Remember the instructions you were given when you were first learning to cross the street? “Stop, Look & Listen”. It’s amazing how certain phrases and sayings just have a way of staying with you and this one is definitely one that we are all familiar with. As a therapist I get the opportunity to witness people’s communications patterns and in couples therapy I get to witness not only the individual but the interaction between the two people. One evening I was working with a couple and the old familiar Stop, Look & Listen came to mind. Why is it I wondered that we don’t do the same thing with the people we cherish that we do when crossing a street? Why is it we can’t “stop” unless there’s a fear of on-coming traffic or life threatening consequences? And so I decided to engage this couple in that three part action — stopping the conversation when it gets out of hand, looking at their partner, friend, child, etc., to get a good look at their expression and body language and then listening or pausing to listen to that person you really care about.
Did you know that it takes less than 30 seconds to calm yourself down (counting while you are trying really helps) enough to see the other person. And the whole “stop, look & listen” thing can generally be accomplished in less than 5 minutes and the results? Amazing! No, you won’t fix all the problems but you might just be re-focused enough to have a conversation.