Standing your ground

Everyday, from the moment we wake up, we live our lives caring what other people think of us. We tip toe our way through life by doing things in order to please others, not because it’s what we believe in. Eventually our actions, appearances, and lives become molded by how we think other people perceive us.

Living a life that follows what other people think is a terrible way to live. We go through our days thinking about how other people might be judging us. But the truth is —  everyone is thinking the exact same thing, and everyone is too busy thinking about ourselves and our own shortcomings to worry about others.

It’s impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations. There will always be people ,  no matter what we say or how we treat them , that will judge us. You will never be able to stop people from judging you, but you can stop it from affecting you! Do not let other people’s perception of you effect your perception of yourself.

 

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Tips for Co-Parenting

The key to co-parenting is to focus on your child and your child only. This can be very difficult at times. It means that your own emotions, anger, or resentment is set aside. Co-parenting is about your child’s happiness, stability and future well being. It is ok to be hurt and angry but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior. Here are some tips for communicating with an ex:

  • Make sure never to vent to your child and to get your feelings out somewhere else, for example a close friend or therapist.
  • Never use your kid as the messenger, this will put him or her in the center of the conflict.
  • Use a business-like tone with your ex and set the boundaries. Be cordial, respectful, and use a neutral tone.
  • Be sure to listen. Even if you do not agree, communicating with maturity starts with listening. Listening foes not signify approval but is necessary to understand the other person’s point of view.
  • Lastly, keep the conversations kid-focused and about your child’s needs.

At Star Point Counseling Center, we understand the challenges that come with a divorce and want to help you make adjustments to the changes that occur when families are split up. If you are having trouble with your ex or need communication or patenting techniques please visit our website starpointcounselingtampa.com or give us a call at (813)-244-1251.

Tips for a Happy Relationship

Tips to finding happiness and satisfaction in a relationship: Express admiration and affection. The idea is to look for ways to appreciate and feel warmth for your partner, and express those things. Send unexpected text messages, leave a loving note near the … Continue reading

Summer Parenting

Summer is well underway for school kids, but summer also has a long way until it is time to start thinking about going back to school. With the excitement of the ending of another school year waning down, it is … Continue reading

It All Begins With Clear Communication

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Many people will agree that communication is KEY to any relationship. Whether it is with your significant other, family members, or very close friends, you want to have clear and open dialogue. Are experiencing communication blockage in your relationship? You might not be using clean communication. Follow these basic guidelines for cleaner communication:

  1. Avoid using judgmental words.  Avoid using words that convey to your partner that he/she is flawed. Examples: “childish, uncooperative, thoughtless.” These words do not belong in a caring relationship.
  2. Avoid using global labels.  A global label is a generalized disapproval of your partner’s identity. Examples: he or she is “stupid, selfish, lazy, useless.” These labels attack your partner’s person instead of his/her behavior. They convey that your partner is “always” bad. Use of these labels results in a loss of trust and a loss of closeness.
  3. Avoid “you” messages of blame and accusation.  Examples: “You always make us late; you never ask what I want; you never offer to help with chores.” The true meaning behind these “you” messages is: “I’m in pain, and you did it to me.” They also convey the message: “You were bad and wrong for doing this to me.” Instead use “I” messages which show no direct accusation or blaming of your partner. For example: “I feel sad about missing the evening with you when you come home late; I feel tired and irritated when I put the groceries away alone.”
  4. Avoid bringing up the past.  When communicating with your partner, especially while angry, try to stay in the present moment and deal with the current issue. Bringing up past events tends to build up a case against your partner compiling evidence to prove his/her faults. Example: “You did the same thing to me last week, and the week before.” This statement sends the message: “You’ve always had this flaw, and it’s not getting any better.”
  5. Avoid using negative comparisons.  Clean communication is about helping, not hurting your partner. It is meant to resolve conflict by not rejecting your partner. Negative comparisons only seek to punish and attack your partner.
  6. Avoid using threats.  Example: “If you leave this house right now, don’t expect me to be here when you get back.” This sends the message that your partner is bad and you are going to punish him/her. The deliberate intention to hurt is tremendously destructive to your relationship.
  7. Describe your  feelings rather than attack with them.  Using clarifying words to describe your feelings will help your partner to hear and understand you. Statements like: “I am sad, or I am feeling hurt,” are clear ways to express your feelings to your partner. Be mindful of your tone of voice when describing your feelings. Using sarcasm, threatening, or raising your voice can be perceived as an attack on your partner.
  8. Keep your body language open and receptive.  Believe it or not your body language can actually depict whether or not you are open and willing to communicate. Crossing your arms, pinched lips or a tight jaw, or looking away in a disgusted manner are all signs that you do not want to communicate. To portray openness, keep good eye contact, nod or acknowledge while listening, relax your face, uncross your arms, and if you are sitting lean slightly forward.
  9. Use whole messages.  Whole messages consist of observations, thoughts, feelings, and needs or wants. “You’re spending too much time at work” is not an appropriate way to express thoughts in a whole message, because it turns your opinion into  an absolute truth. “I am sensing that the balance is off; I think you need to spend more time at home.” This statement shows that the speaker takes responsibility for his/her own opinion and does not try to make it absolute.
  10. Use clear messages.  A woman who sarcastically says to her partner at the dinner table, “You’re talkative as usual,” may pretend her statement is a simple observation, but the observation is contaminated with judging thoughts, feelings, and needs. A more accurate statement would be clear and whole: “I notice you’re pretty quiet tonight (observation). It makes me think you’re not interested in me (thought), and I feel hurt and a little angry (feeling). I’d really like you to talk with me more (need).”

