Guest Post By Lesley Pyne
You can’t have children; maybe you tried and it didn’t happen or you’re childless by circumstance or choice.
You’ve told friends and family but they won’t stop mentioning it.
They either keep telling you ‘miracle’ baby stories or they say things like, ‘Just relax and it will happen’, ‘You’d be a great mother” or “You’ll change your mind later” or something else equally hurtful which makes you want to either get angry or cry.
You wish you could have that once-and-for-all conversation, but you don’t know what to say without being rude, defensive or hurtful.
You’re tempted to just come out and bluntly say something like, ‘Stop saying things like that or I’ll scream’ and you know that if you did, the conversation would spiral rapidly downwards, you’d both get angry and that could be the end of your relationship. And you don’t want that.
I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and I kept silent many times because I didn’t know what to say. Instead, I now have an alternative four-step strategy that, if you follow it, will stop the other person from saying hurtful things and strengthen your relationship.
I’d like to start by asking you to imagine you’re in the other person’s shoes. I know this might seem odd because you’re the one who’s hurting, but please bear with me; it does make sense. You know that the other person cares about you and;
- They don’t know what to say and they want to help. If they knew how much they were hurting you, they wouldn’t say it, would they?
- They’re doing the best they can and if they had more information (like how much it hurts), they’d make a different choice.
Next, you’ll have a conversation with the intention of letting them know how much their words hurt and how they can help instead.
When I’ve used these assumptions, I’ve found that the conversations have worked well. As soon as the other person knew how much they were hurting me, they changed their behavior. At times when it was too difficult for me or I was likely to get too emotional, my husband had the conversation on my behalf.
Here’s how to do it in four steps:
1. Start your conversation with positive I statements – for example ‘I know you love me, I know you want the best for me, I value our friendship’.
2. And when you … (whatever they say or do).
3. It …. (explain how it hurts you),
4. And … (what you would like them to say or do )
Here are three examples:
‘I know you love me and want the best for me and want to help, but when you tell ‘miracle baby’ stories, it’s really hurtful because it reminds me of what I can’t have. It would be more helpful if we could please talk about something else. Let’s leave that subject alone.’
‘I really value our friendship and I want to spend time with you, but when you talk about your baby, it’s really difficult for me because it reminds me how much I’d love to be in your shoes. So, I would really appreciate it if we could please talk about other subjects more often.’
‘I really want to spend time with you, and I know my choices are hard for you to understand, but when you continue to ask questions, it’s very stressful for me because I want to put it in the past and get on with my life. I would really appreciate it if you could respect my choice, please, and not mention it when we meet. ‘
And, a few things to bear in mind:
- You’ll need to practice to get the wording right, maybe at home in front of the mirror or with someone who’ll be supportive. It may feel awkward at first, and you may need to experiment with different words that feel and sound right for you.
- Think about how the other person might respond, and be prepared. It’s possible they may feel guilty, and you’ll need to manage that by saying something like ‘It’s OK; I know you wanted to help and wanted the best for me’, etc.
- You’ll want to choose when to have the conversation, maybe set aside a specific time, or call them, whatever is right for you.
- Use AND, not BUT. When you say “but”, it negates everything you say before it. (As ‘I like that but I…’ really means that you don’t like it). Pause, or say to give each part of your statement equal weight.
What if I do this and they still carry on hurting me?
The reality is, this could happen. If it does, then you can assume they don’t have your best interest at heart. At that point, the best thing would be to re-evaluate your relationship. And if you can’t (close family members, for example), and your only option is to put up with it, then remember you can’t control what other people say, but you can control how you react. It might not always seem like that, but I assure you that it is the case, and when you realize this, it’s liberating.
This great quote from Viktor Frankl sums it all up:
How will you put this into practice?
Londoner Lesley Pyne supports childless women to heal and to create a life they love. She went through “too many” unsuccessful cycles of IVF and now uses her first-hand experience and professional skills in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and timeline techniques to help other childless women.