Home > Library > Guest Speaker Chats > Rachel Grant Chat

Survivors and Communication - Chat Transcript

The Pandora's Aquarium chat room welcomed Rachel Grant 7th of November 2012. Rachel holds a master's degree in counseling and works with survivors of trauma, and she spoke to members on different aspects of healing from sexual assault. You can visit Rachel's website at: http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/

Mod 1 : We would once again like to welcome Rachel as a guest speaker in our chat room. Rachel holds a master's degree in counseling and works with survivors of trauma. She has been with on us several occasions and we are pleased she can join us tonight. We will be discussing the topic of communication and how difficult it can be for survivors.

Mod 1:
We would just like to warn people that some of the things discussed could be triggering so if you need to look away from the screen for a few minutes of leave the chat room that's ok.

CoachRachelG: Hi all, Im so happy to be here with you to share some techniques for asking for what we need and communicating our desires clearly.

Before we get into the specific questions that have been submitted, lets first lay some groundwork for our conversation.

The goal of today's chat is to identify what gets in the way of our being able to communicate clearly with others, share ourselves through communication, and ask for what we need.

First, we may not get into communication because we may want to hide or protect ourselves or we think asking for something means to give up control.

Additionally, we might say, Hey, there's a party this weekend, I'm sure you're too busy to go and wouldn't be interested, but I think it will be a lot of fun you should come. We use non-invitations such as this as a defense mechanism to protect our egos and choose for others.

There are many other reasons as well why we avoid communication.

1. What are some of your reasons for not communicating?

Chatter 1 : this is something I struggled with even before I was hurt
Chatter 2 : every time i talk all i do is argue or yell at everyone Posted Image
Chatter 3 : fear that i wont be heard
Chatter 4 : fear
Chatter 5 : I'm afraid that if someone finds out what happened to me, they won't want to talk to me anymore
Chatter 6 : Fear of getting something wrong
Chatter 7 : lack of trust
Chatter 8 : because some just dont want to listen...
Chatter 9: fear of rejection or humiliation
Chatter 10 : fear, shame, guilt,
Chatter 11 fear of seeming weak
Chatter 12 : i feel bad for asking for something because i dont feel i deserve it
Chatter 13 : i struggled with this before i was hurt as well but i also havea disorder...
Chatter 14 : Feeling ashamed of what happened to me
Chatter 15 : I feel as though people will judge what I say and dislike me
Chatter 16 : Judgement
Chatter 17 : same here
Chatter 18 : I've also always felt my coments or statements were useless or unheard
Chatter 19 : I might have to explain or go in to more details than l am prepared to talk out?
Chatter 20 : i felt i would get too dependent if i ever asked for help...even as a kid i never turned to anyone
Chatter 21 : fear of upsetting people and having them go off on me
Chatter 22 : feeling that I will be wrong
Chatter 23 : I feel I will be somehow critisized

CoachRachelG : Thank you everyone. Notice some of the themes?
Fear, rejection, loss of control, being ignored ...
Here's the tricky thing though. Let's say we don't communicate to our partner or friend a need we have.
As a result, the relationship becomes unstable because we will be thinking about the unmet need and feeling frustration or resentment. We may then act out towards our partner/friend with anger, withdrawel, etc.

What is the final outcome: rejection!!

Chatter 1 : they wouldnt know what you wanted

CoachRachelG : So, the first thing I want to bring to the table is that non-communication is not our saving grace. Every harm we imagine will result from communication actually occurs more often as a result of non-communication.

So, let's say you buy this idea, but the feelings are still very strong. That's okay! The other problem we also run into is sometimes just not knowing how to communicate, which adds to the fear and anxiety.
So, the skill I want to share with you today is how to make a clear request and the benefits of doing so.

A clear request has four parts:

1. Get clear about what you want: this is so valuable in that it helps us truly identify and get clear about what we need before we even start to communicate.

