YOU AREN’T CRAZY, LAZY OR STUPID
“I feel like a crazy person!” said Jack, my 45-year-old health professional…and communications client…on a rainy, Ohio, fall day. “My wife abruptly left me two weeks ago, and I need to know that I’m not a loon! I know not all counselors are created equal, and your reputation is caring but tough. I hear you are a straight talker who tells it like it is. I’ve read parts of your effective communication book, Talk to Me, and now I need to talk.” Do you ever feel like problems are being re-created, making you feel as if you’re losing your mind? Well, you are as sane as the day is long.
OUR MARRIAGE WASN’T WORKING OUT
When I am involved in relationship communication coaching, I first determine the communicator types of the players involved, as should you. Typically, your romantic partner is your opposite talk type. This proved true in the case of Jack and Jill. Jack was a male Empathizer-type (E-type) communicator, and in general, E-types tend to be more sensitive to others. Meanwhile, Jill was an Instigator (I-type) communicator, and in general, I-types tend to be more sensitive to self. Neither style is better or worse, just different. Jack spoke further of his anxious confusion:
What an idiot I am. Maybe I let her mess with my mind. And why don’t people see the control problem and realize she’s not the ‘nice guy’ she pretends to be? Why did I ignore the red flags flying? You know how you play that trust game in sensitivity training? The game where you fall backwards, with your eyes closed, and trust that your partner will catch you? Jill would never catch you. She has been very hurtful to me in the past. I don’t like to feel as though I’ve been defeated, so I hung in there too long. Jill is cold, calculating and aloof.
As a “thin skinned” Empathizer communicator (E-type) , Jack can read the future in his crystal ball, but he can forget to forcefully stand up for himself in dominating ways with difficult people. Why? Because E-types hate conflict and drama.
SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE AND APOLOGIZE?
What do you think? Should your partner apologize for hurting your feelings? Instigators feel exasperated and irritated by Empathizers’ hurt feelings. “We should send them all to Empathizer Island so they can complain to one another!” quipped one I-type communicator. I-types believe that, “E-types put put too much emphasis on an apology. They try to make us I-types feel guilty. Why should I be the one to apologize if I didn’t intend to hurt her feelings?” I-types like Jack, would agree that, “Apologies are the way people are held accountable for their promised actions.”
THE TRICKY COMMUNICATOR
As they cover up their tracks with slippery-speak negatalking, reactive communicators of either type can make you feel like you have a few screws loose. According to Jack, what are the talk moves a tricky communicator makes, that compel you to feel like you’re losing your mind?
1. Jill says I made her mad and disappointed. She gets angry when I bring things up…and try to talk about feelings…like I’m just making things up!
2. Jill says she doesn’t mean to hurt my feelings. I blame myself for not seeing the forest for the trees. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I leave her a long time ago? Why didn’t I see the meanness for what it was?
3. Jill says I don’t try hard enough. I plug up one leak in the dike with my finger, then another one, and I work hard but nothing changes. I play by the rules, and Jill still doesn’t change.
4. Jill says I have psychological issues. She always has someone to blame so she doesn’t have to look at her own issues!
5. Jill says she’s only trying to help me. She squirms out of taking responsibility as she twists the truth. “That’s her story, and she’s going to stick to it!”
6. Jill says it’s not her fault and everyone agrees with her. She rallies the troops and debates forever and a day when I ask legitimate questions.
7. Jill says I won’t change because I’m stubborn. She uses the perfect “nice guy” image outside the home which people can’t see through. But she leaves psychic bodies strewn all around in her own home!
8. Jill says I act childish and take things too personal. I get down on myself when she talks down to me. Sometimes I feel stupid and confused when I try to get to the bottom of issues. Maybe I don’t remember clearly?
9. Jill says I’m stupid. Maybe I do ask too many questions? Do I come across as too emotionally needy?
10. Jill says I’m too negative. Maybe my negative thoughts and positive attitude aren’t where they ought to be?
11. Jill says she loves me in spite of my mistakes. And that no one else would ever treat me as well as she does. Am I losing it?
Crazytalk makes you doubt your own perceptions with irrelevant questions. And if you wish a male version of an emotional terrorist, read Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.
Jill says she loves me. But should love drain you and hurt you? The tricky communicator creates self-doubt within easy going Empathizer listeners. All of these are slick ways that make you feel like you’re a nut who hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. That’s why Jill says, “He’s making me crazy!”
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…TRY, TRY DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT
“I feel like I’m the crazy person here!” indicates that communication problems are being perpetuated, not resolved. There’s nothing wrong with your mind! In fact, “If at first you don’t succeed…try, try, doing something different!” is my change motto. Poor communication clouds the insight needed to determine what steps are needed to solve a problem, ensuring that problems go unsolved. “Crazytalking crazymaking” is the emotional experience of “the elephant in the room…stinks.” You don’t want to feel like one of your front porch lights has burned out, although your light may be dimming.
HOW DO I KEEP MY FRONT PORCH LIGHT BURNING BRIGHT, BYPASSING THE TRICKY COMMUNICATOR?
Particularly, more sensitive E-types are bound to question if they’re (not you) the crazy ones. Now say with me, “I’m not crazy because a licensed psychologist who is licensed to tell me if I am crazy says I’m NOT CRAZY! Whew…take a deep breath, go easy, relax for a second, will ya? Of course, you aren’t going to allow anyone to drive you crazy without your consent. By the end of our meeting, Jack didn’t feel crazy or depressed, and he had renewed energy to address the problems at hand. Jack wasn’t loony tunes. This situation was about a tricky and strategic talker who is a negative communicator. Are we clear instead of confused, now?
ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS PSYCHOLOGIST DENNIS E. O’GRADY, PSY.D.
Dennis O’Grady is the father and developer of the innovative Talk to Me© effective communication system, which streamlines communication that is productive and useful, inside your head and inside your relationships. Confusing emotions chase us all, but the Talk to Me© approach to good communication will help boost your mood, keep your energy up, and free yourself from the road tar of negative relationships or emotions.