“It’s not about the nail”



(También puedes leer la versión en español de este artículo)

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 misunderstandings, 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 to 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 thing my way” and of course when we say “my way” we mean taking into consideration my story, my experiences and my life script (more on the life script in a future post).

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 this 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 the possible solutions to it, but when our partner does not go “down” to the feeling level with us, we end up feeling very alone and with the complete opposite outcomes to what 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, women do it too. 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 gender specific.

I will tell you more, this doesn’t happen only within a context of a relationship. This happens in many other aspects of our lives. Let me ask you something…have you ever been involved in a conversation where you are trying to tell someone what to do to solve an issue they just told you they are having and they just keep coming up with reason after reason why they cannot do what you or apply any of the suggestions you are giving them? 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 complaint, or a kind validating ear, or they might have other kinds of emotional needs that we don’t have time to get into now.

The bottom line is this…when in a situation like this focus on what is the need of the moment for you and for your partner (also known as the adult ego state) because when you express your needs clearly or try to satisfy the needs of your partner what ever that it is being heard, being validated, receive advice, or whatever) 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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