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Psychologists Explain How to Stay Calm In An Argument

“Conflict wreaks havoc on our brains. We are groomed by evolution to protect ourselves whenever we sense a threat. In our (world), we don’t fight like a badger with a coyote, or run away like a rabbit from a fox. But our basic impulse to protect ourselves is automatic and unconscious.” – Diane Musho-Hamilton

Emotional intelligence (“E.I.”) is defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” A low E.I. generally leads to an inability to stay calm, resulting in more conflict, while a high E.I. leads to less conflict and an ability to stay calm under pressure

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Even the coolest, calmest, and the most collected person in the room will experience some degree of interpersonal turmoil at some point. In most cases, people don’t have any control over what happens next.

The only aspect of a conflict we can control is how we react. This isn’t to say that overriding this “automatic and unconscious” process is easy; it’s not.

But we can learn to recognize, acknowledge, and manage our negative emotions. We can override, to some degree, this innate physiological response.

We can learn to stay calm during any conflict, including in the midst of an argument.

HERE’S HOW:

1. TAKE DEEP BREATHS

Why: The ability to remain relaxed and centered during a conflict depends on your ability to de-tense the body. Shallow breathing is the body’s innate response when confronted with stress. Quashing this natural response and practicing deep breathing instead helps the body to remain calm.

How: Deeply inhale through the nose before slowly exhaling through the mouth. Smooth, deep breaths will cease the production of two stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol.

2. CONCENTRATE ON YOUR BODY

Why: Concentrating on any physical sensations that arise in a conflict permits you to mindfully change them. When your focus switches to the body, you can feel the tension, shallow breathing, etc. that accompanies stress.

How: When you notice your body beginning to tense, return your posture to a neutral state by relaxing your shoulders and hands. This open position communicates positivity using body language – and often diffuses conflict.

3. ACTIVELY LISTEN

Why: A person will initiate an argument, or some other kind of conflict, if they feel they’re not being heard. Furthermore, it’s impossible to diffuse a conflict without attentive and active listening.

How: When someone is talking, focus all of your attention on what the person says. Ignore any thoughts of constructing a response. Once the person finishes speaking, you have the necessary information to respond intelligently.

4. ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

Why: Open-ended questions are invaluable in conflict resolution. First, open-ended questions demonstrate that you are attentively listening. Second, these type of questions show respect for the person by allowing them to articulate their thoughts.

How: Learning to ask open-ended questions can be a bit tricky for some people. The easiest way to avoid asking “Yes” or “No” questions is not to use the words “Do,” “Don’t,” “Did,” and “Didn’t” when asking a question. Instead, use the words “What,” “Why,” “When,” and “How.” Try it now. Notice the difference?

5. KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN

Why: The easiest way to escalate conflict is raising your voice. On the flip side, one of the easiest ways to diffuse conflict is lowering your voice. Voice level is also linked to blood pressure. When BP reaches a certain point, it becomes more difficult to understand what’s being communicated.

How: The first step is to diffuse the initial anger of the other person. You can’t do this by raising your voice. On the other hand, you can quickly impart a sense of calm by making the conscious decision to lower your voice.

6. AGREE TO DISAGREE

Why: Not every conflict will produce amicable or mutually agreeable results. However, you can avoid deepening the conflict by politely disengaging from the conversation.

How: One law of interpersonal conflict is that it takes two participants. Separating yourself from an argument is appropriate under one of two circumstances: (1) the person becomes increasingly hostile, or (2) the conversation, despite your best efforts, is not going anywhere.

In closing, unless you happen to be a self-awareness guru, you will become angry in an argument at some point. Human beings are emotional creatures – and this ability to feel can be used to either our advantage or our detriment. It’s also important to forgive yourself if you should act in an unbecoming manner. We all do – and anyone who says otherwise is either a fool, a liar, or both.

By following one or more of the six tips given, you will assuredly feel more confident in any conflict. As a result, you’ll use your emotions and self-regulation to your benefit. Doing so, you will gain the trust and confidence of people in your good and even temperament.

To our non-argumentative better selves!