Example: I would like to talk by phone; I want to meet in person. I need some help with the kids.
One of the first mistakes we make in communication is that we jump in before getting clear about what we need. This first step is so important, because we often discover that what we would have asked for off the cuff is miles away from what we really need/want when we take the time to explore our desire.

The second step is to get even more specific day, time, how often. Example: I would like to talk by phone once a week on Tuesdays at 12 p.m.

Many times we make extremely vague requests. This leads to lots of trouble.
I had one client who was frustrated with her husband because she had asked him to so a bit more affection towards her and claimed he wasn't doing it. I asked her to reflect on what "bit more affection" meant to her. She decided it meant bringing her flowers. I sent her home to ask her husband what he thought it meant. He replied, "Honey, I've been doing what you asked! I haven't been watching as much football." So, for the past month here he was thinking he was meeting her need and her see was feeling frustrated. She made her clear request and asked for confirmation (which is the third step). She's been happily receiving flowers on a weekly basis for a year now.

2. When you reach the third step to ask for confirmation, a great phrase to use is How does that sound? or Would that work for you?

Finally, the last step is to negotiate.
Based on the persons response, you may need to adjust the details or you may have to hear them say No, I cant do that and not fall into meaning making as a result.
(Meaning making is my way of saying using experiences to reinforced triggers or false beliefs)

: Are there any questions about the four parts of a clear request?

Chatter 1: But what if you know you need something - and they do too - but you aren't sure what?

Chatter 2: how do you deal with the breakdown between step 4 and it actually happening?

Chatter 3 : How do you make yourself ask in the first place

Chatter 4 : what specifically do you mean by asking for confirmation?

Chatter 5 : I have a hard time communicating to my husband. How can I get him to just listen without getting upset with me?

Chatter 6 : and what do you do if you try to communicate but you get stonewalled... the other person refuses to answer?

Chatter 7 : how do you deal with being afraid your request/need isn't important/worthy of their time/attention?

CoachRachelG :
Chatter 1: you mean, you aren't clear about what you need? Then that's your first clear request -- "I'd like to spend some time brainstorming, reflection to see if I can get some clarity about what I need." Then, from those results, start with something and try it out. You may have to go back later and explore further if it turns out that it's not doing the trick.

Chatter 8 : how do you know if you arent being too demanding?

CoachRachelG : Chatter 2: I'll cover that in the benefits of clear requests coming up.

Chatter 9
: finally, what do you do when the person says he/she will do what is asked... but it is just a way to get you to stop asking... when they have no intention of following through with the request?

CoachRachelG :
Chatter 3: start small. Pick one tiny itty bitty thing to ask for. We often try to through ourselves into the deep end of the pool and make requests around our deepest and most intimate desires. If you feel blocked from trusting others, anxiety in asking for support, etc., then you have to develop a tolerance for making requests. To do this, you have to start small.

CoachRachelG :
Chatter 4: make sure that the person is in agreement with your request. Don't just assume that because you asked and it was clear that the answer is yes and the person is on board.

CoachRachelG : Chatter 7: You don't have to believe first, you have to do first. Generally speaking, I teach the opposite. I would want you to spend some time challenging the false beliefs that are there for you that have you believing you're not worth it. But in the case of communication, when we start small and have positive experiences, it actually creates the room to believe that we are worth it.

: Okay, let's turn our attention now to the benefits of making clear requests.

First, when we don't give others the option to hear our requests and respond, we are choosing for them!

so making clear requests stops us from being stingy with ourselves and choosing for others.

As I mentioned earlier, it also helps us get clear about what we really need. And it is a gift to others to give them the full sense of what you need or want. That husband I mentioned earlier was soooo relieved to know exactly what his wife needed. It is a gift, not a burden.

Clear requests help you set boundaries. When you say, "I want to see you only two nights a week" - there you go, you now have a very clear boundary set. When you say, "I'd like to see you less often" then things are way too wiggle and you will likely repeatedly feel pushed around or like you aren't getting what you really need.

