Communication in relationships takes work. It is one of those things that doesn’t always come easily; firstly, due to our emotional brain and how it likes to trump our rational brain, and secondly, we have often learned unhealthy communication patterns throughout our relationship history.
When we get annoyed or angry with someone, it is often a natural response to lean into attention seeking behaviours. In those moments, we have shifted to a focus on being right; on having our feelings justified. Four attention seeking behaviours that, in the long run, hurt the relationship include:
- Threatening to leave the relationship. Using ultimatums when you are angry serves no valuable purpose. We can only change ourselves – threatening to leave as a way to induce change never works in the long run as it creates a promise out of fear. We should only use an ultimatum when we are prepared to follow through.
- The silent treatment. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the silent treatment is effective. It’s sulking. Period. Something didn’t go your way, so you punish the other by not speaking to them for days. The silent treatment is an immature anger response.
- Trying to induce jealousy. Any time we compare a loved one in our lives to someone else (an ex, sibling, friend), we are character shaming. Nothing good can come of that.
- Behaviours that tend to be dramatic in nature. Eye rolling, ignoring texts or phone calls (or excessive texting), slamming of doors, smashing something. Those behaviours do get attention, but not the right kind as they pull our loved one into a game, and not into repair and solution.
Relationship communication tends to work best when we are aware of our attention seeking behaviours and work to curb them. Whatever is learned can be un-learned; this will lead to healthier communication habits that will ripple out in all aspects of our relational lives.