Communication is the cornerstone of every relationship. Conflicts in relationships almost always come to a misalignment within the communication between the two partners. There can be many reasons as to why the communication in a relationship is misaligned/ineffective. It can be due to the two partners having different definitions of certain words. It can be because one partner doesn’t clearly communicate a certain point and a misunderstanding happens.
A particular misalignment of communication that I have seen in my relationship with my partner has to do with lack of communication skills where one hasn’t during childhood, or ever really, learned how to communicate effectively, for example in disagreements.
Instead of communicating directly, in stability and with awareness, which would be the foundation of a stable and supportive relationship, we communicate almost randomly through hit-and-miss techniques that we’ve picked up along the way throughout our lives, to try to get out point across or to try and get another to do what we want. It often results in conflict because we aren’t aware of what we are doing, and so instead of eliciting understanding in another, we elicit reactions and resistances. And for many of us, that has become a completely normal way to communicate and get what we want from another person.
A very common example of this is the use of emotional manipulation, where one partner plays on the emotions of the other to get what they want. It is a shame because often the point in question might actually be entirely valid.
Let’s say for example that partner A always empties the dishwasher and that on this particular day partner A has to rush out the door and thus asks partner B to instead empty the dishwasher. In not being used to doing this task and maybe feeling inconvenienced and not quite seeing the common sense in the situation, partner B may say ”No”. Because partner A hasn’t developed effective communication skills, in being able to show partner B the causal relationship involved in the situation and thus explain the common sense of why it would be relevant for partner B to help out – or even to show partner B that they are responding through a reaction, partner A instead results to the only strategy they know to be effective: emotional manipulation. So now partner A reacts and says: “I always empty the dishwasher, always. It wouldn’t kill you to help out once in a while or am I here to just be your maid? I feel disappointed and hurt that you don’t even care about the fact that I am going to be late.” Partner B then reacts within an experience of shame and guilt in accepting the manipulating and biting on the hook – also because there is a fraction of truth within it – and then agrees to empty the dishwasher. Partner A got what they wanted, they won. But did they really? Because what’s to say that partner B doesn’t do the same thing again as they didn’t in fact get to the point of seeing the common sense in the situation. All that happened was that they took it personal and blamed themselves for causing partner A emotional pain and to not be the ‘bad guy’ and have to feel bad, they agreed to empty the dishwasher. No real lesson learned.
This was a very specific example and it is so specifically written out, because it is one I am very familiar with, in different situations standing in the shoes of both partner A and partner B, though in affect of being a female in a relationship with a male, I more often than not assume the role of partner A who uses emotional manipulation to get what they want – whether that is reasonable or not, as this is something that particularly females resort to, though some men do too, or they use other techniques like blackmail or threats which has the exact same effect and result.
There are innumerous different ways in which the same scenario plays out where one person in some way or another uses emotions to manipulate another, due to lack of effective communication skills and also out of self-interest.
Something that I have experienced in particular is not being very good at arguing, having discussions or standing my ground on a certain point. These are the type of situations where I tend to revert back to the highly ineffective ways of communicating that I have learned growing up, where I go into fear and then this ‘survival mechanism’ kicks into gear – and it doesn’t matter whether the point I was bringing to the discussion was reasonable or not.
It is a shame, because often I might have an entirely valid point, as something that can assist the people with whom I am discussing to expand themselves, but if I come with reactions or try to convince them through emotional manipulation, the point of common-sense gets lost or corrupted.
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to accept myself to use emotions to communicate with other people so as to reach the outcome that I desire, whether this is commonsensical or not, because that is the only way I have learned growing up to get through to people – and because I have been able at times to use emotions to get what I wanted from another/out of a discussion, I have perceived/accepted it as an effective form of communication and have accepted myself to use it, instead of realizing that while I might be getting what I want, I am getting it in an abusive and unsustainable way as the other person actually isn’t agreeing with me in awareness, but is allowing themselves to be manipulated by me and are complying through their own emotional reactions, rather than because they understand and agree with what I am sharing
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to justify to myself using emotions to manipulate another by blaming them for “not listening”, “not understanding” and “not hearing me” – when the issue is in fact that I haven’t developed effective communication skills in being able to clearly explain and share how I see things in such a way that the other can understand it, and even if they still can’t, it doesn’t justify me using emotions to manipulate them
I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to become frustrated that I haven’t yet developed effective communication skills, especially when it comes to sharing what I see is best with someone that doesn’t agree with me – situations in which I go into fear of conflict and cowardice especially if I perceive the other person as more authoritarian and commanding than me, and where I’d then see using emotions as my only ‘play’ to get my point across, not caring about the consequences of using emotions to get what I want
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not see, realize and understand that using emotions to get a point across, contaminates, corrupts and invalidates that point, because one is essentially using deception and a form of force which is not allowing the other person to fully see and agree to what one is saying with awareness
I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to justify using emotional manipulation by saying that I don’t know what else to do because I haven’t yet developed myself effectively within communication
When and as I see myself reacting in fear and frustration in a moment where I see that I don’t yet have the skills at effectively communicating something, I stop and I breathe. I realize that these are moments where I would usually revert to emotional manipulation as a default mechanism, and instead of doing that I commit myself to patiently work on developing my communication skills. I commit myself to take self-responsibility in being self-honest as to whether the point I want to get across is commonsensical or not and accordingly either bring it back to myself or work on finding a way to communicate it effectively without reactions or emotions. I commit myself to see these situations that I have not yet directed myself in before with awareness as a gift and a challenge through which I can learn to communicate effectively, instead of seeing it as something threatening through fear.
Read this blog for more perspectives on why especially women tend to use emotional manipulation in relationships.
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