This worksheet will help you to practice changing unhelpful Crossovers into more skilled talking. Your coach will review your work here and give you feedback.
There is a simple mantra for how to avoid Crossovers:
Talk about yourself. Ask about the other. The best questions start with How or What.
Hone Your Skills
This drill is designed to attune your ear to Crossovers. As you read Dan and Jane's conversations, think about how they probably feel as they receive Crossovers as opposed to comments that respect the boundaries between them.
- Dan: Jane, you think you know all these marriage skills without practicing. You need to practice more. You'll be surprised how much you don't know.
- Jane: Hey, You don't know most of these skills either!
- Dan: I feel determined to work on the Power of Two workbook every evening we're home until I finish the book. I really want to master the skills, so I feel like I'm the best marriage partner I can be.
- Jane: Lately I have just been too busy to study, but I also do want to learn the skills. What have you found most helpful?
- Jane: You press the snooze button too much. It's so annoying. And you don't even care how much it bothers me.
- Dan: I can't seem to get up without it.
Talk in I-statements or Ask Questions
The first way to avoid Crossovers is to talk about yourself. We call this Insight, because you're looking INside yourself. Insight involves talking about yourself with I-statments. Help Dan & Jane in the following situations by converting their Crossovers into I-statements.
Offer I-statements, saying your thoughts or feelings: "I feel panicky when your snooze alarm keeps waking me because I'm afraid I won't be able to get back to sleep."
Example: The house desperately needs repairs. Dan realizes they will need a handyman.
- Crossover: Jane, you should call a handyman tomorrow.
- I-statement: I would like to decide which of us is going to call the handyman.
1. Jane is concerned when she sees the front door was left unlocked.
Crossover: You left the door unlocked.
2. Jane is getting hungry and wants to sit down to dinner with Dan.
Crossover: You must be hungry. You really need to eat now.
3. Dan wonders if Jane has been grumpy because her back is hurting again.
Crossover: You seem grumpy. Your back must be hurting.
Ask How or What?
Help Dan & Jane convert their Crossovers to questions. Asking questions invites a spouse to express his or her own thoughts and feelings. Remember that open-ended How or What questions work the best.
How and What questions lead to deeper understand of your spouse's thoughts and feelings. These questions convey that you care and invite intimate sharing.
Example: Dan fears that Jane will get lost driving home.
- Crossover: You have no idea how to get home, do you?
- How/What: What route are you planning to take? How do you feel about finding your way home?
1. Jane really likes the new minister at church. She assumes Dan does too.
Crossover: You must have loved the sermon today.
2. Dan sees a frown on Jane's face.
Crossover: You look mad at me.
3. Jane wonders if Dan feels lonely with no friends here yet.
Crossover: You're probably feeling lonely with no friends here yet.
The word We is often a poorly disguised Crossover. Couples sometimes confuse themselves and each other with the innocent-sounding pronoun we.
We-talk is fine if you are talking about shared actions. For describing something the two of you did, are doing, or will do together, using we refers to observable actions and makes sense. When you are referring to thoughts or feelings, however, we blurs the boundaries between you and your spouse.
Practice clarifying the boundaries in each of the following We-talk examples. Convert We-talk to an I-statement plus a How or What question.
1. Jane is loving the food she's eating at a restaurant with Dan.
We-Talk: We sure are enjoying a great meal at this new restaurant.
2. Dan is frustrated that he and Jane have argued over something seemingly insignificant.
We-Talk: We need to learn to stop bickering.
3. Jane is dreading having to rearrange the living room, as she and Dan had planned.
We-Talk: We are getting too tired to move furniture tonight.
Give Feedback with "When You"
Sometimes, it's important to refer to something your spouse did in order to explain your reaction. Give feedback in situations like these with when you.
Use the words when you to pinpoint the problem moment: "When your snoring woke me up last night..."
Use the word I to switch the focus off your spouse and onto your own reaction. That way, the main thrust of the sentence gives feedback about your experience, rather than criticism of your spouse: "When your snoring woke me up last night, I had a really hard time falling back asleep."
These two elements can be pieced together in either order, with either one or the other following: "I couldn't fall back asleep when your snoring woke me last night."
Finish the when you statement with "I felt" and "I" in each of the following examples. Whatever the order, the two pieces work together to give feedback without sounding attacking or critical. Read the sentences aloud to become accustomed to the when you/I pairing.
When you brought unexpected dinner guests, I felt...
When you interrupted me, I...
When you left today before I woke up, I felt...