REFERENCES:
HTTP://WWW.NOTEY.COM/@HUBSPOTMKTGBLOG_UNOFFICIAL/EXTERNAL/8558555/HOW-TO-CALM-YOUR-BRAIN-DURING-CONFLICT-INFOGRAPHIC.HTML?UTM_CONTENT=BUFFER8E58E&UTM_MEDIUM=SOCIAL&UTM_SOURCE=PINTEREST.COM&UTM_CAMPAIGN=BUFFER
HTTPS://HBR.ORG/2015/12/CALMING-YOUR-BRAIN-DURING-CONFLICT
HTTPS://WWW.PINTEREST.COM/PIN/324751823116339269/
HTTPS://WWW.PSYCHOLOGYTODAY.COM/BASICS/EMOTIONAL-INTELLIGENCE

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A Simple Tool That Will Improve Your Relationships

Whether you’re a friend, a partner, an employee, a boss, a world leader, or a parent, you will inevitably encounter communication challenges at some point in your relationships.

And there is one simple tool that will produce radical changes when you implement and practice it. It’s psych 101. It’s the first modality I learned as a graduate student in counseling psychology almost 20 years ago. It’s basic information that we all instinctually know yet easily forget because we’re not encouraged to practice it.

The tool is called active listening. In a nutshell, it’s validating emotions without offering solutions.

I’ll give you an example from my life as a parent:

My kids are screaming at each other.

“He won’t stop scratching the back of my chair! I asked him to please stop and he’s still doing it,” my nine year-old yells about his four year-old brother’s behavior.

“I DON’T WANT TO STOP!” my emotionally expressive four year-old screams in his favorite volume: extra loud.

We’re on vacation, trying to enjoy a peaceful morning in the snowy mountains, but as anyone with more than one child knows, the best-laid plans come to a screeching halt when siblings begin their rivalry.

My husband and I look at each quickly and then act. “It sounds like you’re both really angry. And it sounds like you both need to cool off.”

“I’M NOT ANGRY! I’M SAD!” my four year-old corrects me.

“Oh, you’re sad. Yes, I can see that you’re sad.”

Listening

My first impulse was to jump in and try to appeal to their logic. Except my four-year old’s prefrontal cortex has been activated and there are simply no rational neurons firing in his brain during these times. (And, by the way, you don’t have to be four years old to spiral into a non-rational state; it happens to everyone when they’re triggered into emotional reactivity.)

My next impulse was to try to offer solutions. But when you offer solutions, you rob the person who’s struggling of their ability to find their own solutions. On the other hand, when you reflect what you’re hearing you’re saying, “I trust you to find your own answers. I trust you to work this out in the way that feels best for you.”

There’s a small miracle that occurs when you say less, listen more, and allow room for a quiet space to exist. In that quiet space, the creative wheels start churning and something wise comes to meet the situation. I’m endlessly amazed at what happens when I observe, describe, and then shut my mouth. Sometimes it feels like reining in a stampede of wild horses, but when I can contain my habitual desire to fix and repair, the results are empowering for everyone.

The same is true in situation with friends, partners, and family members. You may think that your partner is asking you to solve his problem when he begins Saturday morning with, “I don’t have a enough time! I work all week and then take care of the kids on the weekend so you can take a class,” but what he’s likely wanting is a simple, “That sounds really frustrating.” There’s certainly a time and place for creative problem-solving, but the creativity flows a lot more fluidly when there’s a shared foundation of empathy.

Just listen. Reflect. Hear with your whole heart. It’s what we all deeply want, and if you start to practice this simple tool you’ll begin to see dramatic and positive changes in all of your relationships.

by Sheryl Paul             February 17, 2014

 


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How to Argue the Right Way

Everyone knows just how taxing a fight with a loved one can be on us emotionally. But new science is showing just how bad arguing is for our physical health. A 20-year study from the University of California, Berkeley, has started to pinpoint some of the negative long-term health effects of arguing. Researchers found that while “outbursts of anger predict cardiovascular problems… shutting down emotionally or ‘stonewalling’ during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles.” These findings come just a couple years after a Dutch study concluded that frequent arguing can lead to premature death. Even though it may feel like arguing is just a part of life, the way we react to conflict and choose to communicate at these stressful moments is actually a matter of life and death.

Fortunately, there are a few very important, highly effective practices we can implement in order to not feel overwhelmed when a conflict arises. All of these practices involve getting to know ourselves and our partner better. When we understand the specific patterns and behaviors that cause us to fly off the handle or completely shut down, we can learn to take pause and take more control over our actions and reactions. We can avoid building cases against our partner and start living more mindfully, thereby removing some of the drama and intensity from our arguments and communication. Here are five key tips for arguing the right way:

1. Be mindful

Practicing mindfulness can help in almost any situation in which we feel triggered emotionally. Mindfulness teaches us to slow down in the moment. Although, this is most challenging in those instances when we’re provoked, it’s essential that we take pause and avoid reacting out of conditioned responses. Instead, we can take a breath (or take a walk or count to 10) in order to calm down, so we can pay attention to what’s going on inside us. When we name the feelings we’re having, we help tame them. Rather than lashing out or ruminating on our thoughts, we can notice that we feel angry or hurt without judgment or justification.

