Anxiety will run away with your reason if you let it…
Sometimes the best idea is to take a deep breath and return to the present moment (the only thing – let’s be totally clear – that we the power to do anything about.)
This week a lot of friends have seemed to have had their share of communication breakdowns – on their side, or on the part of another person….parents, children, instructors, training partners. . .and it prompted me to think about it. You’d think Mercury was in retrograde! (Don’t worry, it isn’t for some weeks 😉 )
It never ceases to amaze me, though, how similar situations can be, even when involving vastly different topics, completely different areas of Life, and totally different players. Communication, however, is the underlying thread weaving it all together. . .
Communication isn’t relegated to one type of relationship, nor to specific people – it isn’t just about friendship, or marriage, or work, or family. . . Communication is what sets us apart – it’s what binds our species, allows us to function at high levels, to accomplish collective goals, to learn, to love, and to live. Communication isn’t in and of itself horribly complicated, but humans ARE. . .and that’s where it gets tricky. (Modern life does bring a few challenges as well…)
Emotions, preconceived notions, previous experiences and conditioning. . .it all plays a part in how we respond to stimulus. While humans are capable of incredible strength, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also highly sensitive (I know I am!) – the way in which we communicate is therefore as important as the words we are using. Words, keep in mind are defined differently, even among those were are most similar to – in this case, the nonverbal, the tone, and the delivery makes a difference.
A HUGE one.
Everyone has had their fair share of “stuff” – we’ve all been marred by life’s rough edges, nature’s unpredictability, and lessons we needed to struggle through in order to fully learn (I’m still learning quite a few, including the topic at hand.) As a result, most of us walk around with what I call “walls-at-the-ready” – we are kind of like collapsible fortresses just waiting for the moment to erect our barricades, and employ our moats.
So communication then can become a very delicate – and powerful – affair.
There is a true art to navigating what could easily become choppy seas (at our own hands – or our chosen communication.) There are tons of articles, books, seminars out there (such as this one) but no matter which relationships they are intended to better, they speak to the same key principles. So it doesn’t matter if it’s your child, a new co-worker, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling – the keys to communicating well focus on the same fundamental ideas, and can apply across the board.
Listening matters – listening with the intent to reply is not the same thing. We need to listen to hear and understand from the other person’s perspective. Whether or not we agree, feelings are just that – as such, they are valid even if we don’t “get it.”
Everyone wants empathy and to be understood – no matter how much you may disagree, recognizing that the person speaking has a valid and true reality – for them – helps to bring them down a notch. Or several.
MAINTAIN CALM CONVERSATION
People are open and responsive to calm conversation – the second the heat of anger is turned up, or promise of threat implied . . .POOF! . . .Barricades!
AVOID ATTACKING, BLAMING, SHAMING
People are (at least generally) open and responsive to discussion provided they aren’t in a corner – the slightest attack, criticism, blame, there go those walls again. What you want to convey will be shut out like an enemy coming in full force. No bueno, as they say…
Keeping the focus on the issue at hand makes for a cleaner conversation – muddling the mix with outlying topics that really have no part to play make a mess, quickly. Not to mention a full suit of armor on the other side!
Usually communication is only difficult when it’s controversial – when it may cause discomfort (like embarrassment, anxiety, self doubt etc), when it’s about a touchy subject, (embarrassment, shame, etc), or it provokes a fear-based response (as in “fright or flight” – resulting from directed anger, frustration, for example.) At those times, that’s when we LEAST want to be gentle and “follow guidelines of effective communication”!!
But, as they say, a moment of patience can make a lifetime’s worth of difference.
Listen to the other person and, whether you agree or not, make the effort to recognize their view. Keep yourself calm, avoid blame and attacking, and stick to discussion mode – people will be far more able (and willing!) to receive, and are less likely to block you out. If you feel like you can’t contain the disappointment, anger, frustration etc, do something else until you can be calm.
