Updated: Sep 18, 2022
Have you tried talking to your man about something he's done wrong or has fail to do and all you know the conversation goes off tangent and the both of you are arguing? Typically a matured emotionally healthy man will listen to your complains, be emphatic, apologise for his mistake and fix the situation. However, for some men who has underdeveloped emotional regulation and response as a result of not meeting critical childhood development milestone while growing up, conversation such as this is extremely daunting for them and it will trigger his Shame response.
Some men and even women become defensive when they are being criticised or told off but the problem is, being defensive never help to solve the problem at hand but only makes it worse.
What is Shame and Shame response?
According to Brene' Brown, " Shame is the intense painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Shame creates feeing of fear, blame and disconnects."
Shame responses is actually a fear and gult based response. It is a self-protection mechanism in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood instigated towards the other person when they feel FEARFUL and under the perception of 'perceived threat' , in order to deflect the feeling and avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
They devise unconsciously a strategy to combat this horrible feeling by using some of the following deflective strategies (listed below) - It is used to distract you from their mistakes and their failing to resolve the issue. This strategy is usually triggered when you confront them about something they have done or had fail to do.
Techniques to deflect gult and shame during arguments
1. Examples of deflective technique:
Here are some examples your man might use to deflect conversation and put the sport-light on you instead.
Trying to Rationalise
2. Shame dumping technique/ Turning the tables:
Another technique he will try is to turn the table on you and instead, trigger your 'shame response' in order to distract you from the real issue. He beliefs that if he can shift the blame to trigger your 'shame response', he can slip out of the sportlight.
Typical Shame dumping technique includes:
Bringing up the past/ Criticising
Pointing out the other person's flaws
Detach yourself from the conversation
When someone is behaving in this manner, the first thing you can do for yourself is to be self-aware and realise your partner or whomever you are having the conversation is feeling fearful and feels as though he is under a 'perceive threat' - even though in reality he is not.
It is not your fault, and it has to do with his perception.
When he tries to shift the focus on to you, simply take a step back and mirror to them what they are ACTUALLY SAYING instead of getting sucked into their 'Shame Response' and arguing. NEVER react and get angry - that is exactly what they want. They want you to take the bait and distract you, deflect , derail the situation and get someone else to be the ‘fallen man’ so they can slip out of the sportlight.
Examples of responding to your partner:
"So, what I hear you say is, there's no problem here and walking around the house with muddy shoes is acceptable. Is that right?"
"Yes! You are overreacting!"
"I understand you feel it’s acceptable to have the house full of mud but it doesn't work for me. Could you please help by taking the mop right now and clean the floor. It will make me feel happier and I’d appreciate it.”
Some men may not like this and he may react in anger, ( especially if he has been raised in a family where his mother have been doing everything for him and expect you to do the same) but stay on your guns, do not back off and do not feel guilty for stating your standards and most importantly enforcing your boundaries. DO NOT DO IT FOR HIM!!
The 4 steps to defuse argument from the above example:
1. Defuse the escalation by reflecting what he is ACTUALLY saying ( behind the shame response)
2. Acknowledge and Validate what he says - even though you may disagree
3. Assert your boundaries (without any blame, criticism, contempt..etc)
4. Reward him with appreciation if he completes the task
You are probably thinking, "Shouldn't he be able to do what he is supposed to do without having me go through these steps?" You are absolutely right. Unfortunately, the nature of humans is of imperfection and unless (like i've mention earlier) he has sufficiently developed his emotional regulation, he will not know how to deal with feelings of shame and guilty. Therefore it's up to us to create a safe environment and respond in a manner that will instil the results we want from the people around us. (without any blame, criticism, guilt..etc)
You will need to respond to him in this manner repeatedly to get the message across that you are this awesome lady who has the inner strength to regulate your own emotion, create a safe psychological environment and enforce your standards/ boundaries. You will not be baited with his blames and allow him to get away with his poor behaviour towards you.
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Pro tip # 1: Many people have the tendency of using the blame game, victimisation and excuses in a situation where they feel they have failed/ under attack. So it is important that you understand the desire for most people to cover up their mistakes even though it is in the expense of others around them unless they have been trained to eliminate their false core beliefs about themselves.
Pro tip # 2: Use the words "can you help me" and "I feel". It triggers men's' innate desire to soothe your pain and come to your rescue.
*If you are experiencing verbal, emotional, financial abuse and other forms of domestic abuse from your partner, this advise may not suitable for you. Please seek assistance from a Domestic Violence social worker to get the support you need.