Communicating Directly in Your Law Enforcement Relationship

Communication can be simple but communicating directing but it seems so hard to do.

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The Hardest Easiest Way to Communicate

People avoid being direct in their communication. We try to “softball” what we are saying, talking in circles, over explain, and justify.  What we really need is to be direct.  In my law enforcement relationship, my officer many times just wants me to “just get to the point”.  There are times when I really want to tell a story and we can set a time to do that.  Then there are times I just need to be direct with my communication. Communication can be simple but communicating directing but it seems so hard to do.

Why People Avoid Direct Communication

If you are in a law enforcement relationship or first responder relationship, the time we have together with the mental capacity to clearly communicate is precious. If we can be direct with our communication, it saves time, emotional energy, and overall help us have stronger relationships.  So what makes it so difficult to be direct with our communication?

Afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings.

Consider what they are thinking or feeling not worth communicating.

Reacting to a situation and not thinking clear to communicate clearly.

Lack of awareness of feeling and thoughts.

Blame Doesn’t Work in Communication

My husband and I had a meeting about our budget recently to talk about finances. I was going through our account and I said, “what’s this $800 thing with the car?’ He said, “I told you we had to get the brakes replaced.” My reply was “Oh my gosh! I thought it was only going to cost $200-$300 and I had no idea it was going to be $800.” I wanted to say, “You should have told me!” Then I realized my ownership was that I failed to ask any questions.  We both assumed information.

Sometimes we want to blame other people instead of taking ownership and I think a lot of people struggle with that. The other thing that drives me bananas is that we think our spouses should just know.  Ladies, I think we are more guilty of this than men sometimes!  We think they should just know. That is crap. Nobody is in your head and you didn’t come with an instructional manual. To think that somebody is just going to know what you are thinking, and feeling is false!

Eggshells in Communication

Sometimes people are not direct with their communication because of past experiences of not being heard.  They approach it with a backdoor or softball approach think that it will be easier to say and received.  Instead, the listener becomes confused is unclear about the message being communicated.  Being direct in your communication can be scary, not just in the fearful scared of conflict kind of way, but scary in the sense of vulnerability. Thoughts that may be difficult to communicate may fall flat, cause conflict, or simply be dismissed.  Work up the courage to communicate what you need to say and stop thinking of all the possible the negative outcomes.  Let your partner know, “Hey, it’s hard for me to say this but I need to share this with you.”.  This will help you to lead into what you want to say and provide a cushion to the sense of apprehension or fear that you may feel.  Many times there is a sense of relief that you got it out.

A lot of the time if we don’t say what we are actually thinking, we build resentment. As I said before, a few of the benefits of communicating directly are making the most of your time together, perhaps getting what you want, and good gosh if I can spend less time guessing what everyone wants/needs emotionally or what they want from me and what I need from them, things would run smooth. I think there is a benefit to doing this all the way around. It may take some time and it may take some guts to initially do it.

How to Speak Honestly and Directly as a Law Enforcement Couple

One point I want to make is that sometimes when we are talking about what we want or need or how we are feeling, we need to be honest, but honesty without tact is cruelty. We have to do it in a way that is respectful, and kind.  This does not mean sugar coating. It’s not an, “Oh I’m just being honest” feeling because that phrase screams that you are being blunt and mean. As I said, honesty without tact is cruelty. Keep that in mind.

THINK

There is an acronym I really like, and it’s call THINK. It was originally created to combat bullying and I thought it was interesting because it’s very appropriate in relationships as well.

T-Is it truthful? Is it a fact, an opinion, or a feeling? Whichever it is, is fine but be clear about what it is. One of the things I tell a lot of people is that if it’s a feeling say, “I feel” and give the feeling. Not “I feel that” Once you add “that” to the sentence your feeling becomes an opinion. So be clear because knowing what you are communicating before you speak is important in regard to setting up the statement you want to make.

H-Helpful. Does it help you, your spouse, or the situation? The example I am going to give you is what I told my hubby during our Friendsgiving event. What I said wasn’t necessarily helpful to the situation, but it was helpful to me because it helped me release the emotional content. I don’t know if it was helpful to him except to know where I was.