Once we’re in a calmer state, we can choose our responses based on the outcome we desire. As Dr. Pat Love puts it, we can feel the feeling but do the right thing. In addition, practicing patience and compassion toward ourselves helps us do the same with our partner. When we’re operating from a mindful place, we’re better able to tune in to our partner and see the situation from his or her unique perspective.

2. Be open to being wrong

In every relationship, it’s mutually beneficial to be open to the possibility that our perception isn’t necessarily right or wrong but just different. For example, if your partner didn’t call you while he or she was away on a short business trip, you may feel hurt. You may then start to tell yourself stories about why he/she didn’t call. You’ll start to listen to a negative inner dialogue or “critical inner voice” coaching you about what’s going on. “She’s tired of you! She’s happy to get away.” Or, “He doesn’t even think about you. He’s so inconsiderate.” By the time your partner comes home, you may be ready for a fight. However, your partner’s experience is likely very different from yours.

When you attack your partner for everything you’ve been imagining, he or she will most likely retaliate, accusing you of being ridiculous, too sensitive, or needy. Unfortunately, a confrontation in which neither person is willing to hear out and empathize with the other tends to have a snowball effect. If instead you own your reactions and present your feelings without blame or righteousness, your partner is more likely to be able to take in your experience and empathize with your feelings.  You can then be open to hearing their experience and seeing how it looked from their perspective.

shouting
whoever shouts loudest, wins

3. Consider why you’re triggered

When something triggers us emotionally, our brains are often flooded with cortisol making us more likely to lash out. If we take a mindful approach to our responses, we can reflect on the sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that we were having in the moment in which we were triggered. For example, if you were to feel extremely pained by your partner’s lack of communication on his or her trip, there may be more to that feeling than just the hurt or disappointment you felt when he or she failed to call you.

Our emotions tend to be heightened when we’re triggered, often because an event from our present provokes feelings from our past. If you felt abandoned or forgotten early in your life, you may have a tendency to react strongly to any perceived rejection in the present. The same goes for your partner. If he or she had to deal with a parent or caretaker who was erratic or temperamental, he or she may grow up feeling on the defense. He or she may react negatively to feedback when there’s a lot of emotion involved.

When we can get ahold of our triggers, and reflect on the early roots of our strong emotional reactions, we can have a clearer perspective on our interactions and react more appropriately in our current lives.

4. Listen to Your Partner

As most of us know, dynamics like these can play out in countless ways, which is why it’s so important to really get to know ourselves and our partner on a deeper level. We can start by understanding why we get triggered and be more sensitive in our communication. To do this, we have to stop making a case and just look at our partner as the person they he or she really is. That means hearing our partner out when he or she has something to say. It means not putting words into our partner’s mouth or assuming what he or she thinks.

When we think we can “mind read,” we tend to pile a lot of our own projections onto what we perceive to be reality. We may assume certain behaviors carry certain meanings that are way off. For instance, you may attribute your partner not calling you to a lack of caring. You may assume you don’t mean much to him or her or imagine that he or she is losing interest. You may worry yourself with thoughts that he or she has met someone else. Without realizing it, we often project our worst fears onto our loved ones, and then react to them as if we know exactly what’s going on in their heads.

Instead of making assumptions, we should approach our loved ones face-to-face and ask them to share their experience. As we listen, we have to remember that our partner is a separate person with a sovereign mind, so it’s likely that his or her perception of the situation won’t match ours exactly. Instead of focusing on any flaws in the communication, we can look for the kernels of truth in what our partner says to us. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, but it does benefit us to try and imagine why our partner perceived it that way. When we stay calm and open-minded within ourselves, we create a safe space for our partner to be able to open up and be honest about his or her experience.

5. Keep calm and tell your story

When we really listen to our partner, communicating both curiosity and empathy, the other person tends to soften and feel more open to us. We can then tell our story, making sure to own our experience by describing it without laying blame. Instead of saying, “You didn’t even reach out to me once. You made me feel like I don’t even matter. You don’t seem to care about me. My whole week was ruined” you could say, “When I didn’t hear from you, I noticed myself feeling less confident. I don’t know how you felt, but I was disappointed not to connect.” Pay attention to what you communicate, not just in the words you say, but your body language and tone. Saying “it’s no big deal,” while giving the cold shoulder is sending the message that it is in fact a big deal.