People are complicated, and so is Life. Even your best friends and closest family members meet discord from time to time (if they didn’t they wouldn’t be breathing!) that’s okay – it happens! We aren’t always going to see eye to eye, we aren’t always going to define terms the same way, and people aren’t always going to behave exactly the way we want all the time.
One of my favorite expressions is “how important is it?” It’s one I heard growing up, and it’s one I hear frequently today. As spoken at a dear friend’s wedding recently – in fact, by a very wise and learned woman – you can be right, or you can be happy. Again, this applies to all areas of life, and to all kinds of relationships…
For example, I’ve seen a marked change in my own relationships with family members over the years, and every so often I catch myself really thinking about how our interactions have (or haven’t!) evolved since childhood – sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it feels down-right painful. . .but Life doesn’t stop because I don’t agree with something, or I feel hurt.
The more I can communicate effectively and in a kind way, the healthier all my interactions will be, and the better I – and others – will feel. That means learning to do things that maybe I’m not so great at, or challenging my mood at that moment, or, even tougher, changing things I’ve done my whole life – sometimes what used to work for us doesn’t anymore! I know I’m a work in progress…but I am working at it, because there are areas in which I know I can do better.
I loved this excerpt, read by a friend recently, as it captures the essence of the idea perfectly:
Effective, healthy, and happy communication can be accomplished, but it does take a little work. We are thrown to the wolves in many ways, and learn to swim in the deep end by trial and error – there aren’t structured courses in school about interpersonal relationships, and workplaces don’t exactly help you along either! Unless we seek out our own kind of learning, it feels a lot like a shot in the dark, especially when we meet new people, are navigating a new job etc… Even when it comes to parents and children who’ve been together for a lifetime – life changes! I recently was reflecting on how I could do a better job of understanding, as well as responding to a parent differently.
If things aren’t being communicated as smoothly as you’d like, or you feel it’s complicated and overwhelming, know it is NOT a lost cause. The phrase “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU” works really nicely – that’s basically the gist of it. So if all else fails, just think about how you’d want to hear criticism, or how you would want someone to convey some tough news. When we are in that kind of a mindset, we usually are off to a great start.
Here’s to the journey of Life! ❤
The Awkward Yeti nails it again.
Funny as presented here, but also a terrifying, confusing, and incredibly frustrating response to have! In the midst of stress and conflict, this is sometimes reality for empaths, INFJs, introverts and many people with a traumatic past.
This article came my way recently, via a general feed of Bloglovin’ posts – it of course caught my attention, as I myself battled eating disorders, once upon a time.
“How a Healthy-Food Obsession Can Eventually Turn Into an Eating Disorder” by YourTango discusses how endeavoring to be a healthy person – a noble, and in fact common pursuit – led to an incredibly unhealthy way of life. It happens far more often than I’d say the broader public knows…or openly talks about.
Despite having a different catalyst, I know that scenario all too well. There’s a massive control component to such an illness, not unlike any other addictive disorder. As I’ve maintained, and always will, the only thing that separated me from an alcoholic or drug addict, was simply the poison with which I chose to destroy myself. None of us are better, none of us worse…but all of us need(ed) help to see that we do / did not have the control we believe(d).
The reality of our situation at that time is one we will find a million ways to justify. We ignore the signs glaring us in the face, we allow our vision to be clouded by the perceptions we want to have (“I have control of this”…sound familiar?), and we try rather desperately to convince ourselves of truths we know – deep down – to be false.
It’s terrifying…and it can be our end if we allow to be.
Even more frightening is that while human beings have always been a visual species (eg: I see a massive, tusked animal charging at me, I need to run for safety) there has never been MORE pressure than the present. And I mean that in an unfortunately negative way.
Social Media has brought with it several new layers of “I have to be perfect”...or at least present myself that way. Some people bravely portray the “real” stuff…the nitty, gritty imperfections of life, of our bodies, etc. But the overwhelming bulk of it is a filtered, seemingly flawless facade, leaving not only the more vulnerable of the crowd questioning themselves and how they appear…but even the stronger and more secure individuals. Even when a post is meant to be happy, supportive, motivational…there are bruises, bumps, and failures beneath the surface. Ones we may never see.
