Sunday, May 29, 2011

Relationship Tip

I wanted to pass on a tip which I have found helpful in my practice. The next time you have a problem to discuss with someone, ask yourself the following question: how would I bring up my concern if I genuinely believed I would receive a positive response?  It can help to visualize the other person listening carefully and responding with warmth. How emotionally present and receptive would you be in this scenario? What would your tone of voice be like? What words would you use? How relaxed would your facial muscles be? What would your posture be like? How much eye contact would you choose? How would you bring up the topic in the first place?

When we don't expect to be heard, we can speak in a way that makes it hard for someone else to give us that positive response we desire. Here are some things people commonly do when they expect an antagonistic response: talk loudly, use aggressive body language, tense up physically, speak overly apologetically, avoid eye contact, hurl insults, shut down emotionally, avoid the conflict altogether, make threats, refuse to listen, or try to prove to the other person that they are wrong. In other words, we fall into a "fight or flight" way of communicating (see my blog entry on Trust.)

The tip does not always work--e.g. if you are speaking to someone who is emotionally detached from you or who genuinely believe your concerns are not legitimate. But, in many cases, it is one step toward not only defusing conflict but deepening the intimacy level of a relationship.