Also, clear requests creates a measurable way to gauge if the other person is following through. When you notice the person is not following through, be sure to approach them from a place of curiosity rather than judgment. You can say, We had this agreement, and I noticed you haven't been doing [blank]. I am just wondering what is getting in the way? This creates a safe space for the person to share what obstacles are there for them and hopefully prevents them from becoming defensive and shutting down.

I always encourage my clients to always check their communication first. Did you make a clear request so that the person even has a clue as to what you want? If so, did you get confirmation? and if the person isn't responding, following through, have you circled back around to see what has been getting in the way?

It is so important to check in with the person. Maybe you will need to do some renegotiation. Perhaps they've discovered that going out three nights a week is too much, and instead want to only go out twice.

Finally, the more skillful you become in making clear requests, you will also start to hear when others around you are being vague and ask questions so that you have a very clear understanding of what they are asking for.

The overall outcome is a huge decline in misunderstandings. Bonus outcome is that we don't experience the breakdowns and upsets that lead us into feeling more anger, distrust, shame, guilt or fear.

While we have to give up the belief that others should just "get it", the good news is that, by using clear requests, we get in touch with what we really need and take away the guesswork for the person we are interacting with. Additionally, we can objectively determine if the person is following through or not. If we ask someone to stay in touch, how will we measure that? How will we know if it is happening? If we ask the person to call once a week, that is a concrete, measurable request that can be tracked. This reduces the frustration in communication and allows us to go back to the person to check in on things without it disintegrating into a disagreement about what stay in touch really means.

Okay, with this framework in place, lets now take a look at some of the specific questions you all submitted.

3. My fear about communication is that I won't be heard. When I was younger and tried to tell people they didn't listen. How can I ensure that I am being listened to?

CoachRachelG : We first want to address the underlying fear before talking about how to best communicate. When we have an underlying belief " such as no one will listen to me" we bring that belief into all of our conversations and it can impact the way we experience others.

Even the best listener might be deemed inattentive, because you will be so on guard and looking for this to happen that you may misjudge what is really going on. So, first of all, to get out of this pattern of false beliefs, you have to be open and willing to believe that people really will listen to you.

You can read this blog to learn more about challenging false beliefs: http://rachelgrantco...his-part-1.html

Secondly, what sorts of things occur that cause you to feel listened to?

Chatter 1
: Their actions
Chatter 2: a supportive hug or someone just asking how I'm doing
Chatter 3: people seeming interested, change happening, and that reinforcing me speaking out
Chatter 4: i really like when my therapist summarizes what ive said, it lets me know that he was listening and understands what ive been talking about

CoachRachelG : Good: notice how some of these are on the top level (vague) side and some are a bit more specific?

So now, what kind of clear request could you make of your listener that would communicate your needs/desires?

Chatter 1: you could ask for a hug
Chatter 2: ask for confirmation, ask questions where they have to give a specific answer

CoachRachelG : So for example, chatter 1, when you begin a conversation, you might say, "One of the ways I feel listened to is when I get a hug afterwards. Would you give me a hug when I'm finished sharing this story."

Chatter 3 : could you please clean the dishes after you use them?

Chatter 4: ask them if they understood what you were saying

Chatter 5 : What if my requests are clear, specific, and reasonable, but my partner is just not in agreement? Is it time for couples' counceling?

Chatter 7:
ask them how they feel about what I said

CoachRachelG : Chatter 3: be even more specific "Could you clean the dishes within the same day you use them? within the same hour?"

CoachRachelG :
Chatter 5: yes, if you've checked in on your communication and there hasn't been any meeting of the minds and actions to back it up, then additional support/intervention is likely needed.

CoachRachelG : Okay, let's move on to the next question.

4. I'd really like to work on ways of letting my loved ones know that I need help sometimes because I really struggle reaching out for support. It's not so much that I feel unworthy of support, more that I'm just so used to getting along with things by myself that I'll struggle on for a long time when I could make things much easier for myself by letting people know sooner rather than going it alone for so long. What are some good ways of learning to do this?

