Tag: communication

Speaking Truth in Our Relationships

When I work with couples, I always advocate for one thing consistently – always stay honest with one another. Regardless of the problem you’re experiencing in your relationship, it can likely be traced back to a moment when you weren’t entirely truthful either with yourself or your partner. It’s easy to want to hide our truth sometimes. We may be afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of hurting our partner. We may be afraid that our truth is selfish, or negative in some way.

But the honest truth is that hiding how you feel or what you think from your partner does far more harm than good. If you hide your truth, you may experience feelings of resentment. And from their perspective, they may experience resentment, as well.

I believe that honesty is the best policy – whether that’s in your romantic relationship, with family, with friends, or with colleagues. Expressing how you feel and what you think helps to open up a productive dialogue. You may be surprised to find the listening party is incredibly receptive – maybe they’ve been feeling the same way or having similar thoughts. You may be equally surprised to find that they disagree with you – but are willing to openly discuss the disagreement.

The more open you are about your experience and your truth, the less likely negative interactions are. Your openness draws in openness. Your energy attracts similar energy. If you are open and honest and someone disagrees with you, there may be a moment of tension. But by accepting their honesty in kind, you move forward in productivity and understanding rather than in negativity and bitterness.

Of course, there are ways to ineffectively communicate your truth. You may be feeling negative emotions – like anger or sadness. These may lead to you lashing out and being brutally honest in a way that’s intended to hurt or offend your partner. It’s important to understand that speaking your truth comes from a place of self-respect and of respecting others – not from a place of anger, fear, or desire to be hurtful. If your words are rooted in good intentions, they will likely be received as such.

Communicating honestly and openly by speaking your truth can lead to great things within your relationship. You will find yourself being more open to hearing the truth of your partner. You will find that your partner truly hears you and empathizes with your experience. Most importantly, you will no longer feel a masked bitterness within your relationship that results from you (and your partner) not being honest with one another (or yourselves) when resolving conflict.


Speaking Truth in Our Relationships

When I work with couples, I always advocate for one thing consistently – always stay honest with one another. Regardless of the problem you’re experiencing in your relationship, it can likely be traced back to a moment when you weren’t entirely truthful either with yourself or your partner. It’s easy to want to hide our truth sometimes. We may be afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of hurting our partner. We may be afraid that our truth is selfish, or negative in some way.

But the honest truth is that hiding how you feel or what you think from your partner does far more harm than good. If you hide your truth, you may experience feelings of resentment. And from their perspective, they may experience resentment, as well.

I believe that honesty is the best policy – whether that’s in your romantic relationship, with family, with friends, or with colleagues. Expressing how you feel and what you think helps to open up a productive dialogue. You may be surprised to find the listening party is incredibly receptive – maybe they’ve been feeling the same way or having similar thoughts. You may be equally surprised to find that they disagree with you – but are willing to openly discuss the disagreement.

The more open you are about your experience and your truth, the less likely negative interactions are. Your openness draws in openness. Your energy attracts similar energy. If you are open and honest and someone disagrees with you, there may be a moment of tension. But by accepting their honesty in kind, you move forward in productivity and understanding rather than in negativity and bitterness.

Of course, there are ways to ineffectively communicate your truth. You may be feeling negative emotions – like anger or sadness. These may lead to you lashing out and being brutally honest in a way that’s intended to hurt or offend your partner. It’s important to understand that speaking your truth comes from a place of self-respect and of respecting others – not from a place of anger, fear, or desire to be hurtful. If your words are rooted in good intentions, they will likely be received as such.

Communicating honestly and openly by speaking your truth can lead to great things within your relationship. You will find yourself being more open to hearing the truth of your partner. You will find that your partner truly hears you and empathizes with your experience. Most importantly, you will no longer feel a masked bitterness within your relationship that results from you (and your partner) not being honest with one another (or yourselves) when resolving conflict.

Speaking Truth in Our Relationships was originally published on Bridge of Life


Respecting Differences

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Presidential Election and how to respectfully handle the opinions of people in our world. The American Psychological Association’s study shows that a little more than half of people surveyed say that the election “is a very or somewhat significant” source of stress for them. From New York to California, fearful, frustrated and anxious clients are expressing their concerns about the campaign and the candidates to their therapists. The prospect of either Trump or Clinton winning the election has spurred contentious debate. By Wednesday morning, we will know who our President-Elect is; and while many will be rejoicing, others will be quite upset. It has been an election unlike any other – filled with tension and anger.

This is a really big deal to most of us, so, no matter what the outcome, avoid inflammatory statements and behaviors. Respect those around you who may not feel the same way that you feel, and in fact, will likely be very disappointed. Remember a recent post about there being more than one “right”? We all feel that we are “right”. The person that you are sitting next to at work or at the dinner table would appreciate the same level of respect that you would like if you were in their shoes.

