Gratitude and appreciation are two powerful weapons we can use against depression and anxiety.
In fact, Dan Baker writes in his book, What Happy People Know, that it is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time.
Here, then, are some ways we can cultivate gratitude.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
According to psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California-Riverside, keeping a gratitude journal —where you record once a week all the things you have to be grateful for — and other gratitude exercises can increase your energy, and relieve pain and fatigue. In my daily mood journal, I make a list of each day’s “little joys,” moments that I would fail to appreciate if I didn’t make myself record them, such as: “holding my daughter’s hand on the way to the car,” “a hot shower,” “helping my son with his homework.” This exercise reminds me of all the blessings in my life I take for granted and encourages me to appreciate those mundane moments that can be sources of joy.
2. Use the right words.
According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words literally can change your brain. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. According to the authors, they propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resiliency.
“Gratitude is the heart’s memory,” says the French proverb. Therefore, one of the first steps to thankfulness is to remember those in our lives who have walked with us and shown kindness for deeds big and small. I have been extremely fortunate to have so many positive mentors in my life. At every scary crossroad, there was a guardian or messenger there to help me find my way. The mere exercise of remembering such people can cultivate gratitude in your life.
4. Write thank-you letters.
According to psychologist Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, a powerful exercise to cultivate gratitude is to compose a “gratitude letter” to a person who has made a positive and lasting influence in your life.
Emmons says the letter is especially powerful when you have not properly thanked the person in the past, and when you read the letter aloud to the person face to face. I do this as part of my holiday cards, especially to former professors or teachers who helped shape my future and inspired me in ways they might not know.
5. Hang with the winners.
Peer pressure never really goes away, you know. Studies show that married folks hanging out with happy couples are more likely to stay married themselves; that if your friends eat well, their willpower will rub off on you; and that if you surround yourself with optimists, you will end up more positive than if you keep company with a bunch of whiners. By merely sitting next to a person who likes the words “thank you,” there is a high probability that you will start using those words as well.
6. Give back.
A while back I wanted to repay a former professor of mine for all his encouragement and support to me throughout the years. However, nothing I could do would match his kindness. No letter of appreciation. No visit to his classrooms. So I decided I would help some young girl who fell into my path in the same way that he helped me. I would try to help and inspire this lost person just as he had done for me.
Giving back doesn’t mean reciprocating favors so that everything is fair and the tally is even. That’s the beauty of giving. If someone does an act of kindness for you, one way to say thanks is to do the same for another.
Originally posted on Everyday Health.
Our pleasure shows us where we are in alignment. It is a natural built in system that shows us what is right for us. However, not all experiences we might label as pleasurable are created equal.
It is helpful to learn to differentiate between different types of pleasure. For example, eating a piece of chocolate cake might feel good in the moment but that does not necessarily mean it is really in alignment with you. To determine whether it is or not you need to pay attention to the entire experience. While you’re eating the chocolate cake, it might actually be a pleasurable experience, but how do you feel after you eat the chocolate cake? Does it continue to be a pleasurable experience?
It is also helpful to pay attention to the quality of the pleasure; is it consistent throughout the layers of the experience? Using the same example of the chocolate cake, it might feel good in your mouth, but not feel good in your body. Maybe it negatively impacts our emotions because it’s more food than we actually need, and we know it and so we feel a little uncomfortable about having eaten it. While I am using the example of chocolate cake, this approach applies to all experiences in our lives. How we feel at work. How we feel in our relationships. As we pay attention, more to our pleasure and learn to really listen to it we strengthen our ability to navigate through life.
Another thing that gets in the way of using pleasure as our guide is having a negative relationship with pleasure. Because of this you can feel badly about something that is actually good for you. Your conditioning distorts the picture of what you are experiencing based on ideas about what you should or should not enjoy. The opposite can also be true. We can learn to feel pleasure associated with things that are not good for us through conditioning as well.
The basic experience gets distorted by misconceptions and misinterpretations of events that take what would be a simple mechanism for determining what is right for us and making it confusing. It would be wonderful if it was as easy as if it is a pleasurable experience, then it is in alignment and you can say yes to it we can welcome more of it into your life. And if it is not a pleasurable experience then you want to redirect and go in a different direction. Once we get past all of the conditioning this is true, but it takes some time to do so.
