Delores and Bart have worked hard to overcome these differences in interpretations of Delores’ anger. Delores suggests that he is getting better at understanding her anger:

Delores: like, the other night, when I was trying to get the defuser on the hair dryer and I was [growling] and you just . . .
Bart: I just watch her do her things and make some suggestions . . .
Delores: I think you’re getting better at dealing with that.
Bart: Well, sometimes it seems a little less personal. It seems a little less directed at me. That was some¬thing that was very obviously directed at the hair dryer, and it was apparent you weren’t angry at me.
Delores: That’s something you do . . . tend to do quite a bit, is when I’m angry.
Bart: I take it personally . . .
Delores: You take it personally and you shouldn’t.
Bart: I’ve come to understand that is the way Delores communicates . . ‘
Delores; But I’ve taken on some of your style too. Like when I go home and I’m around my mother and my sister. God, they seem so loud . . .
Bart: But you were as loud or louder years ago you were spunkier than them both combined.

Until recently, Delores’s anger, though not actually directed at Bart, was interpreted by him in a personal manner (in part because anger in his own family was often disguised and expressed indirectly). He reacted by becoming defensive and often sarcastic. This, in turn, provoked Delores toward further anger, this time truly directed at Bart. The conflict escalated, each seeing the other as being responsible for starting and fueling the fire.

Delores and Bart are able to escape this angry embrace in part because they have developed the ability to communicate with one another about their communication (meta- communication). These have been difficult skills to acquire. Early in their relationship, Delores and Bart’s differing backgrounds and styles of communication caused them some major discomfort. Delores recollects that:

Especially when we were first married, we used to just go to opposite ends of the spectrum. Bart would just completely clam up and say, “I’m fine, everything is fine” and I’d be just screaming my head off, saying “No, it’s not, goddammit!” We got to kind of a crisis situation, where we were just fighting all the time and I came home one day and said, “I think we better go see somebody.


Share this:

About the Author

Avatar photo

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

View all posts by William Bergquist

Leave a Reply