CoachRachelG : First, I would give something to read as a resource: http://rachelgrantco...o-it-alone.html

Secondly, the problem of asking for support so often comes down to making a clear request and the reasons why we avoid it.
When it comes to asking for support, we might think we are a burden, certainly may have the belief that we should be able to handle it on our own, or any other number of reasons. If you are finding yourself wanting to ask for support but being afraid to do so, take a step back and find something small, very small, thing that you can start with. Its like putting your toe in the water first. Then develop a clear request.

Let's practice this. What is one small thing that you have been avoiding asking for support in?

Chatter 1: an extra phone call from someone on my treatment team to check in on me on fridays

Chatter 2: When I feel triggered, I need you to sit with me.

Chatter 3: Being allowed to take sick days...

Chatter 4:
needing reassurance that i'm loved...

: Chatter 4: get specific: what could someone do that would feel reassuring?

Chatter 5:
noticing when I am down, maybe just give me a hug

CoachRachelG : Chatter 5: how will the person know if you are down? you might need to communicate this -- don't count on others to just figure out your mood.

Chatter 6: asking my mom to spend time with me

Chatter 7 : needing reassurance that my triggers don't make me "weird"

Chatter 8: specific ways my hubby can help me with coping with the ab*se issues

CoachRachelG : Okay good, some of you are near clear request land and some of you are still in the grey. So, now, everyone try to come up with a clear request for your need or want.

Chatter 1: i would want reassurannce what he thinks of me.....and that im not bad

Chatter 2 : I need you at just hold me for a little bit

CoachRachelG : Try to share it as you would say, "Hey hubby, I've been wanting to ask for you support around coping with the abuse. I am wondering if you would willing to __________"

Chatter 1
: "mom, would you like to go see a movie next friday at night?"

CoachRachelG :
Chatter 2: what is a "a little bit" - 2 secs, 30 minutes?

Chatter 3: When I tell you I'm triggered, I need you to sit with me.

CoachRachelG : Chatter 3: sit where? right next to you? for how long? how will the person know you are triggered?

CoachRachelG :
good Chatter 1

Chatter 4: asking my therapist to call me on fridays at 1:30 to check in on me

CoachRachelG : good Chatter 4

Chatter 5: i need for us to find a couples therapist by the end of november

CoachRachelG: good Chatter 5

Chatter 6: I need this room cleaned by 5:30 because there is a meeting in here tonight

CoachRachelG : Chatter 6: just a little rephrasing, give your reason first: "In order to have the room ready for the meeting, I'd like to request that it be cleaned by 5:30"

Chatter 7 : I want my boyfriend to at least spend a day with me
Chatter 12: what if it's a new relationship how can you ask for these reassurances without seeming "needy"?

Chatter 9 : "Can you please respect my decision if I decide I don't actually want to talk about something and not keep pushing it?"

Chatter 10
: Could you tell me once a week athat i am doing a good job with the children?

CoachRachelG : Okay, good, I think you all are getting the hang of it. It's a clear request storm!! See, y'all got this! I know it is a safe environment here, but begin making clear requests of those who you feel connected to, have formed a trusting relationship with first if you are worried or afraid of taking this skill out into the world

Chatter 11: could you show me at least once a week, that you care about me

CoachRachelG :
Chatter 11: how will he/she show you he/she cares? good job nailing down frequency

CoachRachelG : If you ever need help forming a clear request, you can always run it by me: just email me here or at coach@rachelgrantcoaching.com

CoachRachelG : Okay, let's move on.//

5. Whilst I can talk about some of the things that happened to people I'm close to or who knew me at the time, I'm finding it really hard to break the silence to new people. It kind of feels like I have a battle within myself of being pushed back into being silent and keeping things secret or feeling like a drama queen by talking about this. Can you share anything you've found helpful when talking to newer people?

