Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication

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Take responsibility for your own emotions

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Or how about this one? If you're in a disagreement and you're both trying to blame each other to use this sentence stem, "A way I see that I contributed to this upset is So there's a lot of sentence stems in the More Love Less Conflict book that work really powerfully and immediately. And they only take 20 seconds to complete. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that one you just named for diffusing conflict, I experienced that just the other day where Chloe and I, we had an argument about something.

Oh, I remember exactly what it was. Sometimes our lives get a little busy and I think I've even mentioned on the show before that there can be dishes in the sink. And we each could be responsible for doing more dishes, I think. Our dog sometimes does more dishes than we do. And so there were no dishes, I was in a rush, I was making a meal.

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And we have a stack of special dishes that we're really not supposed to use. But rather than use a dish I actually, come to think of it, I had just washed a bunch of dishes, but they were still wet and I didn't want to dry the dish with a towel, so I just reached for the special dish from the pile of special dishes. And Chloe got really angry at me. You just washed all of those dishes. I've asked you not to use those dishes.

I was like, "Don't tell me what to do. Neil Sattin: It was really a glorious moment for us of conflict. And we each stepped away for a minute or two, because we had been under a lot of stress that day, a lot of pressure. And then I came back, and I said something like, "I'm really sorry that I just yelled," or "I just yelled at you just then. I see that I went to use one of those dishes, and I know you've asked me not to use them a lot. And even though I feel like it's my right [chuckle] to take them, I recognize that you asked me not to, and I did anyway, and I can see how that must have felt like I was slighting you or not really paying attention to what you've asked me to do in the past.

Neil Sattin: And I will say that it didn't sound exactly like that when I said it to her. But it was along those lines. And it was really hard and painful for me to say that, because like you mention in your book, my ego just wanted to be right and wanted to make her wrong for having spoken up about it or tried to control me or whatever it was, that was her part in the dance. But I did have my part in the dance, and through owning it, right afterward Chloe said, "Yeah, I really The way that I said that I'm really sorry, I know that must have You must felt like I was really coming down on you or talking down to you," or something like that is what she said.

And that was it, argument over, [chuckle] and we went back to just being connected and loving, and it was a really quick transformation. It's amazing because that gap from Maine to California that you were talking about earlier, that can feel like it's going to take two years, and it really can be as quick as making a shift like that.

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Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, yeah. And one of the things I like about the sentence stems is that it can be hard to figure it out the right thing to say on your own, but if you have the first part of the sentence memorized like, "I see the way that I contributed to this upset is So I always try to take these big ideas like taking responsibility or being more appreciative and turn them into a method or a technology that's so simple that even me at my worst can do it. And it seems like that's really what people need because we often know the theory, we often know what we're supposed to do, but when the rubber hits the road, we don't have that keyword to say that is really going to turn it in a new direction.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, are there other magical sentence stems that come to mind? Jonathan Robinson: Well, there's 30 of them in the book. One thing that I like as a sentence stem is just saying, "Right now, I'm feeling And normally, we're very indirect, we're very not good at saying that in a way that our partner gets. So during the day, if I'm spending time with my wife, I'll think that sentence stem "Right now, I'm feeling like I want to be more connected with you. I guess I'm wanting a hug right now. Yeah, and I think it's important, you talk about this in the book, in the chapter where you're covering that sentence stem in particular, how important it is to identify what you're actually feeling versus, "I'm feeling like you're being an idiot right now," [chuckle] which is what people sometimes tend to do, which is to take an I feel statement and attach a judgment on the end of it, as opposed to just owning what they're actually feeling in that moment.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, that's why I have, in the book, a page of just feelings. Here are 30 feelings. You're probably feeling one of these, you're not feeling Even if you're thinking I'm feeling like they're an idiot, what you're probably feeling is I'm feeling annoyed or I'm feeling frustrated. And to some extent, that's a learning process because a lot of couples don't have that practice where they say, well, this really isn't a feeling.