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Are you using clean communication with those around you and/or with your partner? Call Star point today to set up an appointment with one of our counselors. They can help guide you and your partner (or family members) down the road to cleaner and clearer communication.

McKay, M., Fanning, P. & Paleg, K. (2006). Couple skills: Making your relationship work. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Visit our website to learn more about how a counselor can help: http://www.starpointcounselingbrandon.com, or http://www.starpointcounselingtampa.com

Solving Communication Problems with Your Tween.

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Maintaining a good relationship with your child is important for getting them to do things that they prefer not to do and being able to influence them. Even tweens with an overly developed conscience are still at the stage where they do the right thing to avoid displeasing their parents, teachers, and other authority figures because they can readily tell the difference between right and wrong.

A big problem for parents is getting tweens to listen when they are being spoken to. In fact, many parents are so used to being ignored, they automatically raise their voices when asking their tween to do something, as if speaking to someone who is slightly deaf. Most tweens dislike being shouted to and ordered about. It makes them resentful, and as they mature, they begin speaking in the same disrespectful ways to their parents.

For many parents, the biggest challenges are remembering to treat their child respectfully on the one hand, and demanding that their child treat them respectfully on the other. Modeling is the most potent form of teaching.If you yell and scream out of frustration, apologize later, just as you would expect someone else to do if they lost their temper with your child, and just as you would expect your child to do if they took out their crankiness on you or their teachers. Down the road, they will need to be able to handle them self appropriately with bosses and employers.

For more tips and tools on solving communication problems with your tweens, call us today! We teach and demonstrate effective parenting skills and techniques that will help you to break through the communication barriers that may be undermining your authority in the home.

www.starpointcounselingtampa.com    (813)244-1251

Being An Active Listener.

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Active listening is a communication technique used in counseling, it requires the listener to feed back what they hear to the speaker, by re-stating or paraphrasing what they heard in their own words, in order to confirm what they heard and to confirm the understanding of both parties. Active listening is important for successful interactions.

Try these strategies to really improve your listening skills:

  • Look at the other person. People send clues through facial expressions and body language, use what your eyes see to help your ears listen.
  • Reflect back on emotions. Use phrases like “it seems like you’re feeling angry, is that right?”
  • Use open ended questions. Open ended questions gives the individual a chance to explain and give more information.
  • Reflect on meaning. Reflecting what you understood someone to mean is a great way to keep both individuals on the same page.

If we put in the work to be an active listener, we can avoid more later that may involve repairing resentment, hurt feelings, and unhappiness.

