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Simon says, “Be very specific when criticizing or saying anything negative.”

This point goes with being patient and gentle. You understand that your impatience is usually unreasonable and that being gentle is an important aspect of your PPS commitment; but there are those times when criticizing or offering a negative comment is both appropriate and necessary.

A combination strategy works well when criticizing or making negative comments to your significant other. Using it starts with being clear about what you want to say and equally clear about what you want the outcome to be.

•           If you want a hostile, angry reaction, say what you have to say sharply and without any thought or consideration. Just blurt it out.

•           If you want silence and a closed off reaction, just say what is on your mind, whenever the thought pops up, however it comes out.

•           If you do not care what the reaction is, it does not matter what you say, when you say it, or where you are when it comes rushing out.

•           If you do not care what your significant other thinks or feels about you and what you say, just let it all hang out and spew forth.

Simon knows you a little better than that, though. You do care what your significant other thinks and feels. You care as well about what kind of reaction you get. The challenge is remembering that you do care when you are frustrated, feeling negative, or overwhelmed with the urge to criticize. At those times, the impulse to let go with whatever thought is there is hard to control and good alternatives are harder to see.

Retrieve Simon’s earlier comments about self-discipline. The need to be attentive and self-disciplined applies here as well. With criticism and negative comments, the second step is to exercise the self-discipline to censor what comes out of your mouth. Actually, there is a step that needs to precede censorship. You need to stop long enough to think about what you are going to say before you need to censor it. Just as “listen and learn” requires that you listen before you learn, “think and talk” means that you should think about what you are going to say before you say it. It takes attention and self-discipline to listen and learn and even more to think and talk, especially when you are about to be negative or critical.

You have all of the interpersonal tools you need when you are tempted to be negative or critical:

•           Listen and learn. Be sure you understand the situation before proceeding.

•           Be self-disciplined and attentive with your feelings, thoughts, and reactions. Evaluate what you want the outcome to be. What do you hope will happen?

•           Think and talk. Understand what you want to say and what outcome you want before saying whatever you choose to say.

•           Be specific. Do not say more than you want to say or less than you need to say. It will help if you are careful only to comment on the immediate situation or circumstance. You are headed down the wrong track if you bring up things from the past or let your focus drift to other issues. Stick to your point.

•           Be patient and gentle as you say what you have to say and especially as you receive whatever reaction or feedback you get. This is the time to go back to the “listen and learn” step and apply the steps in the strategy, with special attention to “think and talk.”

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