Chris WrightChris Wright is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. He sees clients in the Washington, D.C. area and has telephone clients from all over the world. He also has over 35 years of experience as a trainer and workshop leader in human and organizational development across the U.S. and Canada. Chris was founder and director of the Human Relations Institute in Houston, Texas. He was also the Director of PAIRS International -- training psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists in couple’s skills programs. As an innovator in the field, he has developed a unique blend of tools that increase the effectiveness in relationships -- for couples and in the workplace. He has Masters Degrees from the University of Arizona and Antioch University in Los Angeles.
Host: What is the most important element or skill in discussing issues?
Chris Wright: There is a number of different elements as we talked about and I think maybe the most important is, is looking how to share what this is really about, what is really going on, it is the thing, if something really bothers me, if it really matters to me or if there is a lot of emotional tension, then I want to create a context where we share about this, where we interact about this in a heart felt way, in sort of a heart to heart sharing, I do not like to be just off the cuff. So that is why, I remember one of the principles for resolving conflict, had to do with the right time in the right place. So if it really, really matters to me, I want to make sure that we are going to get to a result, so this thing gets handled.
So I usually, have this new discernment about, is this really even though it just happened, is this really the time to bring it up, is this the best place to bring it up, to have the kind of heart felt sharing, that I think it really takes to have the kind of impact on you that would really make for a difference, make for a change. So that becomes important, a lot of the times now when something happens, I bite my tongue and I realize that when we get home tonight or this weekend that will be time for us to sit down and have a heart felt sharing and have so we get some results from this. When I do go to share, for me the whole focus is, I need you to understand what are the pressures, what are the needs, what are the insecurities that are going on inside me, and so I want to share what is this really about, why am I so upset, why am so fragile about this? It does not bother everybody what my partner did, but it really bugs me, so what this really about for me. Mostly people tend to -- it tends to focus on what happened and that maybe insignificant what happened and yet it leads to this whole big thing and many times people can not remember, what it was that triggered that whole thing.
So we have this rule, we call it the Ninety-Ten Rule, the Ninety-Ten rule is that, whenever I get upset, whenever there s tension coming up inside me, 10% of the tension is coming from what just happened. I mean, something did happened, did do something, but that 90% of the tension, is coming from something that you are triggering deep inside me, that is fragile, that is wounded, that is whether it s some emptiness for me, whether it s pressure for me. Those tensions, those feelings are coming up and they are completely being projected onto the current situation, projected onto you. So that is really -- it s really about something deeper than the ten, after all, if I did not have the ninety, I did not have these unresolved feelings inside, a ten would just be a ten, whatever you did would be just what you did and we would want to resolve it. But there would not be all this tension coming up.
So the truth is I am the one with the problem, I am the one with the inflexibility, I am the one with the insecurity that got triggered, but I tend to focus it on you as a deflection, as a way of avoiding, exposing that fragility, that vulnerability. That asks me to propel over you and deflect it kind of ruse that it s your fault, that you are the one with the problem. So the question again is what is this really about, why am I so upset, what is the insecurity that got triggered.
Most people in the interaction don t ever expose that, they do not ever look to discover that, to bring that and put it on the table, instead they just focus on the other person; they either make the other person wrong for being over the top and they maintain being the over the top in what they did or they give their reasons for it, they give reasons that explain why their reality, why what they want is superior or better. But I want to tell you, this is where you get stuck, because your focus is again on the ten, on the current situation and when you upseted me and you are focusing on what I did or the reasons why, I want to tell you when I am looking my world and listen to what you are saying, those reasons do not matter to me, they are not important to me, I do not have the same pressure as you have, I do not have the same needs you have. So when you make a big deal of that and start giving me all these reasons, I look inside and I do not get it, I do not see why it s a big deal. So when you are focusing on reasons, you are not reaching me. For example, remember earlier we talked about an let s say I have a mate, a partner who is a one in the Enneagram, a perfectionist. So she sees there s some crumbs on the counter in the kitchen and she calls me and she is upset and she starts giving me reasons why is it important that there not be crumbs, that there could mice could get in or whatever the reasons she gives me, I want to tell you in my world, those reasons do not matter that much to me. The crumbs are not that big deal to me, I do not have that need for perfection, I am not driven by that to feel whole inside, I am at peace in that area, so when it s 80%, sometimes that is good enough for me.
So my point is that the reasons tend not to they tend to create an argument, because you can argue all different points of you on anything, when you focus on the 10%, on the current event. Now, if you start making me wrong, if you start focusing on me, that I am lazy, that I do not respond you, you know like, again, I look in my world and I think, oh God, I am really trying to raise my bar and here you are in nickel and dimed on me. Again, I just feel like I do not get it and it creates an argument, unnecessarily, we get stuck. So the focus here, the focus here is recognizing that that is a trap. It s a trap to start to see, to express it in a way where the ten is what is really real. What is really going on is there is something underlying it, there is some pressures and some needs. So we train couples, how to focus on that, how to tune to what is this really about for me and share those pressures, share those needs. That is what I have needing to hear and that is what would make sense to me, why this is a big issue. We tend to use sentence stands, sentence stands, for example might be, this is an issue for me because deep inside, I have an insecurity around or the tension is about me because I have this deep need for -- I guess I am particularly sensitive to this, because when you use those sentence stands, they mainly focus you. To start focusing on what is really about inside you, what are these pressures that you are dealing with, what makes it so hard for you? Not that you are wrong, there is no shame in it, it s just now I understand, there is no arguing, ninety s. There is no arguing when you focus on what this is really about for me, how can you argue it, no, I get it what is going on for you, I mean you share it in a heart felt way, in a vulnerable way, it actually shifts me. You are becoming really vulnerable right now, the whole conversation shifts now to, where I start actually feeling empathy, I feel compassion, I feel for you, you are my wife, you are my partner. When you open up and share something, that is heart felt like that, it actually impacts me. Frankly, that is what you are wanting; you are wanting me to get this. You are wanting me to have that kind of impact where I go, Oh my God! That is what it does to you. That is what is going to affect me to change. People do change, but I change because I open up and I get something really profound in the experience that you are going through, because you shared it in a way that allows me in. Instead of focusing on the outer events, you are focusing on what is really going on. So one of then ten or so elements would be, learning how to share in a way, what is really going here and that tends to move it forward. People in this culture tend not to be oriented towards that and then some people do not even realize there is anything inside that could be triggered. So some people would intuitively know how to respond this way, most people I think need to be trained and that is where this sentence stands, these tools, make it automatic, so we immediately go to what s really going on, makes all the difference whenever we are going to share an issue. Lastly, after I share, I want to discover what is going on for you, I would like you to share your ninety s. What are the pressures that you are confronting inside yourself, what are the insecurities, why do you have any difficulty adjusting your bar to meet my need? So that we can understand what is really going on for you as well, so that our solutions then, can take into account what are the real obstacles here that are keeping these needs from being met.