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What am I feeling? So having a list in front of you can actually be very helpful that way. Neil Sattin: Right, yeah, won't that be great when I think you talk about this in terms of languages and communication, but to be able to Google how am I feeling right now? And get an [chuckle] Oh, turns out that I'm feeling annoyed right now. That makes sense, actually. Thanks, Google. Yeah, and then the second part of that stem, I'm feeling this, and what I'd really like is And I think I'm not getting it quite right, but that last part of really being able to identify what it is you would like and what the desire might be underneath that seems so important for people to get clear on.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, there's really two things that people want. They want And usually, it looks like I want them to give me a certain action like maybe a hug or I want them to do the dishes. But underneath that, we think that if they did those things, we would get a certain desire fulfilled. Like if they gave me a hug I'd feel more connected, or if they did the dishes I'd feel more respected or something like that. So knowing what the ultimate aim is the ultimate desire or need you're trying to fulfill can be very helpful because they might do the dishes in a way that is throwing the dishes around and being upset while they're doing it, and the dishes get done, but you don't feel more respected at the end of it.

Neil Sattin: Right, right, and how useful is it for you to be clear about that with your partner so that the underlying motivations are the realm that you're dealing in, not trying in this roundabout way to get your needs or desires met. Jonathan Robinson: And in fact, most partners are much more open to satisfying our underlying desires than they are to satisfying our other requests. If you said, "Well, I want you to do the dishes," they might have some resistance, but if you said, "What I'm really wanting is I'm wanting to feel more respected and more connected to you. If you look at the word intimacy, the instructions are there, into me see.

So when we reveal what we're really wanting on an emotional level, that tends to open up our partners' hearts and makes them more connected and more open to doing what we want. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and then does it make sense to you to follow up with once your partner's offered vulnerability like that to ask, "What could I do that would help you feel seen and respected.

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Jonathan Robinson: Actually, probably just asking what can I do to help you feel more respected would help them to feel more respected. Neil Sattin: It might be, but what occurs to me is that it's more likely that if the dishes were kind of a surrogate for that feeling seen and respected that now that the true desire is out in the open, that on further reflection someone might be like, "Well, the dishes would be nice, but what would really help me feel seen and respected would be if I could talk to you about my day and have you just listen with your undivided attention.

Jonathan Robinson: Right, you're getting to a place where you're much more effective in satisfying your partner's real needs. And that's something that's really critical, because a lot of times partners don't even know what their partner's real needs are, and even if they do know what they are, which is unusual, they may be very ineffective in satisfying them.

Take the issue of sex, which is a good example. A lot of couples don't ever directly say what they most enjoy in bed, so they find that they put up with their partner doing things which is not really what really does it for them. So here's a good sentence stem: Three things I really love that you do in bed are And three things that I really don't care for much are Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I'm curious for you when someone hears three things I love are blank, that's going to feel really good.

Three things that I don't particularly care for, it seems like it would be really easy for the person receiving that to, if nothing else, just kind of feel bad about it, but maybe even to go into a shame spiral, or it could be really bad. So what do you recommend people do to help create a safe container for offering more negative feedback? One example is always end on a positive note, either something you appreciate or something that you like. But sometimes what's necessary is just a time out, like if you're going to give some kind of feedback that's negative that the other person can't respond for, say, 12 hours, because a lot of times we have an immediate reaction and then after five minutes we realize, well, that's actually useful feedback, or it's no big deal.

So creating that safe container can be either ending with something positive or creating a time period where neither person can react to it. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and during that time period, what do you suggest people do to take care of themselves if they need that? Jonathan Robinson: I actually do make several suggestions, and I have a list from watching funny YouTube videos to calling a friend to going to the gym. But I find that if couples are feeling connected and they feel respected and appreciated, and they're doing all those other things when you get a little bit of "negative feedback," it doesn't overwhelm them.

