The Key Elements To Connecting With Others
Be Curious Not Furious:
I remember coming up with this phrase when my boys now 25 and 28 were small. They were typical boys that fought and screamed a lot and I was often at a loss as to what to do; whose side should I be on? You know when one screamed, “mommy JJ hit me and he called me a loser”. When is the appropriate time when they can deal with it on their own? I would ask myself over and over without knowing the answer. Not only were they often like pit bull pups on amphetamine, I was an only child and had no idea what “normal sibling relationships were like”.
SO I developed a way after much screaming, crying, and losing it myself of being curious, asking questions, and letting them talk and feel it out without taking sides.
I find that this works in my work as a couples therapist and in my own marriage. Oftentimes when our partner sais something to us that hurts we can get defensive, try to tell our partner that’s not what happened, I didn’t say that, or worse tell them they are too sensitive or label them negatively, like “you’re the meanest man I have ever met”. Pretty soon it can turn into a screaming match and you both wind up feeling distant, alone, and disconnected.
When you get these defensive parts of yourself to step back and you can truly listen to your partner talk about feeling hurt or not seen by you and just stay present things begin to shift. Your partner begins to calm down because he/she knows you are there listening to them, and once a person feels really seen and heard the thing you were upset about gets a lot smaller. You learn that you can get connection from your partner rather than feel shot down or dismissed.
Listening from the heart can be just staying focused on what your partner is saying without thinking about your spin on it. If you start saying to yourself , “that’s not really what happened, that’s wrong, were we in the same movie?” get those voices to step back and focus on your partner again.
If you realize that he/she is triggered and what he’s feeling doesn’t have a lot to do with you, it will be easier to have more compassion. And whether we are angry, self righteous, sad, or hopeless we all want to feel connected, accepted and seen.
Once you understand what your partner is feeling/experiencing you can sum up what you heard. “so you felt hurt that I didn’t include you in the plans I made with my family”. If you get it right they will say yes if you get some of it and not the rest they will let you know.
Making room for this kind of connecting where one person expresses and the other listens or bears witness till they feel heard or understood can be life saving and create interconnection rather than isolation and pain.