CoachRachelG : I think the most important thing to remember is that we are always get choice about what we share and with whom. Relationships develop over time and require time, energy, and space to reach certain levels of transparency.

When we first meet someone, we dont necessarily have to share immediately about our experience of abuse. Most importantly, not doing so isn't somehow betraying our story!

This unfortunately is one of the distortions that can happen in relation to the idea of breaking the silence. We end up making ourselves bad or wrong when we choose not to tell our story. When, in fact, recovery is about being able to share your story when and where you want and with him and to what degree.

So, with new people, you might say something like, I was abused when I was younger." and leave it at that. With someone you've gotten to know better you might share more I was abused by my brother when I was 10. Someone you know even better might actually hear a fuller, more detailed account of what happened.

It is healthy and reasonable to not put everything on the table right at the start of a relationship. In fact, this is one mistake survivors often make" they don't allow themselves the right to set boundaries about what they want to share and so end up oversharing , giving too much to someone too soon (which often leads to hurt).

6. Part of being able to communicate is being able to say "the" word but it is often very difficult to say. Can we still have good communication with loved ones and professionals without saying it? Is there a way to make the word easier to say?

: If by the word, you mean rape, molestation, incest, then yes, you can have good communication without saying the word. But, I do believe that you will go further in your recovery once you are able to relate to the experience as your own (part of not saying the word is that it helps keep the experience at a distance arms length" and so we hope, in theory, to not have to really feel the impact of the experience).

Here's one trick to learning to say out loud what happened.

First, say in very short and sweet, to the point what happened. For example, I was raped.

Then, ask yourself, What did I have for breakfast? and answer out loud.

You see, we store all sorts of emotions, beliefs, triggers about rape.

We don't do so when it comes to coffee and a donut.

So, one way to develop a safe relationship to the word is to do this exercise: I was raped, then Coffee and donuts; I was raped, then Coffee and donuts.

I know it sounds a little silly but it really does work!

7. I've always been a people pleaser. I want people to like and respect me so I go out of my way to help but sometimes it feels like I'm being taken advantage of yet I can't say no. How do I let people know that I can't do something or I don't want to do it without upsetting them or them saying that I am being silly?

CoachRachelG : Well, first of all, we can't control the responses of other people. So, there aren't necessarily any magic bullet communication techniques that can guarantee a person won't get upset when you tell them no. However, there are a few things we can do to hopefully increase the chances that the communication can be clear and healthy.

First, communication is very important for setting boundaries. If we are saying yes to things that we really dont want to be doing, then we are not being honest in our communication.

So, first, we need to be very clear about where the lines are that we need to draw and take responsibility for drawing them. When does helping cross over into saying yes when we really mean no ?
Notice that I am putting the responsibility back on us. The other people aren't taking advantage they're only going as far as we will let them!

Secondly, we often feel (particularly as survivors) that we have to justify our choices" especially if we want to say no. Instead of simply saying, No, I'm not available that day. We say, No, I can't. You see I've got a dog and I have to be home every two hours to check on her.

I want to encourage you to begin saying No as if it is a complete sentence. Part of why people get upset is that they think our reasons, justifications aren't valid. So you end up in a twenty minute argument about whether or not the dog really needs to be let out every two hours. Instead, when we communicate clearly and without deflating our reply with justifications, we can avoid this.

Now, someone may ask, Well, why aren' you available , to which we can reply, Because I've made other commitments. If they keep pushing, then it's time to make a clear request of the other person, I have answered your question. I'm not available. So, I'd like to change the subject now.

Yes, people might get upset, but our job is not to be the caretaker of other peoples feelings (I don't mean we be unkind). Our job is to communicate our boundaries and choices clearly and without apology.

Finally, if you find that there is someone who is constantly pushing these boundaries, always asking for the same thing over and over, then it is time to make a clear request about that (My request is that you not ask me to make dinner on Tuesday nights anymore.)

