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June 11, 2007

SPEAKING SAFELY: COMMUNICATION AND COUPLES

Speaking and listening safely is paramount in relationships. Let’s take speaking first. Are you a “safe” speaker? Seems like an odd question, I’m sure; however, I believe many couples do not communicate in a safe fashion.

The Encarta Dictionary defines “safe” as:
1. Unlikely to cause or result in harm, injury, or damage
2. In a position or situation that offers protection, so that harm, damage, loss, or unwanted tampering is unlikely

When you are speaking to your partner (or children, friends, co-workers, etc.), do you protect them from harm, damage, or injury—from you? I believe that many of us forget that, even in our anger, we are responsible for protecting our loved ones (and vice versa).

No matter how angry we become, our loved ones have the right to know we will never hurt them—with our words or our actions. If we do any of the behaviors in the list below, we are not speaking safely to our loved ones and therefore placing those closest to us in harms way—of us:

List of unsafe speaking behaviors:
• Yell at
• Swear at
• Call the person names or shame him/her
• Make hurtful comments (i.e., “You will never amount to anything.”)
OR
• Tell lies

In response to the behaviors above, I’ve often heard variations of the following excuses:
• “That’s just who I am, I swear when I get mad. Don’t be so sensitive.”
• “I say things I don’t mean when I get mad, just ignore it.”
• “If you didn’t make me so angry, I never would’ve said those things.”

Just for the sake of clarity, there is no excuse when you are hurtful to your partner. You are in the wrong, and it’s your job to know this and repair it. Your partner doesn’t make you swear, be mean, or get out of control. You make that choice all on your own. When you choose to be hurtful, take full responsibility for that decision and know that you are placing your relationship at risk of a major fracture if you continue to put your partner in harm’s way of your anger.

Those in your inner circle deserve to be cherished the most in your life. They deserve to be protected from harm, injury, or damage, certainly from others, and more importantly—from you.

Challenge: Take a personal inventory on how safely you speak to your partner. Next, ask your partner if s/he believes you are a safe speaker. If either you or your partner believes you do not speak safely, take responsibility, make repairs, and commit to taking your partner out of harm’s way—of you.

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