Communication Skill 2: After the Fact

communcation-2

It is not always possible to think of what to say or do in the moment. Sometimes people are distracted with something or someone else. When people are anxious they often cannot think, so they say or do nothing. Or, they may blurt out something they don’t mean or something that is not even relevant. Sometimes people laugh nervously in situations which are tense which can be awkward or embarrassing, and the laughter is usually misunderstood.

People often do not realize they can clarify or change what they said, what they agreed to, or simply change their minds. They act as if what they said and did was etched in stone. The good new is that it is easy to set things straight by speaking up after the fact.

This communication skill can be used with anyone: family, friends, bosses, co-workers, children, grocery clerks and others.

Examples:

  • a) Parent to child:  You know yesterday when I got upset with you when you told me you’d broken you grandmother’s china plate.  Well, I want you to know that it was great that you told me the truth and did not try to hide it.  It took courage for you to tell me.  I want you to be able to tell me the truth even though it may be hard.
  • b) Employee to Boss:  I told you this morning I’d have the project finished by today, but I want to let you know now I won’t get the information I need until tomorrow afternoon.
  • c) Friend to friend:  Last year we  put this trip together, and I bailed at the last minute.  I’m sorry about doing that.  I want to plan it again this year, and this time for sure I won’t cancel.

 

The After the Fact communication skill is one of the many communication skills that I teach couples. It is a very useful skill that facilitates connection between partners.

Many couples tell me that during a discussion, argument or fight they often cannot think of what to say in the moment but then later, they come up with what they could have or should have said. They find this very frustrating.  For some reason, spouses often think if they missed out saying or doing something in the moment, that nothing can be done. So they do nothing. Often they stew or ruminate about it, but it does not occur to them that they could possibly remedy the situation.  In ongoing relationships it is always possible to bring up an issue later. Later can be minutes, hours, days or even years. This keeps the lines of communication open and strengthens the connection between couples.

Examples:

  • a) A while ago you said… to me. I was surprised and didn’t know what to say. Well, now that I’ve had a chance to think about it…
  • b) You know yesterday when we were talking about… I kind of blurted out… I didn’t mean it. What I wished I’d said to you was…
  • c) I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last week, you know, about you agreeing to take on that 3 months  project overseas. I want to add that I’ve talked to my boss and he is open to letting me pick up extra hours so that we do not feel so strapped for cash. This could be an alternative to you leaving. I want to let you know that it’s important to me that we discuss financial opportunities together before making decisions that affect our family.
  • d) It’s been a month since we had that fight about you not wanting to have my parents over for the holidays. It is still bothering me. Let’s talk about it again.
  • e) When we married, 10 years ago, you said you never wanted to have kids. I want to know if that is still true for you.

When people use the After the Fact communication skill frequently, the time between the incident and the delayed communication tends to shorten. Gradually, the time becomes so short that partners are better able to think of what they want to say or do what they want to do in the moment. It’s not essential to occur in the moment, After the Fact is just fine.

The After the Fact skill is extremely helpful to keep a couple emotionally connected with positive feedback and behaviors.

Examples:

  • a) I really had a good time last night. (One partner to another about making love.)
  • b) You know, last week when we went to the concert I was so focused on getting there on time I didn’t tell you how great you looked.
  • c) The last time my parents were over you treated them really well. I appreciate how welcome you made them feel.

The more you use the After the Fact communication skill, the better you get at it.  This practice helps you become better at saying what you need to say and do, right in the moment.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

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