“Stop Talking to Me Like That!”

I have spent a lot of time helping couples improve their communication skills. Relationships can be greatly enhanced by assisting people in having more productive conversations and feeling more understood. Most couples appear to instantly identify to one principle that has been around since the 1950s. The term for it is “Transactional Analysis.” Basically, it goes like this:

Spouse #1 – “You never help me clean up around here!  I’m tired of it.

“I can’t take your constant nagging at me,” says spouse number two.…shuts a door as he departs.
What’s happening here? We all have three internal sources that we draw upon when speaking with someone else, according to transactional analysis. The parent place, child place, and adult place are what they are called. And throughout the day, we all shift between various mental states.

When we say things like, “You must,” it means that we are coming from our PARENT position. “You always…” “You never…” “You ought to…” This mindset is a result of what our parents told us, as well as laws, society norms, etc.

We reacted to being talked to in this manner when we were younger. When we sulk, yell, act defiantly, or shut off as adults, we are acting from our CHILD place. Think back to your childhood and how you handled stress. Have you ever thought about how you would respond to your grownup spouse?

You see, while we are speaking to someone else, a curious thing occurs. The encounter is quite predictable because they both come from these three internal locations when speaking. Unintentionally adopting a parent voice tends to cause the other person to unintentionally react in a childlike manner. See our illustration from earlier.

Spouse #1’s voice is unmistakably that of their PARENTS. “You’ve never helped me clean up around here! “Spouse #2 responds as their CHILD when they do that. “I can’t stand how persistent you are with me!”…shuts a door as he departs.

How can we help?

We become adults after we become 18 or older. Thankfully, we also contain an ADULT space. We often use our ADULT voice at work or while conversing with a professional of some kind. Our ADULT voice is composed, caring, encouraging, and needs-based.

When discussing a problem with our partner, we should speak ADULT TO ADULT whenever possible. We bargain from a position of needs and seek an outcome that benefits both parties. Returning to our scenario, let’s consider a potential adult-to-adult dialogue these two might have regarding the dirty residence.

First spouse: “Honey, I feel so overpowered when I come home from work and see toys strewn over the floor. Additionally, the morning’s dishes are still unfinished. I’m very bothered about it! Would you be willing to make an effort to persuade the children to put away their toys and do the breakfast dishes before I get home in the evening?
I’m sorry you feel overburdened, second spouse. With everything going on around us, I have occasional overwhelm, so I can relate. I’d be ready to make an effort to persuade the kids to put up their toys, but it might take some time. Perhaps you could at least finish your own breakfast dishes in the morning and I’ll finish the rest once you’re gone to help me finish the others?

This kind of communication may be challenging at first, but with experience and better outcomes, it becomes simpler. It’s crucial to keep in mind that you want the issue resolved. Teamwork will always be a more effective strategy for solving issues than merely responding on impulse. It may take practice to master this technique. You may get back to the best part of your relationship—loving each other—by improving your communication skills with the assistance of a qualified therapist.