4 ways to support important conversations to flow
Sticking together is the ultimate goal of all relationships right?
What we all long for is a sense of belonging, to know that we are truly there for one another.
To trust that we are welcomed and accepted by the ones that we love and that they too feel safe in our company, knowing that ultimately we love and care for one another beyond judgments, arguments and misconceptions.
So it is no wonder that when you talk about important topics with your partner or loved one,your attachment systems are easily activated and you are likely to be on edge, get triggered easily and project your ideas and fears onto one another. All in the name of checking if you are safe with this person, if they care for you, if they see you, understand you and ultimately accept and love you.
So maybe your partner is sharing some “constructive criticism” with you? And you jump into self defense..
Or you are talking about finances and what to do about the mortgage and one of you feels overwhelmed or fed up and wants to stop the conversation..
Maybe you are feeling hurt about something that they said and you want them to see and understand the impact of their words and how they make you feel??
Or perhaps you are simply sharing your opinions about a movie, political idea, climate change or how to change diapers correctly..
ALL of these examples can easily lead you into a state of DISCONNECTION: where you loose each other, you feel alone, get frustrated or hurt and no longer feel safe to continue the conversation.
And most probably you will then try to fix or manage the situation with coping mechanisms such as pleasing people, avoidance, blaming and judging, self defending, over-explaining, going silent, deflecting, analysing each other, changing the subject.... The list goes on..
So what can you do to support you to stay TOGETHER when you are talking about important topics or sharing something from the heart with people who your heart really wants to connect with?
Keeping BOTH of us in mind:
When we disconnect we lose compassion for the other person because we are in self protection.
So keeping the other person's experience and feelings in mind, whilst stay connected to our own feelings and needs can support you to stay present and focused on the WE instead of the ME.
Establishing this early on in the conversation can really help to create a culture of TOGETHERNESS as you slow down and check in on each other whilst discussing this important topic.
4 ways to establishing a culture of TOGETHERNESS in conversations:
(these are suggestions that you can try out, alter and make your own, what works for me may not work for your partner, so it’s not a “1 option fits all” scenario. Try things out and see what supports you to stay connected in your relationship)
Pass the ball:
Imagine that self expression is represented by a ball that you pass between you. Try to make sure that the ball is being passed regularly, every 2-3 mins or so, make sure that the other person gets a chance to reflect on what you have said and respond in their own way. Ask things like “how is this for you to hear? / what do you think?” OR “I’d like to share my thoughts on that. Are you open to hearing them?”
Check that you are actually understanding each other:
If at any moment you feel confused OR you are unsure that you are on the same page as one another you can check by saying: “Can I check if I understand what you mean / what’s important to you?”. Or if you want to be sure that they understand you, you can say: “I’m not sure if I was clear - does that make sense to you? / Can you tell me what you understand is important to me? “
Slow down your responses:
Take a moment to breathe and simply notice your body as you respond. Ask yourself “am I responding out of urgency?” If the answer is yes, then you may need to take a mini time out or a moment to self connect so that your response is coming from a more regulated part of you rather than a disregulated reaction which is often not connected to logic and can get you into a deeper sense of disconnection. Breathe and ask yourself “what do I need right now?”
Focus on reality: When we are reactive we are acting from the stories we are telling ourselves rather than the reality that is in front of us. We fixate on a certain point of view or perception that we have of what is happening. “you're disrespecting me” becomes the truth that I am living in, rather than recognising it is a perception or judgment of what I imagine you are doing right now. If I focus on what it is that you have done that leads me to think you are disrespecting me “you let the kids eat sweets after I told you that I don’t want to give them sweets....” we are a lot more likely to stay connected, because we are talking about what happened rather than my judgments (which you are likely to reject)
Learning a new Language - The importance of PRACTICE:
If you are trying out these tools for the first time, it can be really helpful to practice first in easy situations, in moments when there is no emotional charge. I.e. when you are discussing a movie or a book with a friend.
If you and your partner are wanting to practice together then set some time to actually practice each skill mentioned above.
Setting a timer for 15 minutes practice time (per tool) and 5 -10 minutes of reflection at the end can really support you to embed these skills into your relationship.
It is almost impossible to implement any of the above tools in moments of conflict or emotional activation without having practiced and integrated them first. This is because we have been using our defense mechanism ever since we were children, so forging a new neural pathway or reaction takes time and practice, just like learning a new language. In fact, learning the skills to communicate a language of compassionate and authentic connection uses the exact same part of the brain as we use when learning languages. So practice this as often as you would use duo-lingo to learn a new language.
As you know learning languages doesn't happen with an app or watching video tutorials alone. We need to speak to other human beings, to try things out and check if we are understood. So staying connected to a community of people who share the same interest in learning this language of life, will support you to embody those changes more quickly and skillfully.
Check my website for upcoming courses and gatherings where you can learn how to communicate with compassion and authenticity in community..