By being more open and direct, we’re not putting words into the other person’s mouth or provoking our partner to be on the defense. We’re simply telling our truth and expressing what we want directly without blaming, complaining, or being victimized. This act of vulnerability is much more likely to elicit a warm, more compassionate and loving response. By taking each of these steps, our partner is more likely to soften, reciprocate and respond to us in a calm and mindful way. And when one of us gets triggered and has an off moment, the other can help by responding with sensitivity, patience, and honesty. By finding this new way of “arguing,” we give our partner and ourselves a great gift, improving the quality (and even the quantity) of the days of our lives together.

Lisa Firestone Ph.D.    Posted Aug 26, 2016
Read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone at PsychAlive.org
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, an author,
and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association.


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What We Want Most From Relationships (But Rarely Get)

… and why the most active way to help someone requires no action at all.

Posted Sep 04, 2015        Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev.

Most couples come to see me to learn better communication skills—or at least that’s what they say in the first session. What gets described as communication problems, however, are in fact usually listening problems.

The truth is, we’re not very good listeners; we don’t know (and are not taught) how to listen to each other, at least not in a manner that truly nourishes us on a deep and spiritual level, and makes us feel heard, understood, or loved. We know how to listen from the head, but not from the heart.

And yet being deeply listened to is the experience that human beings most crave and need.

If there is one ingredient that determines whether or not a relationship will be successful, that ingredient is listening—the degree to which each partner feels listened to and truly known. Couples that can listen to each other in a satisfying way usually succeed, while those that can’t usually fail. Ultimately, we can only feel loved to the degree that we feel listened to.

I recently had a session with “Jon” and “Joan” (not their real names). Joan began by saying that she felt her experience could never be “just heard” by Jon—listened to and absorbed, without any interpretation, solution, judgment, defense or attack. She described how Jon was unable to hold a space for or really be with what she was living—without doing something with it or to it. Jon responded that holding a space for her feelings was not something that should be expected of him. Her request was unreasonable in his eyes, because a husband should not have to sit by silently and listen to what his wife is not receiving in the relationship—not without speaking up for himself, expressing his opinion, and providing some explanation. He then told his wife that what she really wanted (whether she knew it or not) was to control the relationship, the interaction—and him, as she “always did.” Joan, without responding to his interpretation, repeated the same yearning—to be listened to with simple openness and non-judgment. Jon responded to this second attempt by telling Joan that her experience was false, that he did in fact listen to and hear her, even if she couldn’t feel it, and that she should examine why she couldn’t feel his kindness and interest. Joan then repeated her longing one more time, almost verbatim. This time Jon’s response was to express how totally alone he feels in the relationship, and how Joan has no interest in hearing what is truly important to him.

From there, we began the work, in learning how to listen.

What happened between Joan and Jon is not gender specific nor is it specific to romantic relationships. What this couple demonstrated is a human problem: We constantly reject each other’s experience. It’s what we are taught to do. Listening to Joan that day, I felt as if I were watching an airplane desperately trying to find a place to land. Rejected by all control towers, her experience was to be left floating, unheard, unloved, with nowhere to touch down, nowhere to be welcomed home, no place to just be.

We all live this suffering daily, left with our own orphaned experience to nurture and land for ourselves. Yesterday I finished a particularly challenging and heartbreaking session in my office. Coming home, carrying a deep well of unprocessed feelings about what I had just lived, I entered my home to find my babysitter in a tiff. Before I had put my keys down, she was unloading her anger on me because my daughter would not eat her pasta. And just like that, my experience, what I was holding so profoundly in that moment, had to be put away to attend to the situation at hand. Life is always doing this to us, asking us to move from one experience to another without the processing, the landing, or the care and attention that we really crave—and need.

While we are conditioned to present our experience to others with a “What should I do about this?” as a way to include the other person (and hence earn their ear), most of the time we don’t really want to know what they think we should do about an issue, how to fix it, what’s wrong with us, why we shouldn’t feel what we feel, or anything else. We have probably already been inundated with countless well-intentioned and wise suggestions, from others and ourselves, on what we should do about our experience, and why we are having it. We already know all this. The problem, really, is that what we are asking for is not what we actually want, but rather what we have been conditioned to believe we are allowed to ask for. We don’t really long for anything to be done with or about our experience. Really, we just want our experience to be heard, listened to, understood, and cared about. We want someone to know how it is for us in this moment, in this life, and to keep us company in our experience—exactly as it is. What we want is for our experience to get to just be, without having to change into something else.