I-Inspiring. Does it improve upon the silence? Is it better to say it or not to say it? A lot of times pointing something out to someone, maybe they already know it, can come across as criticism. Stating an obvious fact doesn’t really help.

N- Necessary. Is it necessary to make this comment? Would it be better left unsaid?

K- Kind. What is your motivation for communicating this? You have to think about if it is kind as well.

Being Uncomfortable is Okay

Communication doesn’t necessarily have to involve feedback; it can just be a statement and acknowledgment of the statement.  Do not over explain.  Especially with first responders and law enforcement, it is important to be succinct and get to the point.  Do not give a dissertation before getting to their point.  You do not need to justify the way you think or feel.  The way you think is fine and the way you feel is fine. It’s okay for you to just own it.

You may not get validation and the person receiving the information may not agree with you.  It is uncomfortable is to sit in the fact that whoever you are saying your statement to may or may not agree. Many of us are not comfortable with someone being uncomfortable with what we are saying or thinking or feeling. If you say something and you get crickets, it’s kind of uncomfortable after you say it. The tendency in the uncomfortable is to fill it with more words and then say, “let me tell you why?”

 Don’t.

Just shut up.

Say your statement and be done!

Communicate with a Soft Start Up.

The soft start-up is a technique taught by the Gottman Institute.

“I feel (state a feeling and not, I feel like) because of ___________.

What I need or would appreciate is ____________.”

1.       Think it through in your head.  It is common to want to start off with the “because”. It justifies what is going to be said. Really think about the “because” and the accompanying feeling. This is a Gottman technique (Drs. John and Julie Gottman). It seems like a simple statement but can be complex.

2.       Identify a feeling.  Dig in and determine the underlying feeling.  Anger and frustration are easy.  Increase your emotional vocabulary by finding other words that express the feeling.  These might be feelings like hurt, disappointment, or fear.

3.       Identify the need.  Determine a need that you have and not a behavior you want your partner to change.  A personal need would be stated as, “I need more hugs” or “I need some alone time”.  A couple related need might be stated as “I need us to make more time to snuggle” or “I need us to honor each other’s need for alone time.”

Direct is kind.

We have a Friendsgiving annually.  One year we decided to keep it smaller and more intimate with no “thanksgiving type” food.  We decided as a couple what we wanted this to look like.  Instead, we wound up with 26 people being invited and my husband saying yes to a turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  I was not happy.  I had to figure out what I wanted to say about this because it was under my skin. I realized that I was probably being a little snarky to my husband.  There was an opportunity on the Wednesday before the event when he called and asked me about wine for the event.  When we were done with that discussion, I took a breath and said, “Ok, I need to tell you something.” I told him I just needed him to listen and I said, “I feel really sad and disappointed that our original vision of how we wanted Friendsgiving isn’t working out. What I just need you to know is that I’m feeling that way and keep that in mind.” That’s all I needed to say. I didn’t need anything from him, I just needed him to know that’s what was going on with me. On the other end of the phone, there was this long pause and then he said, “I know me too.” We said I love you, bye and that’s all I needed.

In the past, what I would have said was something passive aggressive like, “Wow it seems like there are a lot of people coming.” And, “Gosh we are having turkey and brisket and all I really wanted was pulled pork.” You can see how much more pleasant it is when I was direct.

If you are really wanting help with the laundry, you don’t say things like “Gosh.  Wow. I’ve done four loads of laundry today.” That’s good for you for doing four loads of laundry. You know what? If you want help with the laundry you say, “You know what? I am really overwhelmed because I’ve been doing a lot and I would really appreciate it if you could fold these for me while you watch TV.” DONE! Direct! It’s so hard to do when you are used to coming in the back door and being passive-aggressive. I hope this helps. Use the THINK acronym.  Use the soft start-up.  Make sure that you are honest with your communication and that you are straight forward. Remember, honesty without tact is cruelty.

Until next time, keep it Code 4.

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Communicating Directly in Your Law Enforcement Relationship

Communication can be simple but communicating directing but it seems so hard to do.

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