Saturday, September 26, 2009

Effective Communication Requires Compassion - Part III in a Series

In reading the book, “How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about it” by Pat Love and Steve Stosny, I have learned some invaluable tools to improving communication. The tools have been helpful in my marriage, but are also applicable to other relationships – co-workers, children, friends and family.

First, I learned that fear and shame are the driving factors in most conversations that are not of a positive nature. When in a conversation, recognizing and respecting the other person’s fears or shame will go a long way in improving communication.

Read Part I here

Second, I learned that while recognizing and respecting someone’s fear or shame can improve communication, actually talking about it will often times create anger, resentment, barriers and/or silence. In order to reconnect with someone you have had a communication disconnection from, you need to focus on your own core values and make sure that you are being true to exactly what is most important to you.

Read Part II here

Remaining true to our core values is a vital step in communication improvement. Until you have a good handle on focusing on your own actions, judging your own efforts and behavior, you will be unable to “deepen your understanding” of someone else’s perspective.

The next step in improving your communication is compassion. Some people confuse sympathy, empathy and compassion.

Sympathy is as if to say, “I’m really sorry you are going through this. If there is anything I can do to ease your pain, please let me know.”

Empathy is to have shared in a similar experience thus resulting in a deeper understanding and ability to aid in the healing process – even so far as making suggestions for steps towards healing.

Compassion is a general feeling of care and concern for someone important to you. This care and concern leads to a desire to understand this person’s pain and ultimately a willingness to do whatever it takes to help him or her.

Until we have compassion for someone else’s fear or shame, we cannot work to improve the circumstances or situation that caused the fear or shame in the first place.

A Real Life Example

I recently had a friend who had no problem very bluntly telling me exactly what the problems are in my life. And even though there was some truth in her stinging observations regarding my marriage, my job, my personality, my mentality, my Christianity, my parenting skills, and my relationship with family, we were unable to devise any solutions to said problems, because her observations lacked compassion.

She had no concern for my feelings or respect for me as an individual or understanding of how or why I got in to certain predicaments in the first place. Because she was unwilling to understand my perspective, because she was so focused on proving me wrong, I created a barrier. I stopped hearing her rambling about what I needed to do to “fix my life,” and spent my time with her being thankful that I was not her. Instead of there being a mutual respect for our differences, an appreciation for our separate set of experiences, instead of there being a sensitivity to our individualities, our different temperaments, and our different vulnerabilities, I was only willing to put up with whatever she had to say, hold in how I really felt, change the subject as soon as possible, and avoid it for the remainder of our time together. Sound like communication you have had?

Marriage Application

The same insensitivity to individuality happens in marriage. “The very intensity of love, when it exists without high levels of compassion, seems to make us merge with each other; we begin to assume that our loved ones see the world exactly the way we do. This obscures what they actually feel, how they think, and, in large part, who they really are. They become merely a source of emotion for us, rather than separate persons in their own right. If they make us feel good, we put them on a pedestal. If they make us feel bad by not seeing the world the way we do, we feel betrayed. (See pages 114-115)”

On page 108, the authors break it down very simply:
• If you are a woman and you’re feeling resentful, angry, anxious or afraid, and your partner is not helping, he is trying to avoid feeling shame. Your anxiety = his sense of inadequacy or failure.
• If you are a man and your feeling resentful, angry, sulky or withdrawn, and your partner is not helping, she is feeling anxious. Your irritation = her fear.

It is at this point when a woman typically would try to talk about the issue. Unfortunately, when we are hurt, our language part of the brain is lacking blood. Instead of working together to solve a problem we “fumble for the right words or use the wrong words and express something different” than what we mean. We ask to be valued, appreciated cherished, but we are actually causing our partner to feel inadequate, like a failure.

In these situations, the authors suggest that rather than talking about the issue, we make a nonverbal attempt to reconnect to our partners. “If one person makes a genuine gesture of connection, the other partner will feel the impact even if he or she does not reciprocate at the moment…Even if your partner does not respond in your preferred manner, making a gesture of connection will connect you to your core values and raise the compassion level in the relationship…when the two of your feel connected, you can easily solve the problem. (See page 109.)”

Compassion makes us better people in all areas of life. When we expand beyond the limitations of our own experiences, we open ourselves up to opportunities to improve our self-value. We can help people we care about manage their vulnerabilities rather than use them as weapons for our personal gain.

Compassion in communication may require you to be kind to someone who is not being kind to you. But if your marriage is full of arguments, bickering, insults and communication breakdowns, why not be true to who you are and extend compassion to the person you have chosen to spend your life with? If your working relationship with someone is full of sideways barbs, undermining, and an unwillingness to work as a team, why not be true to who you are and extend compassion to a person you are stuck working with?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Broussard Bible Blog

I started another blog. Why? Well, that is a really long and sorry tale, but I started it. Read it if you are interested.

