Water flowers, not weeds. Lavish words of affirmation, and point out any effort, no matter how small, at improvement. Draw attention to four positive behaviors for every one negative behavior.
Me: Computer, I just want you to know how important you are to me. You help me get writing done, and make jokes on the internet, and look up roasting temperatures for various root vegetables! You work hard to keep eleven different tabs open at once, and I really appreciate that. Do you think you could try not closing half the tabs whenever I leave the room?
Computer: Your anti-virus security software is out of date.
Me: Thanks for reminding me, Computer, keep up that good work!
Use, “I feel” rather than “You always” statements, and avoid labeling altogether. Remember, behavior is a process, not an identity.
Me: Computer, when you close my tabs without warning, it makes me feel like you don’t respect me or my work.
Computer: Battery is at 7%. You should plug in charger immediately.
Me: You know, when I am the only one using “I feel” statements, it makes me feel like we are not equally committed to a peaceful, caring, relationship.
Verbally honor and actively respect stated boundaries. Show the other that you are a safe person to whom they can expose their vulnerabilities .
Computer: Shutting down now.
Me: Thank you for sharing that you need time to process all this. That helps me know how to treat you respectfully. I’m going to go make dinner and let you be alone for a while, ok?
Work together to make a concrete plan for reparation, restoration, and future problem solving. Try to ensure everyone’s needs are met.
Me: Computer, how about you re-open the tabs you closed, and I will email them to myself so I don’t have to leave them up? How does that sound to you?
Me: I feel frustrated right now.
Don’t only communicate and come together in conflict situations. Make time to delight in each others’ presence in a neutral way.
Me: Computer, you know what? I don’t need to watch a movie right now. Let’s just sit down and spend some time together. I’m getting a beer, you want one?
Me: I hear you. Gotta know when to take it easy.
Me: This is nice.
Create space for both parties to express their feelings. Remember, if done within the interchange of respect, the expression of feelings like grief or anger need not be a conflict situation or negative behavior.
Me: Here, Computer, I plugged in your charger, because I want you to have everything you need as we work through this together. Do you feel ready to try opening those tabs?
Computer: Searching for connection.
Me: Oh, Computer. I know. I know.