The #1 myth about good relationships

I’ve been helping people have the kinds of relationships they want for more than 20 years. And even though I read this advice in almost every article about relationships, I have not found it to be helpful in the real relationships I encounter, including my own.

“Tell them how you feel.”

I hear it everywhere. And I have seen it damage more relationships than I can count.

Why is it bad advice?

Well, actually, it’s only half bad advice.

If you’re feeling appreciative about some aspect of the other person – like their smile or their sense of humour – or grateful for something they’ve done, let ‘er rip! Tell them how you feel and what you’re grateful for.

But that’s not usually what people mean when they say “tell them how you feel”. They’re usually talking about telling the other person something you don’t appreciate about them, or something they’ve done (or not done) that you’re frustrated, angry or hurt about.

What happens when you tell someone that kind of “how you feel”

They are likely to feel hurt, angry, or frustrated right back. They will almost certainly defend themselves. And they are very likely to criticize you.

Nobody wins. And the relationship definitely loses.

Try this instead?

So for one week I invite you not to tell people how you feel when you’re frustrated, angry, or hurt about something they’ve done.

Instead, do something to help clear the negative emotion out of your system first, so you can think more clearly and communicate in a more connecting way. It’s great if you can do something physical (that really helps to clean “negative” chemicals out of your bloodstream so you are less likely to get triggered again.)

And you want it to be very mind-engaging so it distracts you and prevents you from ruminating on what you’re not happy about. Because it takes about 30 minutes from the time you stop thinking about something to when those chemicals have been cleared out of your system.


You could put on some music and dance and sing. I sometimes choose to do vigorous housework like scrubbing the bathtub while singing “I can’t get no satisfaction” to a recording of the Rolling Stones.

Or maybe you’d prefer to go for a walk or a run while you listen to music or a story. Or distract yourself with a good book or your favourite TV show. Even doing some mentally demanding work can be helpful. Until you feel better.

Next week I’ll share something else I find really helpful to get me ready for a genuinely productive discussion about something that bothered me.

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