What happens normally is that people aren't getting any positive stuff, so when they get another piece of negative feedback it can overwhelm them, and then you get into problems. So as long as you have love in your emotional bank account, so to speak, a little bit of feedback that tells you how you can do something better usually is not that big of a deal. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so important to probably to put your focus on some of the things we were talking about a moment ago, like offering the appreciations, and all the ways that you really do appreciate or resonate with your partner the things that you love about them, or the things that you see in them, so that when it comes time to offer something a little bit more discerning, let's say, [chuckle] it can soften the blow a little bit.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, and there's other ways, too, for example, sometimes I have couples give what could be called negative feedback in a written form, while ending with a positive thing, and it can be easier to just read it and take some time on your own rather than have that person right there, which might be more triggering.

So there's a lot of different ways to create a safe container, and people's job is to find what works for them because different things can work for different couples. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I'm thinking, too, you offer an anecdote in the book More Love, Less Conflict during the exercise about withholding and couples being able to give a voice to the things that they've been holding back from each other. And that's something that could be really edgy or scary depending on what's being withheld, but even there you talk about wanting people to end on a positive note, something maybe really good or a deep desire that they've been withholding.

And you mention this one couple that talks about how in trouble their marriage is, and how one is feeling hopeless, and the other has been flirting with someone at the office, and these are coming out in the withholdings, but then they end with these statements about really wanting to feel connected with each other and how much it feels like that shifts the dynamic for them, even though they have also offered some incredibly vulnerable and hard truths to each other.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, you know, one moment of vulnerability or appreciation seems to be able to overshadow even years of negativity. Now, I've had couples who come into my office, they've been arguing and screaming each other for decades. And sometimes I'll have them do a couple of positive things, like saying what they appreciate or being vulnerable through certain sentence stems, and 10 minutes later they're holding hands and loving.

And I find that is like a miracle because they've had years of negativity and yet their hearts really want to have that connection, they just haven't had the simple, reliable way of doing that. But once they do have that way, the bonding can happen very, very quickly, and I think that's a real testament to the human heart and spirit. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, the light it shines is much brighter than the darkness we can find ourselves in at times. And just to be clear for you listening, the withholding sentence stem, I just happened to have it in front of me right here: There's something I've been withholding, would you like to hear it?

So again, important that your partner actually know that they're about to receive something. And then this is one of those cases where you mentioned, Jonathan, that it's helpful to create a container that says we're not even We're not going to talk about this for 24 hours, and what is being offered is held sacred in some way, which is a great spin on it because I think so often when something is revealed that's been withheld, it can, just in and of itself, no matter what the content is, feel like a betrayal of some sort.

And that's probably the edgiest exercise in the book, and it's not something that one starts with, you kind of build to that, because if you're going to deal with difficult stuff, it's good to have some love in your emotional bank account because those types of things are like a withdrawal, and you don't want to withdraw into bankruptcy, so I encourage people to have some connection, and when you have to deal with the hard stuff, then you'll be able to weather that storm, because you already have a bunch of connection banked, so to speak.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and that, for some reason, is making me think of two other things that you mentioned in the book, one being the higher self-exercise. And I think I like that because we so often want to be able to give advice to our partners, or fix their problems, or tell them how they should be that will make our lives easier, and the higher self is a bridge into that in a way that's actually really connecting. Jonathan Robinson: Well, you do want to sometimes give your partner advice, and sometimes they see you, they know you better than you know you sometimes.

So something my wife and I might do is I'll say, "Do you want to play the higher self-game," and she'll say, "Okay," and we take turns kind of being each other's guru, so I might say, "Well, I'm married to this woman who gets self-righteous really quickly. Dear guru what would you suggest I do when she gets really reactive and self-righteous quickly? Jonathan Robinson: And then she has to answer as like a relationship guru. Well, it sounds like you might want to try this, this, and this, and it's kind of fun because rather than going back and forth and trying to prove that we're right, or you should do this, it's kind of like a game and it sets it up in a fun way where I can hear what she has to say.