When I saw the quotation above about loving your size I thought “that’s a huge part of it…” If you don’t love yourself the way you are, you aren’t necessarily going to love yourself MORE when you eat less, get high, get drunk, get more money, get a new job ect. . .
Sometimes you actually feel worse, leading to more abusing of the self. In my own case, and many I know, there are layers of insecurities, breakdowns in self confidence, frustrations with things we are not capable of controlling. Any number of internal battles could lead to seeking external sources capable of dulling the pain, and allowing us to avoid facing ourselves fully. But, at the end of the day, being plagued with a deep-rooted turmoil is often a common thread.
Sometimes those struggles last after the worst of the storm has past. It never is about being recovered so much as we are all still IN recovery. We still have to take each day one at a time, and be open to where we need some work and help. We have to increase our awareness so we know when we stumble. . . And we need to seek a courageous path so we can take ALL the steps we need to get better.
Yes, we SHOULD love ourselves. But we don’t’ have to beat ourselves up if we don’t every second of the day – self-love is hammered home so much that this message gets lost a lot of the time. Beating yourself up for being hard on yourself is adding more judgment and hurt on top of what you already have. You’re human. Trying to will reality away, or pretending, isn’t the answer. It’s about learning to observe and be more gentle with ourselves – re-wiring a habit takes time and overnight expectations will derail someone very quickly.
In order for real and lasting change we must recognize that we are out of control. Of our thoughts, in this case, in particular – thoughts lead to actions, right? When we observe negative thought patterns, and allow ourselves to see without judgment…we are on the way to healing. I personally work on this daily – and sometimes it feels like a massive struggle. I’ll hear myself say something, or catch a negative thought… Rather than try to squash it, I notice it, I hear it, I feel it, and then I either reframe it, or replace it with something positive. It hasn’t necessarily stopped the pattern fully, but it’s a step in the right direction. Another saving grace for me is having a husband who is good about pointing out when I’m putting myself down – I need that reminder. I need to be called on the behavior. Even if I don’t believe the jab I’ve aimed at myself…I spoke it. And the Universe hears EVERYTHING.
We also need to accept and allow that help is OKAY. Uncovering the true reasons as to why we are “self medicating,” seeking a “better looking / skinner” version of ourselves, spewing negative things to ourselves about ourselves…is necessary for growth and “re-wiring.” Having a professional to guide us through that process of discovery is a massive help – there are countless variations and modalities available, ensuring that no matter what works best for you, you are sure to find something.
Getting back to the specifics of the quotation above… Health is important, and looking great helps us feel more confident – it’s both mind and body at work, and really can’t be contested. Having the goal to lose weight, for example, and with it gain more energy, better health, more confidence…that’s GREAT. It’s a wonderful goal, and no one should feel badly about it. What one must understand, however, is that no one thing is responsible for our happiness. No ONE thing is the magic ingredient that “if I just had it, life would be perfect.” That doesn’t exist.
We are ALL flawed. But that’s okay. You are also incredibly beautiful, inside and out, with amazing things to offer both yourself and fellow human beings. Getting to a place of MORE self-love and appreciation is at the root of true happiness. . .it is not about whether you fit into your clothing with with less “snug.”
Having been through my own issues with dying-of-starvation and malnutrition – a very slow and painful death at that – the quote really hit home. I was on the opposite side of it, at a meager 90-something pounds. . .and it was horrifying. While I have many areas in which to continue my learning and growth, I know that I have come leagues from that dark, dark place.
I know that there are days when I do not appear – to MYSELF (and I’m pretty sure ONLY myself!) – as “in shape” as I want to be. But in my recovery I’ve learned that fluctuation is normal, and healthy…and that beauty isn’t relegated to those “last few pounds,” or being more “defined.”
It’s OKAY to be human, which means it’s ALSO okay to be imperfect. In that imperfection lies a good deal of your beauty. Remind yourself of that…and remind yourself OFTEN.