Tag Archives: communication styles

Avoidance tends to be highest in people who are passive or non-assertive (Positive and Negative cycles in Relationships: Part 2 – Avoidance)

Based on the research, we have discovered there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self-confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence and avoidance and perceived partner dominance.

Avoidance: Avoidance is a person’s tendency to minimise issues and his/her reluctance to deal with issues directly.

Avoidance tends to be highest in people who are passive or non-assertive. Conversely, people who are very assertive tend to be low on avoidance. There is increasing evidence that an avoidant style creates problems in close relationships.

People who score high in avoidance tend to report they feel dominated by their partner, dislike the personalities of their partner, and dislike the way they communicate and resolve conflicts with their partner.

John Gottman (1994), a prominent researcher on marriage, described three common styles of relating in couples. One of his three types of couples was the avoidant couple.

Avoidant couples tend to minimise conflict and often don’t resolve their differences, agreeing to disagree. Gottman has found an avoidant marriage is one style that can endure, but states, ‘…there is a low level of companionship and sharing in the marriage.” He goes on to report, “Another hazard of this type of marriage is that it can become lonely” (Gottman, 1994, p. 46). Individuals in such marriages may often feel disconnected, misunderstood, and ill-equipped to deal with conflict should it arise.

As partners in a relationship improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence will increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self-confidence. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle in couples.

For more details on this exercise, refer to the Couple’s Workbook.

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.www.workofheart.net.au

More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

Couples, the Internet and Social Media: Do a self assessment on why you are using online sites

The internet, mobile phones and social media have become key players in the life of couples, with many claiming they have had an impact on their relationship. In less than 10 years, digital technology has made itself felt in most relationships – in how couples communicate, grow closer, plan, fight and make up.

Whilst most say the impact is positive, in a recent survey 25% of couples suggest that their mobile phone distracts their spouse or partner when they are together.

Tech use in 2017

  • 41% of households are wireless-only
  • Access is increasingly on-the-go.
  • People engage with a host of devices, platforms, and news sources, all throughout the day
  • Things like “going online”, “getting news”, or “talking politics” are continuous activities
  • Its hard for ordinary users to recall and discuss specific actions they might have taken
  • Untangling the “impact” of any single device, article, event, tweet, etc. is really hard.

Research suggests that the impact of the internet, mobile phones and social media on couple relationships is either an important or emerging issue for many couples and understanding the influence and implications of internet, mobile phone and social media use on your relationship and the implications on your partner is critical.

Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.au

More positive to negative is the key to marriage success

Aim for greater than 5 times positive moments in your marriage to the negative. If as professor John Gottman suggests, marital satisfaction is linked to each partners’ physiological response to one another, then balancing positive and negative, 5 more positive moments to 1 negative, gives couples a guide on how to behave.

When your relationship tends toward negative responses to one another such as stubbornness, withdrawal, contempt or defensiveness, consider the 5 plus times you need to express interest, show affection, or being appreciative or showing concern. Whilst there is some evidence that conflict may serve a positive function in marriage, too much negativity can be harmful. Think about a positive thing that you can do for your partner right now and act on it. Be intentional about your relationship.

Adapted from Gottman, J. 2007: ‘Why marriages Succeed or Fail’; Bloomsbury, London.

More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

Go to: www.intentional-relationship.com

How to Communicate Better with my Partner: Part III – The four marriage killers 

John Gottman popular psychologist and Social  Scientist has worked with couples for over 40 years and based on his research he identifed communication styles that predict the end of a marriage relationship Termed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and outlined in this blog last week, we need to watch out for the following 4 toxic signs of communication – Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling:


  • 96% of the time, the way a conversation starts in the first 3 minutes, will dictate how it finishes
  • Contempt is the single biggest predictor of divorce
  • 5:1 Magic Ratio – positive to negative interactions
  • Good listening comes from good speaking

The four marriage killers:

  1. Criticism: harsh comments, Attacking your partners personality or character; Put downs; Blaming; These examples make it personal rather then the issue
  2. Contempt: eye rolling, sighing, dismissiveness – what would you know; Intention to insult your partner; Name calling; Sarcasm; Negative body language – saying you are listening but pulling faces, looking in the other direction
  3. Defensiveness: Yes, but… You think you’ve been harshly done by… Places problem with partner; Yes but…. Obstructs communication – nothing gets resolved
  4. Stone Walling: 70% of men do this. Man cave. Don’t face the issue; Removal of self emotionally; Shutting down

 Now what: Daily Debrief

  • A) Speaker *Talk about a stress outside of your relationship
  • B) Listener: *Side with your partner and validate

Homework 2: Affirmation

  • Concentrate on 5 to 1 Positive to Negative.
  • Say positive, encouraging things to each other daily.

