What A Conversation About My Butt Taught Me About Communicating With Family

I blog a lot about the ways we can improve our communication at work, because frankly, most of my clients come to me for work related issues. But I am just as effective in family and friend related issue too. 

As we are spend more time with our family and friends this time of the year, I wanted to give you a little #holidayhelp on communicating with close family and friends. 

I learned a very important lesson through a conversation about my butt. Don't worry this post is G rated. 

have gained a few pounds over the last 8 months. I was complaining to my husband about my new body when his countenance fell as he washed the dishes. 

When asked what was the problem, he faced me, took a  deep breath, gently grabbed my hands, and said, "It really hurts me to hear you talk about yourself like that. I know you don't like that you've gained weight. But I think you look great." He went on to say some more stuff but I was utterly captivated.

He highlighted a really important lesson we can all remember when dealing with people who are family or as close to us as family.

The lesson I learned from a conversation about my butt?

In personal relationships, sometimes you have to change the way you usually communicate so the importance of your message is received.
Tweet: In personal relationships, you have to change the way you usually communicate so the importance of your message is received. @BraveCommLLC

I was stopped right in my tracks by my husbands comment. Trust me this wasn't the first time we've (more like I've) talked about how upset I am about gaining weight. But this conversation was different for four reasons. 

Reposition yourself to be heard

I was complaining about how much jeans didn't fit. Normally my husband would compliment me after that. I would just brush it off. This time he repositioned himself so that I could really hear him. He didn't toss me a "you look great, babe" over his shoulder as he washed the dishes. He stopped what he was doing. Turned and looked at me. Gently grabbed my hands. Took a deep breath. His body language said "I have something important to day." 

How often do we have something important to say but haphazardly present so its importance gets lost? 

Verbally acknowledge the struggle

During the course of our conversation, he verbally acknowledged the struggle I was having that caused me to speak so negatively about myself. What do I mean by verbally recognize?
Most people will internalize what a person says but never verbally confirm or acknowledge it. Your internal understanding is worthless to the speaker unless you can prove it with your words.

The main issue was the shame I felt. I am a part time fitness instructor. I am licensed and certified to teach a few different formats of group exercise classes. I also used to work for a major weight loss program helping people lose weight. What would my former class or former members say if they found out I gained weight? I was embarrassed that I know exactly what to do to get out of my situation but just wasn't doing it. He verbally acknowledged my shame and embarrassment. He didn't condemn it. He didn't down play it. He didn't hype it. He didn't try to talk me out of my feelings. He just proved, with his words, that he understood.

Speak sincerely

His tone of voice was almost pleading. You gotta understand, my husband is an engineer by degree. Analysis and structure are his bedrock. He speaks matter of factly. For his voice to be be suddenly drenched with emotion was a big deal. He wanted to make a point and he was using his communication tools to do it.

Offer An Alternative Perspective

My husband told me that my negative self talk was hurting him. I never imagined this. It reminded me of the scripture in Ephesians 5: 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies." In essence, he was saying my negative words about myself actually caused him physical pain.

That got my attention! 

I know I shouldn't speak negatively about myself, but my husband's response too it gave me the motivation i needed to really see and thus change my behavior.

When communicating with an intimate relationship, changing your usual method can have a profound impact on your loved one. A emotionless partner might have to show emotion. An emotional partner might have to show calm. A loud partner might have to show quiet. A quiet partner might have to get loud.

A change in your communication habit says "what I am saying is important." and that always gets our attention.

What ways do you have to change your communication style when dealing with family?


  1. Man this is such a great post! (and probably the best title for a blog post I've seen this decade btw :-)). I think so many times, in our relationships and our work, we can fail to invest the mindfulness and energy it takes to be vulnerable and truly empathize with where another person is at.

    The thing I loved most is the point about repostioning. There are occasions when I can fail to do this but I think there's something so meaningful in letting go of what you're doing, what you're busy with, and showing your hearer that they have priority. It can seem like a relatively small gesture but it has such a huge impact, both for you and the other person. Genuine empathy always costs something. And fully connecting with someone always means letting go of something else.

  2. Julia, another great post! I laughed out loud in my office when I read the title. You never know what strange ways you may learn incredible lessons!

    But it sounds like you have a great husband and I'm definitely taking notes on how to approach similar situations with my wife! Thanks for sharing this story!

  3. What a moment! I think it's always amazing when someone we care about shows us how much they do, not only with their words, but also with their emotions. Sounds like he had a profound impact on you.

    I've been fortunate in that my family is very good at communicating what's on our minds in such a way that the other party understands, but I think we could always be a little more open about our feelings.

    Thanks for sharing, Julia.

  4. Ryan, it really did have an impact on me. I was literally arrested for a minute and just listened to him tell how my speech bothered him.

  5. I am glad you laughed out loud! I was feeling playful and yes it was a funny moment. And I thought it was a catchy title. It begs to be read doesn't it? I do have a wonderful husband.

  6. Ha ha ha! Best title of the decade? Well then that deserves an acceptance speech. "I'd like to thank the academy, the pizza, burgers, and fries (or you say chips) that made this post possible." LOL!

    All joking aside, I think his repositioning had the most impact. He changed his usual behavior to make a point. When people do that, shouldn't we make a point to really listen?

    Genuine empathy always costs but the return on the investment is far greater.

  7. Awesome title AND post, Julia! I have to confess that as I started reading this post, I was thinking to myself - "Wow! Wish my husband would do that!" BUT by the time I'd finished reading it, I was definitely saying to myself - "Wow! I gotta be better about doing this!" So much truth in what you wrote here! So much food for thought and inspiration for us all to try harder, be better and love more! Thank you! I needed this!

  8. Aww thanks Marcia. Hey we all could try harder, be better, and love more. I do have a pretty great husband and as much as I hate to admit it, he teaches me, the communication coach, a thing or two about how to really connect with people. But learning comes from all sources doesn't ? LOL!

  9. Lydia Jemmott GibsonDecember 16, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    Well spoken Julia! Working on ensuring my message is received correctly and thinking more positive thoughts are constant goals for me. This article does a great job on addressing both of those issues.

  10. Lydia,
    We are so hard on ourselves and if we are careful it can become a crippling habit. Thanks for chiming in!