Listening

The hardest thing in the world (or one of them anyway) is to listen to someone we care about (and even someone we don’t) talk about an experience that sounds painful—and not step in to help, offer suggestions, or try to fix it. The second-hardest (not necessarily in this order) is to listen to someone describe a problem that they (or we) believe we are responsible for—and not defend ourselves. And rounding out this trio is to listen to someone describe a problem for which we believe they are to blame and have created, and not try to convince them of their responsibility.

Counterintuitive though it may feel, simply (but not easily) offering our compassionate presence to another human being—being willing to truly understand what the other is living, and selfless enough to get out of the way of their unfolding process—we are actually offering the greatest gift we can—and the experience that we all really crave. While we may believe that we are not giving enough, we are actually giving the very thing the other person wants, but is not allowed to say they want. By seemingly doing nothing (but truly listening), we are allowing the other to discover what they need to discover, creating and holding the space in which their problem can uncover its own solution (which is rarely anything we could have come up with). Experience teaches us to trust the profoundly transformative and healing power of being with—holding a space for another person’s experience. By being willing and courageous enough to do nothing with and to another’s experience, we are actually doing the most profound thing of all.

In addition, while it can be very difficult to refrain from defending ourselves when we feel we are being blamed (or are to blame), by simply holding a space for another’s unhappiness, we establish ourselves as one who authentically cares, who wants to and is brave enough to know the other’s experience (even if it is about us). In so doing, we become a person who is not deserving of blame, who loves deeply enough to put our own ego aside to know another fully, to put knowing the other first, even if what we come to know in the process is painful. In this sense, though it is challenging to practice, we actually accomplish more on our own behalf by listening deeply and openly as opposed to defending ourselves. The listening is the defense.

Finally, when we are able to just listen to another’s experience, without judgment, even when we believe the other person to be responsible for the experience they are describing, the other person experiences our compassion, which increases the possibility that they will come to discover their own role in their experience. Pointing out the other’s responsibility or blaming them on the other hand only serves to increase their defensiveness, making it less likely that they will take ownership for their experience. If our intention is to help the other own their behavior, listening openly and without judgment is the best method for accomplishing our goal. Making the other feel loved, through our deep and present listening, is the only way to create a safe enough place from which the other can assume the responsibility we want them to assume.

All of us long to have our experience held, heard, understood and cared about. Yet, we are conditioned to believe that just listening is passive, and that helping must include action—making suggestions and offering interpretations, and doing something to change the other person’s experience for the better. What we don’t know (because we are not taught) is that true listening, true “being with,” is the most active and healing thing we can do; it is an action of the highest order, with the most profound results. Ironically, our being, our presence, is far more powerful than anything we could ever do for another.

The next time you are listening to someone, see what it feels like to commit to being present, to just listening, without offering any interpretation about what the other person is living, or suggesting any way to fix it. See if you can simply be with their experience as it is, and feel what it is like to be living what they’re living. The next time you are sharing an experience—particularly if you are being bombarded with ideas for what to do about your experience, or why it is the way it is—kindly ask the other person if they can listen to you without suggestions, and just hold a space for what you are describing.

It may feel like an awkward request, but if the other person can truly offer you this, it will be well worth the discomfort of asking. Notice how it feels for you to be heard and absorbed in this way. We need to relearn what helping really means, and what we actually need and want from each other, and for ourselves—the presence that we truly crave. Simultaneously, we need to be able to recognize and voice our real longing—to be known deeply, really listened to, and not fixed.

This experience, at its core, is love.


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10 Ways to Love the People in Your Life

By Tara Sophia Mohr

“At the end of life, our questions are very simple: Did I live fully? Did I love well?”   ~Jack Kornfield

We all grow up with some healthy stories about love and some unhealthy ones. I learned some beautiful, life-giving ideas about love, ideas like these:

  • Loving people means believing in their potential.
  • Love means treating people with kindness and gentleness.
  • Loving the people in your life means celebrating their successes and cheering them on.

But I also grew up with some stories about love that I came to see weren’t so helpful. Those ideas about love bred problems in my relationships.