The counselors at Star Point Counseling Center can help you become a better listener by teaching you techniques and skills that will improve your communication with others.

Call today to schedule an appointment! (813)244-1251

Communication Guidelines.

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Communication isn’t just about talking to your partner, it’s about really understanding and acknowledging what your partner is saying and feeling. Everybody has a different level of skills when it comes to communication, and just like any other skill better communication can be learned. 

Communication can make or break relationships, try these guidelines for better communication in your relationship:

Get specific. There is too much room for misinterpretation when you use vague words. Avoid giving your opinions, interpretations, or generalizations when you are having communication problems. They are invitations to misunderstandings and conflicts. 

Be accountable. Each of us has a choice about what we say and do, no matter how we feel. Don’t excuse your behavior or blame it on others or on your childhood. 

Acknowledge feelings and points of view. Listening to and acknowledging to the other person’s feelings and points of view can bypass many arguments and misunderstandings. Don’t try to correct others or rebut their points of view or feelings. Just listen and see if you can understand what the other person is trying to communicate. You don’t have to agree, but don’t dismiss or minimize their feelings. 

Break your patterns. Change your part of any pattern that isn’t currently working. Do anything that is not cruel, unethical, or distasteful to your partner that would be different from what you usually do in the situation. 

Visit our website for more information on how we can help you improve your communication. 

 

www.starpointcounselingtampa.com

Five Communication Tools You Need for Difficult Conversations

It’s virtually inevitable that even the best close relationship will involve some degree of conflict, at least some of the time. When that happens, not only is it stressful, but if not handled well, it can sow the seeds for that relationship’s eventual dissolution.

Because interpersonal conflict is such an unpleasant emotional state, most of us are programmed to avoid it.  If you’ve been subjected to undue criticism from others, you may be particularly loath to get involved in arguments that can turn ugly. Studies of long=term relationship show, however, that avoidance may be an even worse way to resolve conflict. It’s almost impossible to resolve a conflict with your loved one by staying away from it completely. Whether it’s in the area of finances, household tasks, health habits, child rearing, or sex, you’re eventually going to have to have one of those difficult conversations in which you try to resolve your differences of opinion.

Armed with these five conflict resolution strategies, you’ll be able to take the steps needed to get past what may seem like completely irreconcilable differences:

1. Recognize that avoidance won’t work.

Adhering to a cooling-off period may settle your emotions enough to approach the problem later. However, when couples constantly put their disagreements “on pause” they run the risk of never having the chance to resolve the underlying dispute. Imagine that your partner has what you find to be an annoying habit of pocketing all the extra change in the house and spending it on Powerball tickets every week. Not only does this strike you as a waste of money, but it’s an inconvenience for you to be unable to find a quarter when you’ve run out of parking meter money. However, it seems so trivial that you say nothing at all until, one day, without any warning, you explode in a fit of rage. Now that this has escalated to an intense level, other unresolved issues might be dragged into the debate, and what started as a relatively minor difference leads to a large-scale battle that’s much harder to resolve. Instead of letting the small annoyances continue to irk you, it’s far better to come up with a strategy, using one of the tips below, to start the conversation in a more rational way.

2. Leave “but” sentences out of it.

In a “but” sentence, you try to soften the blow of bad news by prefacing it with good news.  “I loved that meatloaf you cooked for me tonight, but…”  Following the “but” is the critical comment such as “it could have been cooked a little more.” The hopes you raised with the pre-but phrase get dashed with the post-but conclusion.

In fact, many people use the “good news/bad news” tactic to help someone feel better about information that is certain to be upsetting. “The good news is that you’ll get to keep your tooth, but the bad news is that you’ll need a root canal,” says the dentist. In fact, I’d argue that we’re culturally conditioned to expect something bad almost every time someone uses the tone of voice that starts the “but” sentence. “I really like the way you’ve moved the furniture [pause]” may trigger an anxious wait as the listener expects the inevitable “but” to follow: “But it seems a little more crowded than it was before.” When the “but” doesn’t come, you’re pleasantly surprised. However, because this happens so rarely, the pause that follows a compliment can create stress when you’re the recipient of this kind of communication. After all, how many times has someone said to you, “Which would you rather hear first—the good news or the bad news?” Most people would rather get the bad news out of the way.

