So many of the questions I receive from partners of sex addicts about communication problems with the addict can easily be addressed and resolved by learning—and using—this simple skill I call The Politician.
Here’s an overview of scenarios where The Politician is your secret weapon.
You make a request of the addict, or you bring up an issue for discussion — we’ll call these Your Talking Points (YTP).
The other person — in this case, the addict:
- Immediately changes the subject (also called a pivot)
- Points the finger back at you (“Yeah, but last week you . . . “)
- Brings up one of your faults or shortcomings
- Says a version of, “I think you’re over-reacting.“
- Completely ignores what you said
One of my clients called these distraction strategies “Hocus Pocus, change the focus!“
In fairness, these strategies may be completely unconscious or just a habit. Most of us have used them when having conversations with our partner about hot-button topics. It’s much more comfortable to focus on what’s wrong with the other person than on our own shortcomings. But even if the diversion strategies are unconscious or unintentional, they’re a distraction, a pivot, and a re-direct from the topic at hand — YTP.
What usually happens next is — becoming derailed by the distraction or diversion of one of the strategies listed above — you become defensive, or you unwittingly veer off YTP and begin responding to the pivot made by the other person.
Examples of how this works:
- You engage in the new conversation raised by the other person as a pivot, and forget YTP
- You say:
- “No I didn’t . . .”
- “No I’m not over-reacting.”
- “Why don’t you ever want to talk about anything important?“
- “What do you mean, I ___________(your shortcoming, fault, etc.)?”
- You get no response, and you simply drop the conversation/topic
Sound familiar? Yes, we’ve all done it!
So here’s where The Politician comes in.
Here are 4 steps for deploying The Politician:
Be very clear—for yourself—exactly what YTPs are. That way, when the conversation starts heading in another direction you’ll recognize it, and be prepared for next steps.
If the other person brings up a legitimate issue about inappropriate, offensive, or otherwise boundary-less behavior on your part, you can say, “I would be glad to talk to you about that at a later time, but right now I want to talk about ______________.” Of course, you can only say this if you’re genuinely willing to have a future conversation.
As soon as you become aware that the conversation has shifted away from YTP, you simply restate them. Even if you get diverted for 5 minutes going down a rabbit hole of defending yourself, or you got lost in unproductive dialogue, you can simply say, “I want to come back to the topic I raised,” or “What I’d like to talk about is ____________.”
If the person you’re talking to tries—again—to pivot, derail, distract or otherwise veer away from YTP say, “I’ll bring this up another time,” or ask “Is there another time that would work better for you to have a conversation about the topic I raised?” Fiercely resist the temptation to engage in any topic that is different than YTP.
I promise, if you learn The Politician and use it to the best of your ability, it will reduce frustration and end unproductive or crazy-making conversations.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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