One of those stories was: Loving someone means always being available to them. (Turns out, it’s not true, and living as if it is breeds resentment.)

Another was: Loving someone means always having space for what they want to talk to you about. (Turns out, not true either!)

Another myth about love: If you love someone, you do what they are asking you to do, out of love, even if it feels difficult. (I can tell you, that doesn’t work so well.)

I’ve developed my own guidelines for loving the people in my life, guidelines that express how I want to relate to the people around me.

These are some of my guidelines for loving:

1. Tell them about their brilliance.

They likely can’t see it and they don’t know its immensity, but you can see it, and you can illuminate it for them.

2. Be authentic, and give others the gift of the real you and a real relationship.

Ask your real questions. Share your real beliefs. Go for your real dreams. Tell your truth.

3. Don’t confuse “authenticity” with sharing every complaint, resentment, or petty reaction in the name of “being yourself.”

Meditate, write, or do yoga to work through anxiety, resentment, and stress on your own so you don’t hand off those negative moods to everyone around you. Sure, share sadness, honest dilemmas, and fears, but be mindful; don’t pollute.

namaste

4. Listen, listen, listen.

Don’t listen to determine if you agree or disagree. Listen to get to know what is true for the person in front of you. Get to know an inner landscape that is different from your own, and enjoy the journey. Remember that if, in any conversation, nothing piqued your curiosity and nothing surprised you, you weren’t really listening.

5. Don’t waste your time or energy thinking about how they need to be different.

Really. Chuck that whole thing. Their habits are their habits. Their personalities are their personalities. Let them be, and work on what you want to change about you—not what you think would be good to change about them.

6. Remember that you don’t have to understand their choices to respect or accept them.

7. Don’t conflate accepting with being a doormat or betraying yourself.

Let them be who they are, entirely. Then, you decide what you need, in light of who they are. Do you need to make a direct request that they change their behavior in some way? Do you need to take care of yourself better? Do you need to set a boundary or to change the relationship? Take care of yourself well, without holding anyone else in contempt.

8. Give of yourself, but never sacrifice or compromise yourself.

Stop if resentment is building and retool. Don’t do the martyr thing. It helps no one and nothing.

9. See their value.

Remember that everyone you encounter was created by divine intelligence and has an important role to play in the universe. Treat them as such.

10. Accept this as your mantra and try to live as if it were true: Everything that I experience from another human being is either love or a call for love.

With this mantra as your guide, you’ll keep growing emotionally and spiritually for the rest of your life.


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Choice Theory: 7 Relationship Habits

Written on July 26, 2011     by Laura in Choice Theory and Reality Therapy

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

As long as we insist on controlling people around us, we will create completely unnecessary suffering in our lives.  Dr. William Glasser, creator of choice theory and reality therapy, explains that people are in control of almost all of their behaviors.  We are all driven by our genes to satisfy our “basic needs”: survival, love & belonging, power, freedom, and fun.  While we all vary in the degree to which these needs are important, what we all have in common is the need for satisfying and healthy relationships with others.

From a choice theory perspective, virtually all of our behaviors are chosen.  Consider the common example of the phone ringing when you are sitting or working at home.  If you answer the phone, what would you say was your reason for answering it?  This perspective tells us that the reason that we answer is phone is not “because it was ringing” – it is because we chose to answer it.  There was an option to not choose to answer the phone.

While this example is silly and small, it exemplifies a much larger truth embedded within choice theory… the idea that we are in control of choosing all behaviors.  This is Glasser’s concept of “total behavior.”  Many of his ideas are controversial because he also believes that people choose the symptoms that cause misery and suffering, such as depression or anxiety.  The basic concept is that people will choose the “best” behaviors that they can come up with at the time.  Sometimes, choosing “to depress” is a better option that facing the world when feeling miserable inside.  Either way, Glasser sees all behaviors as choices.

Choice theory provides us with “Seven Caring Habits” and “Seven Deadly Habits” that affect our important relationships with others.  As you might guess, underlying these habits is the extent to which you are attempting to control others with your behaviors.  We are happiest in relationships where we are able to satisfy our basic needs, feel supported and loved, and feel that the other person is not trying to control us.

Seven Caring Habits

(1) Supporting

People thrive in relationships where they feel supported for their true selves and in the pursuit of their dreams, goals, and aspirations.  Support means being there physically, mentally, and emotionally for the other person as well as taking on a greater share of responsibilities when they are suffering or in need.