We can show who we are as individuals when we disagree. Author Bryant McGill wrote, “grace in conflict is a study in love.” We have the ability to be that person – to be graceful, to be who we are and not let anything get the best of us. We can’t expect any one else to change, but we can. By our changing, we will change the environment. I often say, “Our actions are the way we define ourselves to others.” How do we want to affect the environment?

“Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”  ~ Paulo Coelho


Conflict Busters

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If you have been in a relationship, it is likely that you have experienced conflict. A friend, family member, partner, co-worker … the potential for conflict is everywhere, and your response has the ability to allow the relationship to flourish or wither.

How do we maintain our cool during stressful times in our relationships?

Don’t make assumptions. Isaac Asimov said, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”  If you can drop your assumptions and see things as they are, you will recognize that there are many possible solutions. “ There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”…. Leonard Cohen

Recognize that everyone has an opinion. As much as you think you are “right”, the other person may feel that same conviction. Is being “right” really that important? Will this situation even be remembered a year, a month or even a week from now? Acknowledge that other people have concerns that are very valid to them. Treat them with the same respect that you would like to receive.

While communicating about the problem, be sure to affirm the person rather than criticize. For every concern you have, think of a respectful quality of theirs to share. People are more likely to listen if they don’t feel like they are being beaten up. Soften the discussion.

Sometimes it is better to let the issue go or wait for 24 hours. Are one or both of you hungry or tired? Is there something else at play that is creating friction? Is there really a problem?

If this conflict is with a loved one, or a relationship that you truly care about, let them know that the relationship is more important than this problem. Acknowledge the strain that the issue is putting on you both.

Listen. Listen attentively. It is the basis of successful relationships. There is nothing more important to a person than to know that they are being truly heard. When you listen, not only can you learn something new, you can make people feel validated.

In the midst of a conflict, if you can stop and listen, this will create a wonderful space for clear, open and productive communication.


Friends and Relationships – Making It Work

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You’ve met someone and decide to start dating. You have been telling your best friend about this person and can’t wait for these two special people in your life to meet. The highly anticipated day comes, and it doesn’t go as planned. Their interaction is lukewarm, or one person is friendly while the other is not. How do you balance your two relationships and keep the peace?

Consider all sides.

The first thing to do is to consider each side’s perspective. Being the new person trying to fit into a relationship triangle can be challenging, as can being the long-time friend who has to make room for someone new.

Examine how you might be adding to the fray.

Without being aware of it, you could be making the situation more complicated. Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Do you want them to interact with each other in a certain way, and are disappointed because they aren’t? Be prepared for the possibility that they may never interact the way you’d hoped. However, it is also possible that in time, they will grow closer, or at least more cordial to each other.

Also, consider your dating history and how it may be impacting your friend’s perspective. If you’ve introduced a number of boyfriends or girlfriends to your best friend, your friend may just be staying cautious until s/he knows this new person is here to stay. You might not be the only one who gets broken hearted by breakups…friends who have invested their feelings on your behalf can also experience a loss.

Have an honest conversation with your best friend and romantic interest, separately.

Your friend may be worried that your new relationship will change the status quo or even jeopardize what you’ve had together. Your friend may be protective, wanting to make sure this new person is “good enough” for you.

Ask your friend what it is about the person you are dating that they don’t like: Is it the person’s personality? Does s/he think you’re incompatible with this new person? Do they see a change in you? Does your friend feel neglected or are they worried that you will no longer have time for them? Getting to the core issue can clear up misunderstandings and clarify expectations.

It may help to let your friend know that s/he is still valuable to you, and that you will make a concerted effort to spend quality time with him or her.

In your sit-down with your significant other, communicate why your best friend is important to you. He or she may not understand your friend, the type of friendship you have, or your history together. If your friend is overtly expressing dislike, it can be understandable that your boyfriend or girlfriend might react to the animosity, or be overly protective of you because of misconstrued interaction between friends.

Some more points to keep in mind:

  • If you are having a disagreement with one of them, be aware that telling the other one about it can reinforce the wedge already between them.
  • Invite your best friend and romantic partner to events you would normally invite both of them to. Give them the chance to get to know each other.
  • Allow them to have the feelings they have, which may or may not change with time.
  • Try to have a positive attitude about the interactions. Expressing anxiety will not promote harmony.
  • These two people you care about don’t have to be best friends with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. However, what will work is for each of them to respect your decision to have the other person in your life and for you to accept their relationship as it is.

While it is can be initially painful to see discord between your friend and significant other, the situation can be successfully managed, and even repaired, with everyone’s best efforts.

