psychologist who should really know better even though s/he is speaking outside of her/his field of expertise (and appears to make a habit of it). The subject is computer games and gender.

Computer games are ideally suited to men we are informed because. . . wait for it. . .

‘[B]ack when they were cavemen, men had to focus on the animal they were trying to kill. If they were distracted by anything from a woman to their own emotions, they’d miss the target. The real appeal for men is escapism though, because they’re not as evolved to deal with emotions which is why they like games more than us’.

(It’s not clear whether the venerable ‘expert’ means that men like computer games more than they like women, or more than women like computer games. However it is clear that the use of the word ‘us’ clearly shows that the person is not speaking as a psychologist but is giving a personal opinion as a ‘not-man’)

It gets ‘better’. . .

‘Competition is important to men because it let’s them work out who’s “the best”, an instinct going back to the days when they had to prove to the cavewoman that they’d be superior providers for them’.

So where is the evidence for these sagely insights? Now I’m not aware that this particular expert has done any research whatsoever on why people enjoy computer games. The person in question doesn’t look quite old enough to be from Palaeolithic times, so it can’t be from personal experience. As for the evidence of gender roles in cave people, this largely arose from the views of a once male-dominated archaeology who often made the cardinal error of using modern-day Western living as a lens by which to view historical and cultural data. It wasn’t until the 1960s when female archaeologists had the opportunity to question the orthodox, androcentric view that an alternative view began to emerge.   The meat content of  cave people is most likely exaggerated. Some sources suggest that it was about 80% gathering (vegetarian), so those archaeological spear-like, in some instances, could just as well be scraping and digging implements. Meat was more likely a ‘special occasion’ thing which is why it appeared as paintings on cave walls. Meat consumption increased with agriculture. Plenty of sources now agree that there weren’t the super-defined gender roles of the 1950s. It’s certainly ridiculous to assume that ‘cave people’ society was based on lots of little semi-detached caves containing nuclear families with mummy sitting at home making apple sauce on the off chance that daddy comes home with a pig. It makes no sense! The societies were probably more cooperative and egalitarian with everyone ‘mucking in’.

The case for gender differences is massively overstated in popular sources (and a few academic ones). When gender differences are scrutinised in meta-analyses, taking into account confounding factors what invariably results are no differences or relatively small (statistically significant) differences. Although these are often reported as ‘significant’ in popular sources there is often a basic misunderstanding of what the word ‘significant’ means in the context of research. It means that it passes a statistical test. However, this does not necessarily translate into a real-world significance.  Furthermore, the differences that do occur can be diminished or eradicated by training. This suggests strongly that even these small gender differences are determined by social factors. Overall, the body of research on gender demonstrates that there is a greater difference within each gender than between them. It also shows that the similarities between the genders are far greater than their differences.

Whenever, ‘experts’ resort to the ‘cave person’ analogy, this is a substitute for considering the evidence. It’s a smokescreen.  It taps into a commonly held myth and therefore, on the surface, appears to ring true. Now we expect the host of ‘fakexperts‘ to resort to  ‘cavepeople’ analogies because many of them may well not be expert at interpreting research data or know where to find evidence-based resources. However, for the seemingly respectable psychologist, there really is no excuse for this kind of slap-dash, ‘say-the-first-thing-that-pops-into-your-head’ kind of laziness.  So the next time you hear cave people and gender used, uncritically, in the same sentence, question the credentials and the motives of the speaker (or writer). The same goes for the ‘Mars-Venus’ analogy. It’s just another smokescreen.

More often than not, the appearance of psychologists in the media are missed opportunities to communicate evidence-based psychology. Invariably,  what we have is not even an apology for psychology but  bull-shit based psychobabble and ‘gossipology’. So often the definition of a ‘celebrity’ psychologist is ‘someone who should know better’. We certainly deserve better!