(2) Encouraging

We all benefit from encouragement in our close relationships.  This can take the form of reminding your partner of their strengths, past successes, or positive qualities.  Remember that encouragement is most effective when it is authentic (i.e., not based in exaggerations).

(3) Listening

To provide your partner with your total presence through fully hearing them and receiving their messages is extremely valuable.  Practicing mindfulness can allow you to become more present with your partner and actively engaged in listening.

(4) Accepting

When we feel completely accepted by another person, it provides an invaluable sense of validation.  This is often a cornerstone of many therapeutic approaches as well (e.g., unconditional positive regard).  When we offer the gift of acceptance to our partners, we are telling them that we “see” them for who they are and choose to accept them completely.  This does not mean accepting behaviors that we not do approve of, but rather accepting the individual as loved and worthy of that love.

(5) Trusting

Trust goes both ways in relationships, and part of building a strong and healthy relationship involves opening yourself up to fully trusting your partner.  It also involves modifying and shaping your own behaviors so that you are a trustworthy partner.

(6) Respecting

Healthy relationships need to be built on a foundation of mutual respect.  This means treating loved ones with dignity, affirming their worth, and respecting their boundaries and limitations.

(7) Negotiating Differences

Relationships must have compromise.  Relationships where neither partner has to make “any” compromises are few and far between.  Mature relationships mean that both partners cannot have all of their needs met all of the time.  Think about that.  You must be willing to openly discuss what you are and aren’t willing to compromise for the sake of the relationship.  Through compromise, you are able to build stability, trust, and strength in your relationship.

7 Relationship Habits

Seven Deadly Habits

(1) Criticizing

When we criticize someone else, we are telling them that we are somehow superior to them or that they are unworthy in some way.  Criticism comes from a place of wanting to control another person through the hope that making them feel insecure or bad about themselves will result in them “changing” for the better.  This doesn’t work.  Criticism only makes your partner want to get away from the source of such pain and unloving behavior – i.e., the person doing the criticizing.

(2) Blaming

This involves placing the responsibility for some sort of outcome on another person, often in a sanctimonious or self-righteous manner.  Of course, there are plenty of instances where our partner genuinely is to blame for something unpleasant.  However, the way that we choose to go about expressing our displeasure is what is important.  There is a way to let your partner know that they need to accept responsibility for their behavior without “blaming.”  It is through honest and loving communication.

(3) Complaining

No one “likes” complaining… except the person doing it.  When we choose to complain about something we are also saying that we refuse to take responsibility for it.  Complaining often results in the other person feeling as if they should somehow “fix” the problem or else just get away from the complaining.  Whatever the outcome, it puts distance between us and those we love.

(4) Nagging

This is absolutely central to the concept of external control.  When we nag someone, it is because we are trying to get them to change a behavior through negative reinforcement (i.e., when they change the behavior, you stop the nagging).  People don’t like to be coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.  If you really want your partner to change a behavior, they must choose to do so on their own.  If it is important enough for discussion, an open and loving discussion about compromise can be helpful.

(5) Threatening

When we wield threatening power over someone, we are hoping that they will essentially be “scared” into complying with our demands.  This is what tyrants do… and people who want to be assured that they will drive their partners away from them.  This doesn’t work!  When we threaten others (directly or passively), we become a source of fear and control, when we want to be a source of love and support.

(6) Punishing

From an operant conditioning perspective, the concept of punishment means that a negative condition or stimulus is introduced as the consequence of behavior that you would like to weaken.  An example would be yelling at your partner each time he or she did something that you didn’t like.  While this can result in the behavior diminishing, it also wreaks havoc on your relationship.  Similar to these other examples, with punishment you become a source of fear, control, and general unpleasantness.

(7) Bribing / Rewarding to Control

Sometimes we “reward” people when they do things that we want them to do.  This seems much nicer than threatening or punishing them, but it is still a form of wielding external control over your partner.  You are still attempting to control their behavior, even if it seems loving or altruistic.  It is always best to allow your partner to come to their own conclusions about what behaviors they wish to change.  This can certainly result from an open discussion about compromise, but the final decision to change behaviors needs to come from within the individual to avoid building resentment.

Do you feel as though your past or current relationship(s) are based on choice theory or external control?  Do you find that you have better outcomes when you stop trying to control people you love?  It can be frightening for many people to give up their attempts to control others.  This often comes from childhood backgrounds where they didn’t feel in control of what was going on around them.

