For twenty-five years Relationship Coach and Counsellor Chris Pye has supported individuals, couples, families and teams to transform conflict into deeper connection. Now, over three issues, from November to January, he unpacks his 9 essential guideposts for a more harmonious relationship. Here’s Relationship Conflict First Aid, Part 2.
Guidepost 4: Receive
Listening means so much more than being silent. But being silent is a good start. If we can use that silence to practice giving real attention to everything our partner is
sharing with us, it will not go unnoticed. From the words chosen to the hand gestures or tone and pitch of the voice, there is so much to be learnt about our partner by being fully present.
Most of us become accustomed to filling the silence with words or actions. And at times of relationship stress, we often sweep awkward and uncomfortable silences under a rug of explanation or defensiveness.
If we can manage to let go of our judgements, criticisms, past hurts and current defences, for long enough, we may then be ready to truly listen to what our partner needs from us. Often what they need is simply to be heard.
Guidepost 5: Reflect
“I’m hearing you say that when you bring up the topic of my gambling, you see me roll my eyes and turn away from you. That leaves you feeling dismissed and undervalued. Did I get that right?”
Restating and paraphrasing what you’ve heard may feel a little clunky, to begin with. However, it can be a very effective way to check that you’ve understood what your partner has shared. It also shows your partner that you really have listened.
Sometimes, your reflections won’t accurately capture what your partner shared. This may indicate a need to work on your capacity to be more present to what your partner has to say.
Like building a house on solid foundations, conflict conversations built on clarity and mutual understanding stand an increased chance of successful outcomes.
Guidepost 6: Respond
When our emotional buttons are pushed, we sometimes throw out the first thing that comes to mind. And we often intended to cause the same hurt that we feel in that moment.
Our first reactions, sometimes referred to as System 1 Thinking, are not always the most constructive contributions to an argument. They are generally instinctive and automatic and driven by strong emotion. By taking a few seconds and a couple of breaths, we can make the conscious choice to engage our slower System 2 Thinking, and respond in a more considered way, in alignment with the kind of interactions we want to experience in our relationships.
Stop, breathe, respond constructively.
Join me again next month for more Relationship First Aid. We’ll step into the New Year by unpacking my final three essential guideposts for more harmonious relationships. Responsibility, Restrict, and Release.
Chris Pye is a Relationship Coach who helps individuals, couples and families to transform conflict and communication difficulties into deeper connections. For more about his work, or to book a free ‘first-step conversation’, go to: asinglestep.com.au
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