The Terrible Twelve: 12 Responses That Don’t Foster Deeper Connection
This morning I blew it. My partner shared a personal concern and I automatically offered my wonderful advice. And it was not well received. And I understand why. Advice isn’t always helpful, but empathy is. I am learning that there are at least 12 responses that I unintentionally default to but which function to cut off empathy and consequently, result in further disconnection. More often than not these responses are habitual, and so it’s important to identify them, learn them, and make concerted efforts to not respond in such ways.
1. Advising: I think you should leave the room the second he raises his voice.
2. One- upping: you think that’s bad; let me tell you about the rages my husband gets into.
3. Educating: I can recommend a really good book that describes what happens in the brain when you’ve ben traumatized as a child.
4. Analyzing: it sounds like you have internalized your father’s rages so that your husband raised voice triggers that old fear.
5. Storytelling: did I ever tell you what I did on my honeymoon when my husband yelled at me?
6. Minimizing: well, at least he doesn’t hit you the way your father did.
7. Sympathizing: I feel frightened when I hear how angry he gets.
8. Interrogating: how often does he go into one of those rages?
9. Reassuring: I’m confident that you’ll find a way to resolve this together; the two of you have been through a lot.
10. Avoiding: let’s talk about something else, okay? This topic is quite upsetting.
11. Diagnosing: it sounds like you have some typical codependent personality traits. Or it sounds like he has dysfunctional anger syndrome.
12. Judging: it sounds like you’ve made poor choices and espouse.
These are what I’m calling The Terrible 12. And if we want greater connection, then we’ll need to stay away from The Terrible 12 and rather work to empathically relate to the other’s feelings and needs.