 


When It’s Over: How to Let Go of a Relationship

couple in fightIn the post, Evaluating Your Relationships, I shared how to determine if a relationship is not working for you. Sometimes, even when we come to the realization a relationship is over, it can be hard to heal and move forward. When we end a relationship, it can be helpful to remember the positive aspects we enjoyed about the relationship. Since Adrenaline and Cortisol are released whenever we are upset, we usually remember the unpleasant incidents more readily. So the unpleasant ones are probably fresher in your mind’s eye. Here are some ways to help you let go of a relationship that has ended, so you may move on in a way that is loving for you.

Think of what you gained from the relationship. Did it teach you something? Did you learn something valuable about yourself or experience personal growth because of your interactions? If you are looking for the meaning and purposes of why the two of you came together, do you now have a better sense of it? Discovering the lessons and positive effects of the relationship can provide a path to growth and successful closure.

Remember the good times. Recall some good moments you shared with that person. Even if the relationship has ended badly, there were times that you were both in harmony and enjoyed each other’s company. Try not to go past the recollection into judgment (for example, I had a good time but if I had known what kind of person s/he was…). Remembering what you liked about the person can help facilitate forgiveness.

Allow forgiveness. This one can be very difficult but most important in letting go and moving on. Here is a blog post that focuses solely on the topic of forgiveness, The Freedom of Forgiveness.

Find closure. Determine what resolution you need in order to move on permanently. When we do not, or cannot, receive closure through the other person, we can come to it on our own. Some ideas on how to do so:

  • Write down any strong feelings, memories, or thoughts about the other person, each entry on a separate notecard or piece of paper. Nothing is too insignificant…if it causes any sort of upset, it is important enough to write down. When you are finished, read each note aloud—allowing its full effect on you—and then destroy the note by using a shredder, scissor, or by simply ripping it up. Take a deep cleansing breath and imagine the weight of that thought leaving you. Continue this process with the remaining notecards or pieces of paper.
  • Write a letter to the person, detailing exactly how you feel. Let out all your lingering frustrations, hurts, betrayals, resentments, etc. You can feel safe in not holding back because you will not mail this letter to them. This letter is a chance for you to acknowledge all of your feelings and allow their release harmlessly. Once you have completed your letter, seal it in an envelope, address it, and “send” it on its way…in the same manner as the notecards and pieces of paper.

Make a supportive choice with mementos and reminders. There most likely will be many reminders of your past relationship, such as a song, favorite dining spot, or item you bought together. Some of these can be painful or not supportive of your desire to move on. You have the choice to either let go of painful reminders—discarding, selling, giving away physical items—or to assign new memories to them. For example, something like a song or location is difficult to remove from your life, but you can choose to replace your associations with positive ones. Perhaps you can think of an important person in your life who ALSO loves that song, so that you will guide your thoughts to them each time you hear that melody. Likewise, take a friend you have fun with to that favorite dining spot and make new memories you can go to from now on.

Honor your process. The way someone else has moved on from a relationship, or how you think you will move on, may end up looking very different from what actually happens. Allow the process of letting go and moving on to unfold in its own way. You are unique and therefore, your journey will also be unique. Be kind to yourself, practice awareness, self-love, and do your best.


The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


How to be an Active Listener

jackrabbit-673965_1280Hearing and listening are different things. Hearing is passive; sounds come to us through our ears and we notice them. Listening, however, requires the brain to get involved. It’s a learned skill because it requires concentration, interpretation, and interaction. To really listen, we have to be present in the moment.

In our busy world and with so much on our minds, it can be challenging to actively listen when a friend, co-worker, or family member wants to have a conversation with us. We are often thinking about or doing other things while someone else is talking—ever realize you’ve been asked a question and you have no idea what was said to make a response? We may pay more attention to conversations we deem “important,” but for everyday conversations we have with family, friends, co-workers, it’s easy to “check out.” If we’d like to be more active listeners, it’s a good idea to practice being aware and present for those people in our lives.

Here are some ways to facilitate conscious, active listening:

  • Determine whether you are able to give your full attention when someone wants to have a talk. If not, let them know. For example, “Can I call you back in 10 minutes? I’m finishing up this task and then I can give you my full attention.” If the conversation is going to take more time than you have, or you are not able to be there for them because of your mood/business, it is ok to say: “This is a rough day for me. I want to be able to give you the time you need. How about we chat over coffee tomorrow?” In this way, the other person feels valued but also understands that right now is not a good time for you.
  • Focus your energy on the speaker. If you are speaking face-to-face, maintain eye contact, have an open body posture (uncross your arms, turn your body toward them), and either lean slightly forward or imagine doing so.
  • Put aside your own troubles and thoughts. You will have time to deal with those later.
  • Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person to speak to completion. We often interrupt out of a need or desire to connect (“I’ve had that happen too!”) or show we’re listening (“Really? Why would he/she do that?! That’s terrible!”), but we can do the same thing without interrupting by facial expressions, nodding, or simple comments (such as saying wow, yes, right, uh-huh). Instead, imagine sending them energy that corresponds with how you would respond verbally. For example, imagine your heart open and radiating love, care, or empathy to someone who is upset.
  • Resist mentally rehearsing what advice you will give or how you’ll respond. You will end up distracted, miss what is said, and may telegraph to the person you’re not with them. If you listen fully, you will be ready to speak when it’s time.