And a lot of times her advice to me about her has been right on because she knows what I'm doing that might make it better for her.

Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication

And it's just kind of a fun way of being with each other where you can temporarily go into the role of advice-giver or a teacher without all the normal ramifications of that. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you mentioned an important aspect of that often being that the advice giver, guru, person sit with their eyes closed or blindfolded. Jonathan Robinson: Yes, because that changes the normal mechanical way that you might be with each other. When you close your eyes and you're trying to give advice, it tends to help you to go deeper within and it also shuts you off from whether your partner is reacting to your advice.

You get to really tune into, "What do I have to say to this question? I'm very depressed. Neil Sattin: Well, it's fresh in my mind, so that's helpful, but don't worry, there will be no test. Nothing more than what we're already doing, I guess. Neil Sattin: It seems important to clarify, too, that if you're not doing that one as a structured exercise, one thing I noticed was that the simple practice isn't an offer to give your partner advice, it's asking them for advice.

Can I get your best advice about something? So if you were going to sort of surreptitiously engage their higher self that's how you come at it when you're doing it more renegade style? Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, and people love that question, "Gee, honey, can I get your best advice about this? Neil Sattin: When it comes to knowing your partner better, we touched on this earlier when we were talking about the desires and wondering whether or not we actually know what our partner's deepest desires are and that's something I appreciate about that list of 50, I'm sure there are more than that, right?

But 50 is a pretty good start and it helps you I think access the nuances of how these desires are slightly different than each other And I think it's also important, I loved your exercise on the perfect partner, and how we can share information with each other in a safe way about what we wish we were experiencing from the other person as a way to help them. It's like I'm helping you help me. Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, it's kind of like painting a picture. Sometimes the best way to learn is through an example, and somebody can tell you what Yosemite looks like but one picture of Yosemite and the game's over.

You don't need to say anything more. And the same thing with what we want. So, writing out what my perfect partner would do, or what my perfect partner would say helps me to get example of what my wife is really wanting because I always thought that she wanted me to fix her problems and then she wrote out, "Well, my perfect partner would say this, this and this," and she never mentioned fixing her problems, she really wanted somebody who was incredibly empathetic.

And when I really understood that she's not wanting my advice, she's wanting my empathy, my understanding, it helped me to change how I was with her, and now she has said, "Wow, you're really good at being my perfect partner now. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I did an episode a while ago on writing the user manual for you for your partner.

This is kind of my guide to me and how that can be such a sweet offering to your partner. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on how to do that in a way that doesn't come across as a criticism. Jonathan Robinson: Well, one sentence stem that can be a very simple way of doing it is to say something like three things that tend to trigger me are, so you're talking about you rather than your partner or three things that almost always lead me to feel more loving are Because a lot of times we'll say that that person really pushes our buttons. Well, it's good to tell your partner what your buttons are.

So that they know to avoid them, but we not only have upset buttons, we have love buttons. If my wife gives me a shoulder massage, I love her. A Gorilla could give me a shoulder massage, I'd love that gorilla that's just how I'm wired. Whereas, if I speak to my wife in a certain tone of voice, that she finds very loving, that is her love button. So just knowing what really triggers your partner towards upset or towards love in a very simple way is very valuable information. A lot of couples really don't know that information. Neil Sattin: That just feels like how helpful would that be in general if we just knew that about each other.

I've heard Dan Sullivan, who has, he leads this company called Strategic Coach, he talks about that in the context of the work environment and giving the people who work with you like, "This is the recipe. If you want to piss me off, these are the things you can do," and basically listing all the kind of triggers that he has and if nothing else, once you know what triggers your partner, you gotta think twice before doing it or after you do it, maybe you'll think again like "Oh, I just did that thing that I know triggers them.

Jonathan Robinson: Right, right. One thing that people often ask me about attitudes towards their partner, and if you can have an attitude of gratitude in your heart for your partner, I find that that makes love flow much more easily. Neil Sattin: Oh my goddess, I love that anecdote that you talked Did you actually go to India for that, is that story true that happened? Jonathan Robinson: That story is true. I went to see another guru as well while I was there but So the story is that this friend comes back from India and he says his guru gave him a magical mantra to help him to feel more grateful for both his life and his wife.