Rather than create this stress in your partner, then, consider phrasing your comments (positive and negative) in a direct manner, ending with the “good news” rather than starting with it: “I thought the meatloaf was a bit undercooked, but on the whole, I really found it to be tasty.” Now that you’re done dispensing the bad news, you can leave your partner with a positive bottom line.

In a truly difficult conversation, the stress of anticipating a “but” is even greater. It’s one thing to be talking about meatloaf, but quite another to be discussing the future of your entire relationship. By putting your concerns out there right away, you don’t leave your partner in suspense while he or she waits for the real truth to emerge.

3.  Prepare the way for this difficult conversation.

Another reason not to avoid conflict is that when your feelings inevitably burst out in an uncontrolled way, neither you nor your partner will have had a chance to prepare mentally or emotionally. When something is bothering you, whether it’s a trivial housekeeping concern or a more serious relationship dispute, it’s only fair to provide your partner with an alert that there’s something you wish to discuss. How you phrase this is exceptionally important. Start by announcing what the conversation will be about, and make it clear that it’s your feelings or point of view that’s at issue: “I’d like to discuss my feelings about how often we’re having sex,” versus “I’d like to talk about the fact that we’re not having sex very often.”

Because you’re not involved in the heat of the moment, where you’ve just had a big argument about something else (the coins around the house or the meatloaf), you’ll be able to say this kindly and reassuringly rather than in a demanding and accusatory fashion. Then agree with your partner on what would be a good time and place to have this conversation. If your partner is in a hurry to get it out of the way, then make sure you’re emotionally and logistically able to do so. In other words, if you both have to wake up at 5 a.m. the next morning, you might want to wait until after dinner the next day instead of at 11 p.m. the night before.

4. Agree on common goals.

In any negotiation, the outcome is much more satisfying to everyone if all parties decide on what they would find an acceptable set of results.  If one of you wants the relationship to end and the other does not, then agreeing on that outcome may take up the bulk of the negotiation. However, even in this case, you can both agree on the common goals of allowing each person to “save face,” or maintaining self-respect. Or you may agree that you want to make life as manageable as possible for your children, if you have any, and other family members or friends.

It’s important, however, not to enter into your discussion having a predetermined outcome in your own mind (“I need to move out by the end of the month”). A common goal is different than a common notion of what the result should be. The more emotionally laden the conversation, the more important it is that you agree on goals that preserve each other’s emotional well-being.

5. Stay optimistic.

Feeling that the situation is hopeless is an almost certain way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you’ve decided that all is lost, you’ll invariably interpret everything your partner says with a strong dose of pessimism. Your partner may wish to discuss his or her feelings about having more (or less) sex, but it doesn’t mean that the sexual aspect of your relationship is doomed.

As you and your partner work through the details of your difficult conversation, reminding yourself that you’re in this together can help both of you remain hopeful about the end result. Even in the worst-case scenario, where the conversation ends in a breakup, by having agreed on common goals of maintaining each other’s self-regard, you’ll know that you won’t be severely injured in the process.

On the other hand, it is entirely plausible that by setting the stage for your conversation in steps 1-4 above, you’ll be able to resolve the dispute in a way that strengthens your bonds for whatever else will come your way. Having learned how to get through this challenge, the ones that await you will seem more manageable.

To summarize: As you can most likely gauge from these five communication tips, the process of successful conflict resolution is very similar to the way we can best handle the stresses we feel in other areas of life by using planned, problem-focused coping. In an experimental test of a DVD-based couples counseling method, a team headed by University of Zurich psychologist Guy Bodenmann (2014) found that by couples could benefit in their relationship satisfaction by working through a five-hour instructional DVD that taught them basic cognitive-behavioral approaches to dealing with conflict and communication. To be sure, the couples (particularly the men) who needed the most help also improved the most. However, the bottom line was that by learning to work their way through conflict in a rational, respectful, and optimistic manner, couples could enjoy a significant improvement in their levels of overall relationship satisfaction.