    Need more information, email me now shane@intentional-relationship.com

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com

    How to Communicate Better with my Partner: Part II

    There are many obstacles that distract us from what is important. My partner and I are serious about our marriage and although we want to have fun and enjoy what life has to offer, we know we need to take intentional effort to ensure we stay connected. Like you, we are a busy couple and we try (often unsuccessfully) to balance a full-time job, a business, volunteer work and our friends and family and time for ourselves – exercise etc.

    Like climbing Everest, it’s a tough climb that you are on or have ahead. Its hard work and there are many scattered bodies around us but not only is there a reward at the summit, there are gorgeous views all around. It’s a great journey, an important journey, not only for you but for the future generations.

    1. What is marriage enrichment?

    Today I want to give you an insight into marriage and to send a message about the importance of marriage enrichment.
    What is marriage enrichment: what are we trying to do and why?

    It’s a work of art: Picture of married life. It starts with our romantic notions, our vision, and our perception of how our marriage will be and then it takes on life. Art, done with commitment and dedication, it is perceived in different ways by all who look at it. It’s meant to last forever, so it needs nurturing and commitment. What does the real picture look like?

    2. Common misconceptions

    • We don’t need it
    • We are doing fine – we’ll wait for problems to arise
    • It’s a waste of time
    • We do not want others to know our business
    • Good marriages happen naturally – ”we’ll be ok”
    • There is no benefit of this to our marriage

    3. What happens during a typical marriage enrichment event?

    • Taking intentional time out to focus on your marriage
    • Becoming aware of where the ‘edges’ are between yourself and your partner
    • Identify the positive aspects of your marriage
    • Opportunity to re-discover each other
    • Learn skills in communication and ways to deal with conflict
    • Understanding how emotional intimacy can be increased in your marriage – important

    4. Research

    John Gottman popular psychologist and has worked with couples for over 40 years.

    • 96% of the time, the way a conversation starts in the first 3 minutes, will dictate how it finishes
    • Watch out for the 4 toxic signs of communication – Criticism / Contempt / Defensiveness / Stonewalling
    • Contempt is the single biggest predictor of divorce
    • 5:1 Magic Ratio – positive to negative interactions
    • Take 30 mins time out when overwhelmed or flooded
    • Good listening comes from good speaking

    Need more information, email me now shane@intentional-relationship.com

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com

    How to Communicate Better with my Partner: Like Mt Everest, it’s a great journey, an important journey not only for you but for the future generations

    2013 marked 60 years since the first recorded ascent of Mount Everest. Named by the Royal Geographical Society in 1865 after Sir George Everest, in Tibet it is known as Chomolungma (Tibet, mother goddess of the universe) Its peak is 8,848ms. The international border between China (Tibet) and Nepal (South) runs across the precise summit point. Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather, wind as well as significant objective hazards from avalanches.

    Mt Everest attracts many but >70% fail. 280 people (161 westerners and 87 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to 2016. More people have died on the South side, 140 than on the Tibet side, 108. Almost all are still on the mountain.*

    Marriage in Australia, did you know:

    • almost 1 in 3 marriages will end in divorce
    • 1/3 separate in the first 5 years and many remain unhappy in marriage
    • almost 50% of all divorces involve children
    • 1 in 4 children saw their non-resident parent less than once a year or never.

    Marriage is not for everyone. But for those that seek successful marriage and a fulfilling family life in which to raise healthy and happy children, functional families are seen as the bedrock of successful societies. But whilst attempted by many, like attempting Everest – many fail.