Broussard Bible Blog

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A couple weeks ago, I made the choice to enroll in a writing school. I want to be a writer, a published writer. I've recently been working some internet avenues to make small amounts of money with my writing, but decided to enroll in a writing course that guarantees I will be published (or my money back).

I submitted my initial assignment (a personal profile), and then waited for my books to show up prior to moving on to my next assignment.

My books came today! Suddenly, I am overwhelmed, I am excited, I am nervous and I am curious. Can I really do this? Can I really write for profit? Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I witty enough? Is what I have to say of any consequence to the world?

Does it matter? Am I writing for myself or for others? Am I writing for creative release or for an income?

Will I be able to find the time to do this? I know it sounds ludicrious - I don't work, but really my days are full! I am going to need to organize myself a little better if I am to write every day in addition to taking care of my home, my family, myself and various other responsibilities.

Today I received four assignments, six books and 7 CD/DVDs. WTF?! Six books? What about the books I am already reading - Becoming a Writer, How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking, Searching for God Knows What? Plus, I am supposed to be reading with Brytin every day!

I have been writing to this blog for exactly two months today. Not everyday, but a lot. I pour my heart and soul out every chance I get. I do not get much reaction. I do not know if anyone reads what I've written. I do not know if anyone is impacted by my efforts.

I have about a week to decide if I'm really going to go through with this schooling...I think my first decision needs to be to decide if I am writing for me or for you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


A lesser-minded individual would have given up by now. A weaker soul would have caved, but she perseveres. She continues to fight for herself and for her children. She stays sober in the face of defeat, not because the courts are telling her to, but because sobriety is her choice.

In the six and a half months since that tragic night, she has gotten certified to be a personal chef and a yoga instructor. She has continued her quest for a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has taken classes to learn co-parenting skills, communication skills and anger management skills. She has read countless books. She successfully completed a month-long stint in rehab. She has told her story to substance abuse classes. She has endured the death of her grandmother. She has lost and regained partial custody of her two children. She spends every Saturday and Sunday with them. She attends church at least three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every week. She reads her Bible every day and prays that God’s Will would be done in her life. She attends church every Sunday and teaches her son everything she can about Jesus Christ.

For all intents and purposes, the woman has been rehabilitated. What more could she possibly do to atone for her sins? Yes, she endangered her life and her son’s. I get that. But should a woman be seen only as her mistake? Did we not learn anything from “The Scarlett Letter?”

Her readiness conference yesterday was continued until October 29th. That’s more than six weeks from now! The emotions I felt in July are even more frustrated now. The District Attorney continues to try to make an example of her – offering nothing but punishment to the full extent the law allows.

Who would gain from such a sentence? What benefit would be added to San Diego County if she served YEARS in prison for driving drunk? Her children won’t be any safer than they are now. She won’t be any more encouraged to be a productive member of society. Putting her in prison puts a drain on the taxpayers, whereas allowing her to be free to work pays taxes. She won’t have a license, she doesn’t have a car – she cannot endanger anyone’s life any more than you or me.

I understand that she has shown that when under the influence of alcohol, she is capable of making poor decisions. However, time has proven that she wants to be sober. Forever.

What good is it doing anyone to continue punishing her and possibly even punish her more?! Who is benefitting from this? Certainly not her or her children, not Chris or Richard or me are gaining anything. She cannot go off base (except for meetings), so her shopping is limited to the convenience store at the hospital. She cannot go to Bible study. She cannot pick up her mail. She cannot even take her kids to a playground.

And this is where her strength, intelligence and perseverance shine through. Sure, she gets frustrated and disappointed every time her request for liberty is denied. But every time, she accepts it and continues her journey. She does not drown her sorrows in liquor, she does not throw up her hands in surrender, she does not change her course. She trusts in the Lord’s timing and wholeheartedly believes that “all things work for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:26)

I can only pray that someone somewhere will eventually see and appreciate the amazing woman she has become and allow her the opportunity to be the beacon of light that she is to a greater audience.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Improve Your Communication without Talking – Part II

After reviewing Part I of the book “How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about it” by Pat Love and Steve Stosney, I waited a while before diving into Part II. I wanted to give myself time to digest and apply the things I learned in Part I. If you haven’t read How to Improve Your Communication Part I, please do so before reading this review.