The good news about this method is that … don’t worry, there’s no “but” to come. Couples can and do learn to work out their differences, allowing them to achieve personal and mutual fulfillment for years to come.

Visit our website today to learn more about how our counselors can help you with communication in your relationship: http://www.starpointcounselingtampa.com, or http://www.starpointcounselingbrandon.com

10 Commandments of Clean Communication

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Experiencing communication blockage in your relationship? You might not be using clean communication. Follow these basic guidelines for cleaner communication:

  1. Avoid using judgmental words.  Avoid using words that convey to your partner that he/she is flawed. Examples: “childish, uncooperative, thoughtless.” These words do not belong in a caring relationship.
  2. Avoid using global labels.  A global label is a generalized disapproval of your partner’s identity. Examples: he or she is “stupid, selfish, lazy, useless.” These labels attack your partner’s person instead of his/her behavior. They convey that your partner is “always” bad. Use of these labels results in a loss of trust and a loss of closeness.
  3. Avoid “you” messages of blame and accusation.  Examples: “You always make us late; you never ask what I want; you never offer to help with chores.” The true meaning behind these “you” messages is: “I’m in pain, and you did it to me.” They also convey the message: “You were bad and wrong for doing this to me.” Instead use “I” messages which show no direct accusation or blaming of your partner. For example: “I feel sad about missing the evening with you when you come home late; I feel tired and irritated when I put the groceries away alone.”
  4. Avoid bringing up the past.  When communicating with your partner, especially while angry, try to stay in the present moment and deal with the current issue. Bringing up past events tends to build up a case against your partner compiling evidence to prove his/her faults. Example: “You did the same thing to me last week, and the week before.” This statement sends the message: “You’ve always had this flaw, and it’s not getting any better.”
  5. Avoid using negative comparisons.  Clean communication is about helping, not hurting your partner. It is meant to resolve conflict by not rejecting your partner. Negative comparisons only seek to punish and attack your partner.
  6. Avoid using threats.  Example: “If you leave this house right now, don’t expect me to be here when you get back.” This sends the message that your partner is bad and you are going to punish him/her. The deliberate intention to hurt is tremendously destructive to your relationship.
  7. Describe your  feelings rather than attack with them.  Using clarifying words to describe your feelings will help your partner to hear and understand you. Statements like: “I am sad, or I am feeling hurt,” are clear ways to express your feelings to your partner. Be mindful of your tone of voice when describing your feelings. Using sarcasm, threatening, or raising your voice can be perceived as an attack on your partner.
  8. Keep your body language open and receptive.  Believe it or not your body language can actually depict whether or not you are open and willing to communicate. Crossing your arms, pinched lips or a tight jaw, or looking away in a disgusted manner are all signs that you do not want to communicate. To portray openness, keep good eye contact, nod or acknowledge while listening, relax your face, uncross your arms, and if you are sitting lean slightly forward.
  9. Use whole messages.  Whole messages consist of observations, thoughts, feelings, and needs or wants. “You’re spending too much time at work” is not an appropriate way to express thoughts in a whole message, because it turns your opinion into  an absolute truth. “I am sensing that the balance is off; I think you need to spend more time at home.” This statement shows that the speaker takes responsibility for his/her own opinion and does not try to make it absolute.
  10. Use clear messages.  A woman who sarcastically says to her partner at the dinner table, “You’re talkative as usual,” may pretend her statement is a simple observation, but the observation is contaminated with judging thoughts, feelings, and needs. A more accurate statement would be clear and whole: “I notice you’re pretty quiet tonight (observation). It makes me think you’re not interested in me (thought), and I feel hurt and a little angry (feeling). I’d really like you to talk with me more (need).”

Are you using clean communication? Let us know if this helped by commenting below.

McKay, M., Fanning, P. & Paleg, K. (2006). Couple skills: Making your relationship work. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Visit our website to learn more about how a counselor can help: http://www.starpointcounselingbrandon.com, or http://www.starpointcounselingtampa.com