July 19, 2010
Pouting: Everything You Wanted to Know about Pouting: What it is, Why we do it, How to deal with it and How to prevent it.
Here are a couple of situation we've all been through:
Situation One: Husband expresses amorous interest. Wife declines. Husband, in an exaggerated way, abruptly turns over, gives out a sigh and sinks into a loud silence. Situation two : Husband tells wife that he doesn't want to go to her family's birthday party. She responds, "Fine".
These are classic examples of the common but uncomfortable relational phenomenon known as pouting which is today's topic.
1. What is Pouting ?
- Pouting is a emotionally regressed (immature) response to a relational disappointment.
- It is a complex behavior which comes to edge of tears yet also conveys displeasure.
- Pouting is a passive way that anger is expressed.
2. Why Pouting is a problem.
- First, Pouting is not only ineffective but can also exacerbate a difficult situation. Rather than creating sympathy, pouting by the pouter usually results in the other person feeling annoyed and irritated.
- Pouting is a problem since it is an isolating behavior which stops conversation and prevents negotiating a compromise or resolution to a conflict.
- Perhaps worst, Pouting is emotionally manipulative because it arouses feelings of guilt and thus attempts to force the poutee to capitulate to the pouter.
3. Why do we pout ?
- Pouting, is a great example of the fact that humans are not simply rational. Even a powerful executive can act like a child given the right disappointment. Pouting occurs when a person experiences a false and exaggerated sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.
- Pouting happens as a result of having unrealistic expectations about the outcome of a situation or because a contemporary event re-opens old emotional wound.
4. How to deal with a pouter.
- Refuse to be emotionally manipulated, e.g. Shrug -- Don't argue. Don't give in.
- Empathize : The key to dealing with a pouting situation is to understand what the pouter is experiencing, in detail, so that exaggerations and distortions can be identified. i.e. Ask specifically what the "no" meant to the pouter or why it felt so upsetting.
- Reality Test -- Expectations, e.g. Ask questions about his/her assumptions for the situation and what s/he expected to happen, i.e. whether or not the assuptions amd expectations are realistic. (e.g. is she expected to want or have sex every time he does ?)
- Challenge the actual harm done.( e.g. So what if you don't have sex one night.)
- Restore a reasonable perspective, i.e. Nothing terrible has really happened. For example, the rejection is not of person but just sex and not forever, just for right now.
- Provide Reassurance, e.g. Tell him/her that you love him/her and the relationship.
- Look for a Compromise, e.g. Something that you could do to be close which wouldn't involve sex. (How to Negotiate Compromises is a topic we will take up another time.)
5. A better alternative to pouting.
- Discuss your relational expectations in advance, especially regarding sameness and how to handle differences:(It is normal that individuals in a relationship will have real differences and conflicts)
- When disagreements occur, each person's feelings must be respected.
- Have some relational ground rules and agreements regarding how to deal with personal differences and conflicts which result in disappointments e.g. things that are not allowed ... like pouting.
- Keep the conversation going and work toward a compromise with which both persons can feel comfortable.
Many relational problems are the result of the lack of planning and communications about predictable life situations. Couples who can think and talk about how they want to handle difficult situations( like when one partner is in the mood and the other isn't) can avoid the bad feelings created by pouting. Further, couples will discover the deep satisfaction and heightened sense of intimacy that comes from resolving sensitive issues in a mature and caring way.
These remarks were prepared by the Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. for Bridge Street 7 19 2010