MarriageIt’s not about the nail

Conscientia Counselling


It’s not about the nail

Every time I watch this video I laugh not only because it hits the nail in the head (pun intended) but also because as you know I love metaphors and comedic ways to send a message across. This video is a great “prop” to show my couples.

If you are in a relationship, it is highly possible that you have had this kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding, the moral of the video might be the reason why.

Sometimes our job is just to listen and to validate how others feel. When we validate we are telling our partner… “I understand, it makes sense that you feel that way” so obviously we have to learn to see things from our partner’s point of view. If we evaluate or assess the situation from our perspective we generally don’t get it, we might think that our partner is, in fact, a bit “out there”; that they overreact or my personal favourite “they are too sensitive”.

The point is that empathy is one of those things that become crucial when we are working through relationship issues. I mean…even the song at the end of the video says it “try to see things my way” and of course when we say “my way” we mean taking into consideration my story, my experiences and my life script.

So how do we do that? Well, the first step is to actually listen, without judging, without creating our own agenda or plan to “win” the conversation. We do that by listening to understand not to respond. I have mentioned this notion in other posts but active listening, asking questions to genuinely understand what our partner is feeling, thinking, and why he/she sees things in that specific way.

For many of us talking is a way to establish connections with our loved ones and sharing a frustrating, difficult situation might be a great way to get there. We feel completely capable of identifying our own issues and we know what the possible solutions are, but when our partner does not engage on an emotional level with us, we end up feeling very alone and with the complete opposite of the results we were looking for.

We know there are differences between men and women in the way we see things, the way we communicate, the way society “expects” us to behave, etc.

I just want to caution you not to think that this is only men playing the ‘problem solving’ role it is not only men who always focus on the nail, but women also do it. I don’t know if this is the way the producers of the video intended but as a couples’ therapist, I have to say I have seen this from both sides almost to the same degree. So the behaviour is not gendered specific.

I will tell you more, this doesn’t happen only within the context of a relationship. This happens in many other areas of our lives. For example…have you ever been in a conversation with a co-worker or a friend where you offer someone advice for their problem and they just keep coming up with reasons why they cannot do what you are proposing? It does not matter what you suggest, they somehow, are not able to apply any of the suggestions Well, that is a different kind of ‘nail in the head’ transaction. It is what TA counsellors call the “yes but” game. They probably either do not want you to solve their problem, and they just want to complain, or they need a kind, validating ear, or they might have another kind of emotional need, but we don’t have time to get into it now. Tip: if you get easily frustrated in this case, as the person: “Do you want a solution or are you just venting?”

The bottom line is this…when in you are in a situation like this, focus on the need, on the feeling or the untold desire.  Don’t play games, tell your partner what you really want at that precise moment. This is what in TA we call, ‘acting from the adult ego state.  When you express your needs clearly or try to satisfy the needs of your partner, whatever that is, (i.e. being heard, being validated, receive advice, etc.) what you are doing is creating trust, intimacy and dependency (which is not as bad as you might think), so there you go…now you know better.

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