I am only eight pages into Part II “Using Your Fear and Shame to Create Love Beyond Words.” I must admit, I am mildly shocked by what I have read so far. As I concluded my review of Part I, I was expecting for the authors to “explain how I can have better respect for our differences and approach my husband in a non-confrontational, non-threatening way so that both of us are compelled to listen.” And though that is exactly what they have done in the first chapter, I am shocked, because:

1. The manner in which they are suggesting I have better respect for our differences is not what I expected to read and

2. I already figured this out on my own.

Not to toot my own horn too much, but only about six weeks ago, I was discussing my marriage with my Bestie, and I came to the same conclusion that the authors are presenting.

It goes something like this:

I cannot change my husband. I can only control my actions and responses. If Chris chooses to be a less than spectacular husband, he will have to live with that. When he is 80 years old, he will bear the burden of regret for the opportunities he chose to ignore - not me. I can control my choices. I can choose to be an amazing wife every single day. I can joyfully take care of his home, his son, and his finances. If he chooses to be a schmuck, that is his loss. He loses out on the opportunity to be an amazing husband, but that does not change my opportunity to be an amazing wife.

I kid you not, that is exactly what this book is telling me so far. After asking me a few questions about my core values or what qualities make me me, the book goes on to say this:

Staying true to your values and honoring those of your partner are essential to improving your relationship. “The capacity to stay true to your deepest values – and thereby transform your fear and shame – lies entirely within you. If you remain true to your answers to the ‘most important’ questions, you will most likely have a strong connection with your partner. And in the end, you will judge yourself by your own efforts and behavior, not by your partner’s.”

Here’s how it looks in a practical application:

“When you are upset, angry or resentful, try to focus less on what your partner is doing and ask yourself these questions:

 Am I acting like the person I most want to be? If not, what can I do to act like that person? Answer: Improve, Appreciate, Connect or Protect.

 Am I being the partner I want to be? If not, what can I do? Answer: Improve, Appreciate, Connect or Protect.”

I suppose I got a little ahead of myself in my excitement. According to the authors, women’s fear and man’s shame are aroused by guilt. Guilt is the direct result of doing/saying something that is out of line with what is most important to you, or your core values. For example, my answer to the question “What is the most important thing about you as a partner” was “The unwavering love and support I show my spouse.” So whenever I step away from that core value, whenever my words and actions do not show unwavering support to my husband, I subconsciously feel guilty and then instantly need to talk to him to restore my feelings of connectedness.

To get you back in step with your core values (without talking about your relationship), the book offers these four “core value inspirations:”

Improve. “If you are feeling bad and you think about what you can do to make it a little better – you do not even have to do it, just think of it – you will start feeling better…Even if improvement is only in your head, it will change your emotional demeanor and that will make negotiations with your partner go much better.

Appreciate. Value your partner. Subsequently, you will value your own life.

Connect. “Genuinely care about your partner’s emotional state.”

Protect. “Help him relieve his dread of failure as a provider, protector, lover and father. Help her to relieve her fear of isolation, deprivation and harm.”

I still have another 100 pages of Part II to read, but I decided to go step-by-step in my review in order to make sure I fully understand each suggestion. I think the first chapter is telling me to start improving my marriage by focusing less on my partner’s mistakes and more on my responses to those mistakes. To steal from Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in your relationship.” If you are not being true to yourself in your words and actions, choose to improve. Start by appreciating, connecting or protecting – whatever comes first in your circumstance, whatever comes naturally to you.

Once I am finished with this book, I plan to read The Female Brain

Friday, September 4, 2009


I was once told that I should not eat sweets prior to going to bed.

I had an Oreo McFlurry pretty late at night recently.

I subsequently had three insane dreams.

First there was the Motorcycle Club that wouldn’t let me in because I had a pet hamster. (But maybe these guys will?)

Then I dreamt there were two Brytins, but he wasn’t necessarily a twin – more like a clone. One would go to school and one would stay home with me.

And finally, there was a real estate business I had looked into that was really a front for Swingers/Sex Slave ring.

In between those crazy dreams, I had a few other random moments: Chris borrowed $1600 to his co-worker Martin for his new motorcycle. Of course, I was livid because Martin had his own $4000 to buy his bike.

And when Lisa Bautista was dropping me off at the real estate/swinger gathering, she asked me “Why are you always trying to ‘improve’ yourself and not for the sake of a higher salary? You’re amazing. Leave it alone.”

I have no idea what any of this means. What I do know, is that I will never again have 82 grams of carbohydrates right before bed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I got her when she was five days old,
When someone left her out in the cold.

She was so spunky.
Her meow was so funky.

Her attitude was so fractious.
She even sometimes got jealous.

She hated Channing and Mike.
But truly adored anything tuna-like.

Joey, Pumpkin and Brytin haven't said a word,
But Chris and I feel empty and awkward.

So so so soft was her fur.
She constantly required me to pet her.

She used to fat, and then got so thin.
She'll never lick my cheek again.

She is now gone, I am so sad.
At her I will never again get mad.