If you put these tips into practice, you will not only strengthen your ability to actively listen, but others will most likely notice the difference and feel positive about your conversations. Whether we are aware of it or not, we can sense when someone is really listening to us, and we respond more favorably to them because of it. By practicing active listening with the people in your life, you might find they are more present with their attention and energy when it’s your turn to speak.

 


How to Resolve Conflict Through Communication

_807Disagreement is a natural occurrence in life—we all have different opinions, ways of doing things, personalities, and communication styles. However, if one or more of the persons involved don’t communicate openly, or let emotions take over, a disagreement can easily turn into conflict.

Here are some suggestions for resolving conflicts in a respectful and productive way:

  1. Acknowledge the points the other person has made with which you agree; if you don’t agree, acknowledge you’ve heard their point of view. Simply knowing their viewpoint has been heard can go a long way in diffusing conflict. It is also helpful to reiterate in your own words what they said, which not only gives them an opportunity to elaborate on a point, but also to correct any misinterpretations.
  1. When you speak, it is best to keep what you say to your own point of view rather than telling someone how they feel, think, or act. Those are your interpretations of what you experience. Frame your point in a way that lets them know you are only speaking from what you see and feel, which allows them the opportunity to clarify the same situation from their point of view. It is also a chance for them to clear up any misunderstanding.

Look at the subtle but meaningful differences in these examples:

Example 1

“You make me feel unappreciated all the time.” vs. “I feel unappreciated when I hear you say _____.”

Example 2

“Can’t you see I was trying to help you?!” vs. “My intention was to help you. I understand now that is not how you experienced it.”

In both examples, the first response places blame on the other person, whereas the second response communicates your experience in the situation. Which would you rather hear said to you? Blame puts the other person immediately on the defensive and they will in turn block out anything you say, or worse, interpret any further messages as attacks.

  1. Be aware of extreme or emotion-full words (also known as nominalizations). Using words like “every time,” “never,” and “always” may result in the other person going on the offensive to prove you incorrect, thereby allowing them to ignore the point of your message. Also, take care that any emotion-full or more vivid forms of a word are true (e.g., sad versus devastated); if you’re exaggerating for emphasis, your message may lose credibility. Emotional language may trigger the other person to react on your emotion rather than on your message.
  1. Allow the possibility that people can surprise you. We all have the ability to learn, grow, evolve, and change. The longer or more closely you know someone, the harder it is not to jump to conclusions based on past experiences. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The moment you put a mental label on another human being, you can no longer truly relate to that person.” Although you can take note of someone’s patterns, try not to let your awareness keep you from having an open mind.

Why Healthy Boundaries Are Essential

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“The most important distinction anyone can ever make in their life is between who they are as an individual and their connection with others.” ― Anné Linden

Boundaries are necessary. Imagine a map of the world with no defined delineations from one country, state, province, city, or town on it…what a mess!

Without boundaries, it is easy to overextend ourselves or do things we don’t want to do. In the end, our energy is drained and we may feel resentment, anger, or disappointment toward others or ourselves. Having clearly defined boundaries help us feel grounded, balanced, and secure. Staying within our boundaries shows self-respect and self-love. When you make your boundaries appropriately known, it can also make life easier for others since they know what to expect.

There are several different kinds of boundaries:

  • Material boundaries – What material things, including money, you will give or lend.
  • Physical boundaries – Your level of comfort with physical touch or privacy.
  • Mental boundaries – Knowing what you believe and your willingness to consider others’ opinions or values.
  • Emotional boundaries – Awareness of your feelings and responsibilities to yourself and others, as well as being able to separate them.
  • Sexual boundaries – What you are comfortable with and enjoy pertaining to sexual touch and activity.
  • Spiritual boundaries – Your beliefs in relation to a higher power.

One important note: Do not mistake boundaries for walls. Spiritual and emotional boundaries are important for our own well-being. Boundaries help contain and build strength from within…whereas walls tend to block and defend.

If you have been reticent to set boundaries or to speak up when you feel a line is being crossed, ask yourself what is the reason behind it. Do you think you won’t be liked or accepted? That you’ll be seen as too selfish or too rigid? That if you don’t give someone what he or she wants, they will reject you? The bottom line is, those who matter will honor your healthy boundaries. Naturally, boundaries are a two-way street. Expect others to respect your boundaries, and you do the same!

Don’t know what your boundaries are? Need to re-evaluate them? As we head toward the holidays—with increased interaction with and demands from co-workers, friends, and family—now is a great time to get clear about boundaries!