And I'm always interested in very simple methods. So I said, "Well, what's the mantra?

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  4. So I get there and I have to wait in line five hours to talk to the guru for a minute, but I do that, I'm kinda pissed off because I didn't get this mantra from my friend. I told the guru I wanted this magical mantra for feeling more grateful towards my wife and such, and he says, in an Indian accent, "Ah, yes, my mantra is the most powerful mantra on earth.

    The mantra I give you are the words thank you. I traveled 18, miles to get 'thank you', that's it? Jonathan Robinson: So I'm totally pissed off at this point. And so I look at him, I kind of sneered him, I say, "Well then, thank you. My wife literally knows the days that I'm doing that without me saying anything. She says, "Your energy changes and I just feel so much more connected to you.

    And it's one more method that just seems to work that once you have that technology, it's almost like a superpower. Yeah, I have a good friend who was going through a really stressful time in his life and came through it and when I was speaking to him about it, I asked, "What did you rely on when you were going through all that stress?

    Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, and the other thing I like which I think is so underrated is the power of good questions. On my website, I have what's called the 12 questions of instant intimacy that people can download for free. And if you ask the right question even if you're with a partner who doesn't want to do any communication, doesn't want to do any counseling, if you ask the right question, it opens up a magical door to intimacy.

    And I found that these 12 questions pretty much work with everyone. They work with your lover, your child, your co-worker, they're like secret weapons, so to speak, in the battle to have more love and less conflict. So I really like asking good questions, like an example might be, "What's been the highlight of your week or what gives you your greatest sense of joy in your life right now? Or you ask, "What's one of the most amazing things you've ever experienced in your life?

    And people love these questions, but we don't ask them. And in this day and age, there's a lot of business, there's a lot of superficiality, but people really want deep connection and these types of questions help to open the door to depth and intimacy very, very quickly. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I like one of the ones that you offer and you also have a separate exercise, that's kind of similar to this question, but it's what's something that you really want me to know about you?

    Jonathan Robinson: Yeah. Because if you can get people to feel they understand each other that is a real key. I never had couples come into my office and say, "Jonathan, we really understand each other quite well, that's why we want a divorce. Jonathan Robinson: But I do get the opposite, "We don't know, he doesn't understand me, I don't understand her," that can lead to trouble. Neil Sattin: Well, in case you didn't get it when Jonathan just mentioned it, the full list of the 12 questions that lead to deeper intimacy is available on his website for this work, and that website is morelovelessconflict.

    And if you go to that site, right on the front page there, you'll be able to download the 12 questions for deeper intimacy and we'll have a link to that as well as anything else that feels relevant especially a link to Jonathan's book on Amazon, on the show notes page for this episode, so you can visit, again, Neilsattin. To see the show notes, download a transcript, you'll also get, as a bonus for downloading the transcript, the 50 universal desires worksheet, and then on top of that, we'll point you in the right direction to access more of Jonathan Robinson's work, which is I just love it, it's so imminently practical and useful, really usable.

    So I hope that you're able to practice some of the sentence stems that you've heard today and then put them to use in your life. Neil Sattin: So Jonathan before we go, I'm wondering, I'm trying to think now through because there are so many And we've covered so many in this conversation together, and there are so many more in your book.

    So it really is, I feel like someone could get the book and kind of open to any page and be like, "Oh yeah, I'm going to try that tonight. So I'm wondering if you can talk about the process of when you actually do want something to change in your relationship, what have you found as a good way to help couples navigate? Like well, this really, this isn't okay the way it is right now, and I really want this one particular thing to shift if we could make that happen.

    Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, that's a really big area. And of course, I talked about that a lot in the book.

    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication
    Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication Learning to Love: From Conflict to Communication

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