So you want to improve the way you and your spouse, partner, co-worker or friends at the gym communicate? There probably isn’t anyone anywhere that believes there isn’t room to improve in this most fundamental skill of life. If you disagree, at least do it agreeably ☺.
The very structure of, for example, marriage, includes two people – two different people, often from different backgrounds, sometimes from different faiths or different cultural experiences, even different educational backgrounds, with all kinds of different tastes, styles and dreams.
In this crucible, stirred by the everyday demands of raising children, making a living, keeping up the home and keeping up with the Jones’, driving carpools, shopping and cooking, taking time to work out and catching a few hours of sleep once in awhile…in this hectic crucible, comes the added stress of dealing with each others’ annoying habits. Of course, I’m talking about habits that were not there when you first started dating.
The same can be said for co-workers, friends, neighbors and Starbucks buddies.
So these habits popped up from “nowhere,” only to seemingly upset, annoy and otherwise irritate the living heck out of you. You know which ones I mean, the ones that leave you angry and resentful and at times feeling unappreciated. The very same infuriating habits that lead you to call each other names and continue to go round and round without accomplishing anything when you try to discuss the situation. The very same exasperating habits that lead you to withdraw and ignore your spouse or friend in the hopes that he or she will “know what you are angry and upset about.” Yes, the very same aggravating habits that “make you feel” like a volcano inside getting ready to erupt.
Of course, there is a better solution. You can express your feelings and concerns without blaming, calling names or assassinating your partner's character. Complain but don’t criticize.
How, you wonder? It’s really very straightforward. First, ask yourself what you want to accomplish, and specifically, what you want to accomplish in the conversation you are going to have with your spouse, friend, co-worker or group ex partner at the gym.
One important point to remember, though – if you don't really care about your relationship or you don’t care if you get to a constructive resolution, then simply continue your past negative habits.
If on the other hand you do care for your relationship and want to keep on track advancing in a positive direction then use a very simple pneumonic I discovered recently called the “NAME” statement, designed to address annoying behaviors on the part of others.
The “NAME” statement shows respect for your partner(and yourself) and is very specific. This kind of communication puts the emphasis on what you see and what you feel, not on blame towards the other person. The “NAME” statement is explained below:
N - Name the specific behavior that you find annoying
A - Announce the specific setting … time & place the behavior occurred
M - Mention your reaction & the feeling you aroused inside of yourself
E - Explain and own your feelings
Example without a “NAME” statement: "You're such a slob. You always throw your clothes on the floor and never pick them up."
Rephrased with a “NAME” statement: “When you throw your clothes on the floor after you come home from work and don't pick them up, I feel frustrated and I also feel unappreciated for keeping the house neat."
Example without a “NAME” statement: "You never pay any attention to me. All you do is watch TV and ignore me."
Rephrased with a “NAME” statement: "When you watch TV during dinner I feel left out and sometimes even lonely. I feel ignored and like you don't enjoy my company anymore."
The “NAME” Statement can also be used to give positive feedback to your partner.
Example: "When you hugged and kissed me after you came in the door from work today, I felt so loved and happy." Or "When you suggested we go out to dinner tonight after you came home from work, I felt so appreciated and loved."
If you will start taking responsibility for your own feelings and reactions and stop pointing the finger, calling names or blaming the other person for your feelings you will be a happier person. Your self-esteem will improve and your relationship will improve. Also using a NAME statement to give positive feedback to your partner will bring more satisfaction to yourself and to your relationship.
Recent research confirms that how a conversation is started determines how it will end. If you start by pointing the finger ("You…") or in any other negative way, it will end negatively. If you choose to start positively (Using a “NAME” statement, a "soft start-up" and a soft tone of voice, for example) you are much more likely to have a positive conversation and a satisfactory outcome.
So there you have it. This is a simple, tried and true technique that will certainly enable you and your friend, co-worker or spouse to talk about those grating, disconcerting, and niggling habits in a way that may lead to healthy, positive and genuine resolution. It won’t be easy, so practice, write out your “NAME” statements in advance, and whatever you do, don’t give up.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.

He provides behavior science coaching for sustainable strategic outcomes, in mindful, values driven and positively adaptive ways to business leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, individuals, families and fitness organizations to reach new breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives.

Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa,, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. He travels the world speaking with fitness and health professionals to provide the most current thinking and tools for behavior change.

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff.” He is listed is listed in’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”

Please connect with Michael on Twitter: @FitnessPsych & @DrSanDiego