I would estimate that 99% of the couples that come for an appointment talk about what is wrong with their relationship. Topics include harmful behaviors to the relationship, why the other person change, and how each is frustrated and exhausted with the other. They are taken aback when I ask how they met, and to express what they like about each other. This technique can transform anger into genuine care and love in the blink of an eye. No special trick here, just asking each person to talk about the positives of the other can provide a nice moment and valuable insight into the relationship.
What's the point of shifting from a negative to a positive experience? There are numerous reasons, but the most important is that your ability to communicate and connect with others is greatly increased if you are in a good place, emotionally and psychologically. You will be more relaxed, less defensive, and more open to having a meaningful, intimate conversation.
Talking about the positive aspects of someone or a relationship doesn't heal emotional wounds, but it can certainly help. Much in the same way that praising someone helps to balance out criticism. Whether you are in a one-year or fifty-year relationship, a friendship, or a romantic relationship, it always feels good when someone compliments you.
That is why it is always important to remember to praise the other. Even if it is something the other person has done for years (e.g. walking the dog, making meals, taking care of the bills, etc.), it is nice to be appreciated. A simple thank you or acknowledgement does just that; it appreciates the other person, it shows that you are aware that the other person is giving effort, and it's a pleasant moment. With enough praise and appreciation, a moment of criticism, even hurtful criticism (everyone has done it), can have minimal impact.
So remember to be vocal about the good as much as the bad. When critical, keep it constructive. When praising, keep it within reason. Too much of anything is too much.
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Salmaan Toor is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Knoxville, TN. If you are interested in being notified of future posts, you can “like” The Family Center of Knoxville on facebook here or can follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for your support!