Recommended Books on Gender:

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Flirting & the ‘Golden’ Age of Gender

In examining flirting tips from the various main stream pop-psychology books on body language I’m struck by the prevalence of gender stereotypes and the absence of the acknowledgement that not everyone is heterosexual and not everyone wants to have children. Surely flirting need not depend on these.

Many tips involve ‘men making themselves more masculine to attract ‘delicate’ women’ and ‘women making themselves more ‘delicate’ to attract ‘big strong, rugged, men’. This all presupposes that we all want the same thing. Some women like ‘skinny’ men who wear glasses and hate football. Some men, small in stature, like full-bodied, amply curvaceous women. Some, delicate, petite, perfectly made-up women, may prefer women in sensible shoes to a hunk in football boots. Some rough and tough, deep voiced, sporty men don’t necessarily fancy women at all. Yes I know it’s all very obvious, so why the hell don’t the pop-psychology books acknowledge it? One reason is that the classic body language books are from ‘the golden age of gender’ when the world was a very different place and, sadly, gender stereotypes do sell.

Different people are attracted to different things and gender roles have moved on enormously since the 1950s. So telling every women to become like a 1950s housewife or a screen siren from the golden age of Hollywood is hardly like to work for all. Telling every man that he needs to ‘butch-up’ and take up forestry  is hardly like to work either, unless of course you know someone who’s into that sort of thing.

Flirting is about having fun. Flirting is about putting yourself across in a ‘good light’. It’s not about aping outdated stereotypes and it’s open to all! So the best advice I can give is:

  • Relax
  • Be yourself but be your best
  • Smile and have fun
  • Avoid any flirting tips that get you to act out a stereotype unless that’s what you are really into.

Links (to other ‘gender-based’ posts):

Communication Tips in Relationships

All too often it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing communication skills as a bunch and tips, tools and techniques for getting our own personal message across. Well in part that is true, but it’s only half of the story.

Essentially communication is about an exchange of perspectives; a coming together of differing personal views of the world. It’s not just about talking; it’s about listening too. Listening may be thought of as a passive process, just nodding, smiling and hmm-ing until it’s our turn to ‘communicate’. However, the way you listen will determine whether anyone will want to talk to you. And when we speak it’s often it’s not what we say but how we say it that determines whether or not other people will hear us. The way we present our messages will increase the chances that someone will actually listen to us.
We often hear a lot about how it’s good to talk in relationships but when it’s time to talk about problems in relationships, a common error is to lump all your petty niggles and resentments into one big formless heap and then dump that on to a friend, partner or loved one. The reason for this is simple. All too often we are encouraged to engage in battlefield communications – the battle of the sexes – where the winner takes it all! There is an art to communication and the first thing to decide is what your message is; what do you want to get across. Different types of communication like books, plays, films and so on all do through an editing process in the hope that they will be received in the best possible light. If both partners ‘edit’ their message and stick to the most important issues, then it will also, most likely, be easier to listen to.

My recommendations for clear communication tend to work well when used together, and of course you need to be flexible and adapt them to your own particular needs and the needs of the other person, and the relationship. A number of these suggestions are taken from my book Sex, Lies & Stereotypes.

Here they are:

Think partnership
If your relationship is a partnership then you should aim for a win-win situation. It should not be a zero-sum game, so that one partner benefits at the expense of the other. It is important that you really make an effort to see things for each other’s perspective. Be creative in solutions. Think ‘outside of the box’. If you both win, the relationship wins doubly so.

Pick the right moment
Don’t be tempted to dive in, no matter the time or place. Agree on a time and place to discuss important matters when you are not likely to be disturbed or distracted. Again, think partnership. It needs to be a time and place that works for both of you, relatively free from stress and private. You both need to feel safe to disclose your intimate thoughts. So, don’t pick the moment your partner wants to watch his/her favourite programme, or when you are on the dance floor at a nightclub, or in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket.

