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Stop is one of the most underutilized four letter words in the English language

Caucasian man holding hand up as a stop signal
Image credit: photo by Zan Ilic on Unsplash.

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Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of someone’s tirade while sitting in your living room, the board room, or at a family gathering? Have you found yourself screaming in your mind, “stop”, yet the word is stuck in your throat and you cannot even imagine saying it out loud?

 Well, guess what? This is just what I’m encouraging you to do. It really is okay, and actually emotionally healthy to say, “stop” if we are feeling that someone is speaking to us in a way that feels uncomfortable or is unacceptable.

Don’t Only Yield to The Needs of Others

As an emotionally healthy adult, it is our responsibility to teach people how we want to be treated. We cannot assume that the other person knows how we are feeling, or if something is upsetting us. In part, this means if someone says or does something that is not okay with us, then we need and deserve to say, “stop.” 

 This can be done in a non-aggressive and healthy manner

  • Don’t shout, speak in a calm, yet firm voice.
  • Be mindful of your tone of voice and body language.
  • Use “I” instead of “You” statements.
  • Your response may sound something like this, “Please stop. I need you to stop.”

Developing Acceptable Signals & Healthy Boundaries

I encourage the individuals and couples that we work with in our psychotherapy practice to establish guidelines around how they want to be treated by the people in their life. The time to have this discussion is when both individuals are in “neutral”.

When there is no emerging issue, or current conflict for either person. This is a healthy way of discussing how each person wants to be treated. When both people agree to this, healthier interactions tend to take place.

The focus of the discussion is utilizing a very specific and individualized method of setting emotional boundaries. What works for one person, may not be satisfactory for the other. Therefore, it’s important to determine what each person is comfortable with in their communication with each other.

Boundaries serve as a reminder that there are two distinct people in the relationship with their own perspectives, needs, feelings, and interests. 

Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC and relationship expert.

Many may prefer that the other not put their hand up, or use assertive body language, to interrupt while communicating. Hence why it’s important to come up with the words, and acceptable signals, beforehand.

This way both people are comfortable with what’s established so that’s part of the agreement. This discussion, and new communication method, is planned and processed in advance, so this becomes the new normal.

Say Stop—to the Ones You Love

One of the guidelines that we talk about is making an agreement with our partner, friend, parent, adult child, or other family member, in which that if something is happening within an interaction that does not feel good then we say “stop” and the other person agrees to do so.

Whether it is an adult child and father or mother, a partner, or a friend or loved one, in which there are struggles in communication, utilizing the “stop” method could help improve the relationship. It can let each person know what to expect, and what is expected of them in the exchange, and set them on the road to a more harmonious relationship.

How to Utilize the Stop Guidelines:

  • During the discussion and developing agreement phase, the two people talk about when they say, “stop” that they only have to say it once.
    • What can we do? How can we say it the first time? If that’s not honored what do we do?
  • However, if it is a charged situation and saying it once doesn’t work, they say it one more time.
    • How do we say it the second time? “I just asked you to stop and you agreed to do that.”
  • If the other person doesn’t stop, then they come up with a plan together of what to do when just saying the word doesn’t work.
    • If that doesn’t work, what do we do? Do we agree that then we walk out of the room?
  • If there is an important issue on the table, then part of the agreement is to return to the discussion when emotions are not as intense to continue with a healthy conversation.

For each of us the plan might be different. For some of us it might be okay to use body language, such as putting our hand up to signal the other to stop.

We would discuss if this method feels okay with the other. If it does not, then another method is chosen until we reach a satisfactory agreement for both on what words, or actions, will be utilized in our new communication method.

The Road to Empowerment Has Stop Signs

The stop method can be utilized by those of us who have ongoing communication difficulties with certain individuals in our life, or just to enhance current relationships. To know if we’re not comfortable with a situation that we can say something, and that it can make a difference, is very empowering.

If you struggle with communication issues in your relationship, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist and/or marriage counselor at Nassau Guidance & Counseling located on Long Island can help.

We can assist you with establishing individual methods of setting boundaries to develop effective communication and improve your emotional health.

Our licensed therapists have helped many people find the courage to express themselves in a healthy manner and nurture more honest and open relationships.

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