8. I have two children one is a preteen and the other is a teen. I want to talk to them about the dangerous of abuse or rape but I don't want to scare them. I also don't want to tell them about my past but how do I talk to them about staying safe?

CoachRachelG : Given the age of your children, it is best to be straight forward about abuse. There is no need to talk around the subject. You may want to start the conversation by saying that you want to discuss abuse but want to first get a sense of what they [i]already know about abuse.

Then, basically I think there are three key things to touch upon.

You might be surprised at how much they already have picked up from books, TV, media, their friends. So, it is best to get a gauge of what they already know before launching into the topic. You may have to spend some time briefly explaining that people can try to hurt them physically, emotionally, or sexually (we often overlook talking about the first two but they are just as common if not more so than sexual abuse).

They must understand that some people make the choice to harm others, so it is important that they understand first that these things can happen. Knowing that these things happen doesn't have to incite fear. I'm sure they've experienced some sorts of hurts (even if just bullying) by now, so draw upon those experiences in the conversation.

Second, let them know that, if ever anything happens to them that causes them to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, that they should immediately tell you or someone else. Even if the person hurting them says not to, threatens to hurt them or you, they should always tell " no matter what. If the first person they tell doesn't listen, then they should tell someone else.

Finally, find out what questions they have, respond as honestly as possible, and then mark your calendar to revisit the topic every six months. This is not a one-time conversation and by creating a scheduled, reoccurring time when the conversation is had, the girls will get a real sense that it truly is okay to talk about.

CoachRachelG : I am fine with opening the floor if people have unanswered questions. How does that sound? If okay, in order for me not to get lost, could you please only allow one at a time?

Mod 1: Sounds good. If anyone has any additional questions now is the time to ask!

Chatter 1:
If after all the steps of the communication thing you talked about are done, and it's been revisited, but there is still a lack of response or follow through, what do you do?

CoachRachelG : okay, Chatter 1. If you have checked in on your communication, circled back around to the person to make sure first that the request was understood and gotten feedback as to what is getting in the way, renegotiated and still the person is not following through, then the next step is to have a more direct conversation about that. "When we come to an agreement, and ]you don't follow through, it makes me think [I don't matter, I can't count on you, etc.]. I feel [disappointed, scared, angry]. I would like to know if I should not count on you for [blank]

You may ultimately have to accept that that need will not be met by that person. Perhaps you will have to find someone else.

Chatter 2 : How can a survivor of r*pe be less triggered during sex and feel more safe?
CoachRachelG : Chatter 2: please email me at coach@rachelgrantcoaching.com or here on pandys and I will send you some resources

Chatter 3 :
Before when you were talking about setting clear boundaries, and the person still chooses not to listen, how do you tactfully tell them to back off.?

: Chatter 3: Can you say a bit more about the situation?
Chatter 3 : um, im in an abusive relationship, with 2 young children, nothing i ask for seems to seek in, if anything, it makes the situation worse.

CoachRachelG :
I see. Well, this may be a bit too layered for us to approach tonight if your partner is abusive. Clear communication techniques seldom work in relationships where abuse is occurring. If anything, I would suggest first of making sure you have a strong support network around you. Second, focus in on one and only one thing.

One of the mistakes we make in relationships is we bombard our friends, partners, etc. with many many requests. Start small and start with one. When you see progress, change, then try adding on something else.//

Mod 1: Thank you again Rachel for speaking tonight! I hope everyone was able to take something from tonights chat Posted Image

CoachRachelG : Thank you! And thanks to all for sharing so openly. If you had a question that wasn't answered tonight, please feel free to email me. As with all new skills, try it out, be curious, take your time!
Until next time, take care of you!
Mod 2 : Thanks Rachel! I'm sure everyone found it very informative and learned a lot
Mod 2: Thanks for coming everyone Posted Image
Mod 1: Thanks for coming tonight!


If you would like to suggest a topic or speaker for future guest speaker chats, please contact us!