Own your statements
When dealing with negative or difficult issues you need to own your statements. There is a big difference between ‘I feel as if’ and ‘you make me feel’. If you introduce a sense of blame, the whole discussion becomes a game of ‘emotional poker’ with I’ll raise your ‘hurt feelings’, and see you a ‘really make me sick’. It’s not meant to be a competition.

The behaviour is not the person
It is far easier for a person to change their behaviour than to change their whole self. Once you’ve said ‘You really make me sick’, there isn’t really anything else left to say, is there? If on the receiving end, you might want to say ‘In what specific ways do I make you sick?’ Prompt for examples, ask for evidence. However, if the person says ‘I don’t like it when you. . .’ or say how you feel when a particular behaviour occurs. This way you cut to the chase and immediately start talking about the important stuff. Of course, it doesn’t have to be something negative. Instead of saying ‘You are useless at foreplay’, you could say what you do like, for instance ‘I like it when you do x, y and z. (Hmmm! Can’t beat a bit of x,y & z). Say how good you feel. Psychologically, people respond much better to positive reinforcement, such as praise, than they do to negative feedback such as ‘put downs’. Even ‘I really appreciate it when you get up to put the cat out’!

Observations not judgements
Don’t make sweeping generalised judgements about what things do or don’t mean. Don’t start sentences with ‘If you loved me’ or ‘If you cared’. These are not facts. They are your perceptions. Consider this statement ‘You don’t care whether or not I get any sexual satisfaction, you just think about yourself’. All wrapped up in one statement is ‘caring’, ‘selfishness’, and ‘sexual satisfaction’. You may end up arguing about caring and selfishness when you really should be discussing sexual satisfaction. Make factual observations not value judgements.

Give specific feedback based on observations
Words like ‘always’, ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ and ‘never’ are all rather vague and leave things wide open for disagreement. Again, it is all about different perspectives. You need to put things into context and be more specific. It then becomes easier to get side tracked by arguing over the terms and frequencies rather than discussing the real issues.

Share ideas or offer alternatives, rather than make demands or give advice.
Most people respond better if they have a sense on input or investment in a course of action. Nobody likes being told what to do. It’s all about perspectives again. Discussing options should be the first step in any ‘negotiation’. This communicates the idea that you value the other person’s point of view. Psychologically, there will be a greater sense of ownership of an idea for both people if they have both contributed to it.

Too much, Too Soon. Don’t go for feedback overload
When material has a high emotional content, it often takes us a little longer to process. So if a partner discloses something, you may say the first thing that comes into your head, or use it as a signal to open up the floodgates, releasing a torrent of emotion. However sometimes it requires a little time to ‘digest’ what you’ve just heard. Sometimes it is important to go away and process the thoughts before ‘thinking out loud’. You are less likely to say something that you hadn’t fully thought through (and may regret later). It is okay to take ‘time out’ and agree to come back to it. If you get into the habit of good communications, then there isn’t that imperative to have to deal with everything in one go.

In summary
Overall, people who discuss things (even argue) in a similar style are more likely to resolve their differences. Using some or all of these tips helps to make sure that the right message gets through. It is really about learning how to focus the message and not getting side-tracked by our personal perceptions. Essentially, it is about making your ‘signal’ easier for the other person to process by getting rid of ‘the interference’.
What I’ve also found from reviewing the research is that people in relationships considered more intimate usually have a number of things in common:

  • – they tend to share equally private thoughts and feelings, especially private ones, and are more likely to say ‘I love you’, or pay their partners a compliment.
  • – they less likely to ‘point score’ and more likely to seek win-win solutions to any problems.
  • – they also tend to take a direct approach and talk rather than expect their partners to be mind-readers, and when in conflict they tend to look for a swift solution rather than ‘prolong the agony’ (i.e. sulking).

In short, relationships that are more intimate tend to be partnerships-based. Overall these pointers represent an ideal way to communicate, and as we know, sometimes we are not always presented with ideal conditions. So don’t worry if you don’t put all of these things into action every time. Do what you can at the time with the intention of maintaining a partnership perspective.