“Negative feedback loops are really good things. Without them, the bad things keep happening...until it's too late.”
- Deb Roy, director of the MIT Laboratory for Social Machines and the newly appointed director of the interdisciplinary Center for Constructive Communication
It’s hard to hear someone when they tell you they are unhappy with something you’ve done…or not done. And it’s hard to hear a partner tell you that your emotions, or what you just said, hurt. Critiques are common in relationships impacted by ADHD, and they hurt.
What to do? If you just hold your thoughts in, then it eats away at the relationship and pops out as resentment or chronic anger. Yet, if you provide constant negative feedback, that deflates the positive energy the relationship might have.
It’s a balancing act, for sure!
Here are constructive ways to provide feedback so that ‘the bad things don’t keep happening,’ as Roy notes:
Comment on patterns, not individual incidents. That keeps the conversation at a higher level (less likely to spark defensiveness) and also keeps the number of incidents of feedback smaller. “I’ve noticed you’ve had trouble following through on things over the last 2 weeks, can we talk about this?” is more constructive than 7 different critiques about poor follow through
Remember that you need 5 positive comments to offset every 1 negative comment – so seek the positives and speak up about them!
Consider creating a specific time for feedback or issues you are confronting – this frees up the rest of the week to be a critique-free zone
Talk about yourself and your feelings, rather than about something your partner has done
Use ‘soft starts’ and make sure you have your partner’s full attention before getting into the core of what you wish to say
If you know what you are speaking about is a sensitive topic for your partner, consider giving a pre-amble. Something like “I know what I want to talk about is a difficult topic for you, but it’s important to me and I’m hoping you’ll be able to stay open to what I have to say. I am not trying to hurt you – rather, I’m trying to express my feelings.”
These are a few ideas that can help the two of you remain honest with each other, and keep smaller or repetitive issues from becoming big ones.
Because this is such a big issue for so many couples, I also sponsor an Emotions and triggers course for one or both partners. Starting October 14th this is a good way learn how to engage with feedback.
NEWS and EVENTS:
STARTING OCTOBER 14 - Emotions and triggers course - How do you calm emotions that get quickly out of control? How do you keep a partner engaged when triggers lead to avoidance and escape? Don't be held hostage by emotions and triggers.
STARTING OCTOBER 20TH - Need help in your ADHD impacted relationship? The ADHD Effect 8-session live Couples' Seminar has helped many, many couples thrive in healthier, happier relationships. Registration OPEN!Repair your marriage & learn to thrive now!
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For those in marriages impacted by ADHD
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Is your relationship in trouble? Consider my highly acclaimed couples' course: ADHD Effect In-Depth Couples' Seminar - This 8-session phone seminar has helped many couples thrive in healthier, happier relationships. The next live session STARTS October 20, 2021. Registration is now open.