    In 2015 there were 118,962 marriages down from 123,244 in 2011, with 72% being a first marriage and 28% a remarriage, with brides aged 29 and grooms 34, with 73% conducted by a marriage celebrant, with the remaining 27% by a religious organisation. The average length of marriage has increased from 10.7 years in 1993 to 12.1 years in 2015 with the median age of divorce females 42.9 and 47 for males however there is estimated to be 2/3 of marriages that are unhappy after 5 years. And remarriages do not fair any better, with a greater proportion more likely to divorce than those who had not been previously married. 

    In 2014 there >46 thousand divorces in Australia, with almost 22 thousand involving children under 18 years of age (or 47% of all divorces), with an average of 1.8 child per divorce. In 2013, almost 42 thousand children experienced the divorce of their parents.

    De facto partnering should not be excluded from discussion as many of the attributes and impact to society are prevalent in this cohort also. ABS stats suggest that 4 in 5 couples live together before marriage however research suggests that cohabitation is usually associated with lower levels of martial satisfaction and whilst two thirds of people are partnered, cohabiting has increased to 9.5% with those in married households 50%. One-parent households make up 16% of all households.

    31% of children aged 0-17 met with their separated parent on a daily/weekly basis whereas, 51% of children did not spend a single night with their non-resident parent and one in four children saw the parent they were not living with less than once a year or never. According to 2011 census data, almost 1 in 5 families were headed by a single parent.

    The burden on society. The impact on our children. The impact on government funding to support families in crisis is significant.

    In Kevin Andrews book ‘Maybe I do’, Kevin claims that >$3bn p.a. was spent on social security benefits associated with marriage dysfunction in the 1990’s. That figure is a lot larger today. An investment focussed on preventing marriage breakdown and developing relationship skills to assist with the success of your relationship is important, for you and your partner and society.

    If families are the building blocks of society, and children are our future generation, then let’s start treating our marriage like climbing Everest. In the early years of our marriage, reaching the summit seemed so easy but as the years pass, the summit appears further away. The climb gets steep at times and just like Everest, the failures are generally on the way down from the summit. Our relationship will go through ups and downs and like it or not, there will be obstacles in your way.

    Need more information, email me now.

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com

    * Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr Maria Strydom, husband Rob Gropel and family and friends after it was reported that she died on May 23 whilst descending Mt Everest. Dutch mountaineer Eric Arnold was in the same climbing party also feel ill and died on the 20th of May. 

    The five T’s of Impact Therapy

    The five T’s: Theory, Timing, Teaching, Training and Thinking are key concepts of Impact Therapy.

    Impact Therapy is built on the premise that all sessions should be theory driven. Since Impact Therapy is an active form of therapy, the educator/facilitator has to always be aware of the timing of his/her strategies and techniques. There are times during facilitation when teaching and training are appropriate ways to have impact. Thinking plays a major part in Impact Therapy with regard to both the practitioner and the parties.

    Adapted for use in marriage and relationship education, Impact Therapy provides the facilitator/educator with ways to frame the facilitation and to encourage the parties to be active, thinking, seeing and experiencing during each session, speeding up the facilitation by introducing multisensory, motivational, and marketing and maps to the processes.

    Whilst firmly in the realm of transformative work and closely related to therapeutic counselling, Impact Therapy aims to help the parties to get to the core of the problem by cutting off unnecessary details, irrelevant stories and unfocussed discussion (Jacobs and Schimmel, 2013, pp 5). 

    Integrating concepts from Relational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Transactional Analysis (TA), Gestalt, Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) and Reality Therapy with creative techniques, the approach is action and insight oriented and can be explained in the following 4 M’s:

    • Multisensory: Using multisensory tools activates neurons in the brain which tend to make the mediation more effective, increases meaning attribution and easier recall at a later date. Multisensory tools include, props, butchers paper, chairs, mindfulness and experiential learning exercises.
    • Motivational: Working with the parties to increase their motivation is best achieved by focusing on the balance of desire/aspiration and challenge/fear that gets in the way.
    • Marketing: Creating relevance in our work to what the parties need, often leads to openness to change and an opportunity to do something different rather than a process that is a hassle or a boring experience.
    • Maps: Maps are tools that help mediators enable the parties to get to where they need to go. Along with the use of REBT, TA, Gestalt, RCT and Reality Therapy, the educator using the Impact Therapy approach, uses the following RCFFS therapeutic map and depth chart to guide the discussion.

    Need more information, email me now.

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com