Category Communication

5 Gutsy Things to Say on Valentine’s Day

It never hurts to tell your partner “I love you” or whisper a romantic compliment to him or her, especially on Valentine’s Day. That said, there are some other, more unexpected things you might also say that could surprise your partner with your unusual maturity and depth. This Valentine’s Day, try sparking some loving conversation with one of the following, at first baffling, statements.

Rethinking “The Divorce Talk”

This article is actually an email I sent to one of my clients who was dreading having "the divorce conversation" with her kids. Like many faced with this daunting task, she assumed her children (both between the ages of 5 and 10) would be devastated by the news. Two days after sending my 8 tips, I received the following response from her: "Thank you SO much for this help! [Spouse's name] and I read it over several times and did just as you laid out-- and all is okay! The kids seem fairly unaffected so far and were happy and excited about xxxxxx's apartment having a pool. Anyway, I guess as far as this talk goes, it was really successful. You pointed out several things I wouldn't have thought about, so thank you. And thanks for always being available and willing to help. You rock!!" The particular 8 tips that I had offered her are included below.

Asking for Permission

When we were young, we asked permission quite often. Can I watch another TV show? Can I be excused? Can I spend the night at Bobby's house? Can I borrow the car? When we had parents or caregivers lording over our choices and freedom, asking permission made perfect sense. Since childhood, you've probably been taught that asking permission was the polite, courteous and appropriate thing to do. After all, it seemed a whole lot more considerate--and ultimately less complicated--than sneaking out of the house or stealing the family car without asking. However, if you're reading this article right now, you're likely no longer living with mom and dad, but nonetheless still haven't fully outgrown this pesky habit of asking permission. Maybe you ask your partner for permission to stay out late with your friends. Or maybe you ask your boss permission to take a day off from work. If you have kids, you may even ask them permission to wipe their face clean or put on their shoes. If so, you're bound to have suffered some of the negative consequences that come from asking permission.

Hidden Wisdom from the TV Show Chopped

Life lessons can be found in the most unexpected places sometimes. This particular one comes from a cooking show on The Food Network called Chopped. In each episode, four chefs compete with one another to impress a panel of judges. At the start of each of the three timed rounds that will ultimately determine a winner (appetizer, entrée, dessert), the chefs are given a basket containing four “mystery ingredients”. Once the clock starts, the chefs open their baskets to see, for the first time, which—usually quite peculiar—ingredients they must somehow include in their dishes. Thus the culinary improvisation begins, as time steadily dwindles.

Yo Gabba Gabba, Literally! (The McGurk Effect)

My two-year-old son, like your average American child, rarely goes a day without viewing television, and often quite a bit of it. He watches a show or two when he wakes up in the morning, maybe a full-length animated film in the afternoon, and another program sometime in the evening. With a one-year-old to manage simultaneously, it's not uncommon for my wife and I to occasionally entrust one of our many animated allies with briefly babysitting our toddler. Of course, neither Nemo, Lightning McQueen, nor Buzz Lightyear can change a diaper worth a damn, but they certainly are adept at keeping kids from sticking forks in electrical outlets, which is a plus. My wife and I understand that our sons will be constantly learning from everything they're observing and hearing, so we don't choose our cartoon caretakers lightly. We carefully select only those that will not only entertain and amuse, but will also promote our values of kindness, cooperation, and non-violence. Minimal pushing, shoving, hitting, fighting, shooting, killing, that sort of thing. We aim for sweet, gentle, innocent, nurturing. Too bad we didn't, until just recently, know about The McGurk Effect.

Fear, Loathing and TED Talks

Oh, I remember the incident far too clearly. I was about ten years old. My family was taking a road trip to Ocean City, Maryland when we stopped at a fast food restaurant for a quick bite. We got our food, took it to one of the tables outside, sat down, then realized we had no ketchup. When my parents asked me to return, alone, to ask the cashier for some, I refused. They asked again and again I refused, this time more adamantly. Perplexed as to why I’d be making such a fuss about this, their request grew into a demand. I burst into tears, at which point my sister, two years my junior, cheerfully proclaimed, “I’ll go!” and scurried away. (She’s now a public speaking coach.) This is my earliest recollection of being fearful of the spotlight, fearful of occupying center stage, alone with all eyes upon me, my first memory of being terrified—like so many others—of public speaking.

Why Lying Is Okay

So many relationships suffer with trust issues. In fact, only the very most extraordinary relationships—relationships founded upon true harmony and intimacy—are exempt from patterns of dishonesty and mistrust. Sometimes it may be only small things that partners lie to one another about. For instance, you might casually ask your partner, “What are you doing?”, to which she replies, “Nothing” or “Responding to work emails”, when the truth is that she’s on Facebook, for the twentieth time today. Why the lie? Because she knows how you feel about her infatuation with social networking. Or perhaps your partner lies about something bigger. “Did you smoke today?” meets with, “Of course not. It didn’t even cross my mind!”, when actually he’s hiding a newly-opened pack of cigarettes in his glove compartment, right beside the travel-sized bottle of mouthwash he purchased along with it. Why the lies? Well, I’ll tell you.

Guessing Kills Relationships

This is an intentionally brutal statement, although it just so happens to be true. Guessing seems benign enough, so how can something so seemingly timid as guessing actually kill a relationship? Well, when we guess, specifically when we guess the meaning behind what another person is thinking, feeling, saying or doing (or has done in the past), we choose “thinking we know” over actually knowing. Then, once we assume we know something, we invariably halt our efforts to discover the truth. Instead of seeking to learn more, we may find ourselves reacting to something that may not even be reality. Why? Because we guessed. Guessing blindfolds us. We interpret the behavior of someone and guess what it means. Maybe we’re right in our assessment, but maybe we are not. If we do not inquire, if all we do is guess, we will not know for certain. We may simply react to what we think is true, assuming that we know, assuming that we could not possibly be wrong. That’s not only arrogant, but dangerous. We never want to be so sure of ourselves that we are not open to the possibility that we could be wrong. Yep, we can always be wrong. Wisdom readily and willingly admits this.

Boundaries? No thank you!

The issue of boundaries has long been a hot topic in the field of interpersonal psychology and, over the course of the past several decades, much has been written about this important subject. Questions about how to understand and define one’s personal limitations and to communicate these effectively to others so that these are respected and honored are valuable ones to answer. As such, the idea I am going to share in this article is not intended to completely contradict or undermine notions of “healthy boundaries”, but rather to develop this concept one step farther—toward the place where even “healthy boundaries” can be replaced with something, well, even more extraordinary.