Be compassionate towards yourself if this is the case.  It can take time to become comfortable with letting go of control.  The potential result of a relationship built upon a foundation of choice theory is a long-lasting, stable, and harmonious union of two people who are secure in the knowledge that they can truly be themselves and are free to reach for their dreams.  Since all behaviors are choices, what is one “deadly habit” that you are willing to commit to letting go of in your relationship?

William Glasser Institute. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.wglasser.com/


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Deep Listening

To really listen to others, we must first learn to listen to ourselves. 

By Mindful Staff | August 26, 2010

If we are to survive in the twenty-first century we must become better communicators, speaking and listening honestly and compassionately across diversity and difference.
Unsatisfying communication is rampant in our society: in relationships between spouses, parents, and children, among neighbors and co-workers, in civic and political life, and between nations, religions, and ethnicities. Can we change such deeply ingrained cultural patterns? Is it possible to bring about a shift in the modes of communication that dominate our society? Contemplative practices, with their committed cultivation of self-awareness and compassion, may offer the best hope for transforming these dysfunctional and damaging social habits.
A fruitful place to begin work on shifting our patterns of communication is with the quality of our listening. Just as we now understand the importance of regular exercise for good health, we need to exercise and strengthen our ability as listeners.
Poor listeners, underdeveloped listeners, are frequently unable to separate their own needs and interests from those of others. Everything they hear comes with an automatic bias: How does this affect me? What can I say next to get things my way? Poor listeners are more likely to interrupt: either they have already jumped to conclusions about what you are saying, or it is just of no interest to them. They attend to the surface of the words rather than listening for what is “between the lines.” When they speak, they are typically in one of two modes. Either they are “downloading”—regurgitating information and pre-formed opinions—or they are in debate mode, waiting for the first sign that you don’t think like them so they can jump in to set you straight. All these behaviors were abundantly on display in the health care debate.
Good listening, by contrast, means giving open-minded, genuinely interested attention to others, allowing yourself the time and space to fully absorb what they say. It seeks not just the surface meaning but where the speaker is “coming from”—what purpose, interest, or need is motivating their speech. Good listening encourages others to feel heard and to speak more openly and honestly.
listen
THE POWER OF DEEP LISTENING
ELEVATE YOUR COMMUNICATION WITH THIS ONE KEY SKILL
posted by Team Tony
Have you ever spoken to someone who made you feel like you were the only person in the world at that moment? Who seemed truly engaged and interested in every word that came out of your mouth? How did that make you feel? Important? Understood?

This is the power of deep listening. Deep listening is more than a valuable social habit; it is a transformative communication tool. With deep listening, you are not only allowing yourself the time and space to fully absorb what your conversation partner is saying, you can actually encourage him or her to to feel heard and to speak more openly and honestly. And this is a key step in developing rapport with someone.

To better understand how to interact and communicate more effectively with others, we spoke to body language expert Jan Hargrave, one of our Leadership Academy speakers, about the core tenets of deep listening:

deep_listening

EYE CONTACT

“By maintaining good eye contact, you are demonstrating to your conversation partner that you are fully engaged and interested in what he or she is saying. A good guideline to follow is the 80/20 rule, in which 80% of the time your eyes are meeting your speaking partner’s, and 20% of the time, your eyes are roaming as you gather information to say.”

PRESENCE

“The average person speaks between 135 and 160 words per minute, but the average person’s brain works between 400 and 600 words per minute. This means your mind is going a lot faster than your conversation partner’s mouth, which makes it easy for your mind to drift. It’s up to you to stop your mind from shifting away from the conversation and to be truly present. Not only will you be able to fully absorb what your partner says, you will be able to respond in kind, which makes them feel appreciated and understood.”

NONVERBAL FEEDBACK

“There’s nothing worse than speaking to someone who gives no verbal feedback. It’s like talking to a wall. Make the effort to give the occasional nod, smile, or other sign of recognition to your conversation partner. These nonverbal cues may seem trivial, but have tremendous impact by showing your interest, understanding and involvement in the conversation.”

CONNECTION

“When you are speaking one-on-one with someone, position your body in a way that creates a safe and welcoming space for him or her to speak openly. Lean slightly in, open up your chest, pull your shoulders back, and fold your hands gently in your lap or on the table in front of you. If you are standing, form a reversed hand steeple, in which the fingers come together to form a point. When someone steeples in the lap area, it means they are confident about what they are hearing.”

source: humanelevation.tonyrobbins.com