It may seem as if with all this conditioning it is impossible to trust how you feel about things. However, the trick is not to cast pleasure aside and start trying to figure out what is best through your mind but instead to dive more deeply in and practice paying closer attention.
To use pleasure as a guide, and it is a very useful guide, you can start by paying attention to where you might be filtering or misinterpreting the information that’s coming in about what is pleasurable,. You can then learn about what works for you or does not work for you in any given situation. As you pay attention to all aspects of your experience around an event that you consider pleasurable you become more refined about what is truly pleasurable.
As we become more and more refined, it becomes easier to have that simple relationship with pleasure –if it feels good then it is good. Then you are able to use pleasure to cultivate people, places, things, situations and activities in your life.
As you do so, you will feel so better and better in all aspects of your life because you are creating a life that is in alignment with you. As you cultivate this, it actually raises your overall energy.; your energy starts operating at a higher level, which continues the refinement process of your pleasure. This allows you to hone in on what it is that is working for you and what it is that’s best for you through what feels good.
Then your pleasure becomes this incredibly valuable tool for creating a life that feels really good and is really in alignment with who you are.
To live is to embrace a paradox that affects many areas of our lives, including our relationships with ourselves; we are at once ourselves and unaware of our true nature
Being who we are is quite straightforward in one way and yet so multi-faceted and complex that we spend our whole lives figuring it out.
Rediscovering who we truly are requires watching ourselves in action: what are we drawn to, what lights us up, and what leaves us feeling flat. Our emotions and interests are the best guides to our essential nature.
The process of self-discovery (or rediscovery, depending on how you want to look at it) can be a beautiful and at times challenging process during which we learn both to honor our deeper nature and to accept ALL of who we are. This includes our limited, broken, confused, and less inspired parts.
Self-acceptance is loving it all.
Reclaiming the self can’t happen without self-acceptance. We cannot have a real connection with our essence while disowning parts of who we are. We are again in paradox. Our deeper nature is not riddled with human flaws, but to truly live it, we need to embrace those flaws that do exist.
Self-acceptance does not come easy to most of us. It is not like we go to a workshop and walk out the door with self-acceptance. Instead, it seems to grow steadily and slowly, building imperceptibly under the surface at first and then showing us its strong roots.
We can work at accepting ourselves in a similar way to how we might learn to be more accepting of others. We can try to understand what they are thinking & feeling; walk a mile in their shoes. We can empathize with their challenges & see beauty in the complexity of their way of being. We can strengthen our self-acceptance by choosing ourselves in the present moment and removing the need to fix ourselves or become something else.
We can enjoy the quirks and the challenges instead of seeing them as obstacles. Self-acceptance allows us to see who we are clearly —to look ourselves straight in the face and own it—all of it.
Self-acceptance means that we do not push to the side those aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, marginalizing them to such a degree that even while we see so much we do like in ourselves, we have this heavy feeling that we are still unlovable.
Slowly, we love ourselves when and where we feel most unlovable; step by step we heal.
As we move through the bumps, jolts and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself. When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victim-hood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations. Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential. Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion. Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoistic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
Empaths have the innate ability to affect a profound impact on the world around them. Early on in their development, it might seem as if the world is just too much to handle and that they’re more likely to be the ones changed (in not so great ways) by the world, rather than being world changers. However, with some skills and awareness, empaths can be powerful change agents.
Here are some of the abilities that help empaths be world changers…
Highly Intuitive: Strong intuition can help in your work with others, in your creative projects, and in sensing your best direction, allowing you to have a greater impact in all that you do.
In Tune: Whether at work, home, or in any other area of your life, being in tune with others helps you understand what’s needed in any given moment and how to best communicate with others.
Hypersensitivity: Being sensitive means you can feel even the minor shifts in a person or situation. This can help you take action before things become larger problems. The trick might be in the timing or in the company—just because you’re aware doesn’t mean others are. Pay attention to what type of delivery and timing gets best results.
Problem Avoidance: Your exceptional sensitivity helps you recognize problems before others do. This can be helpful for course correction in any area of life. You might know someone is just not the right person to hire or that a situation is worth avoiding altogether.
Voicing the Shadow: Many sensitive people are tapped into what is being avoided or unacknowledged and will—consciously or unconsciously—bring this information forward. This ability is a powerful tool of transformation.
Cultural Light Bearer: Your sensitivity allows you to make contact with the positive as well as negative undercurrents. Because of this, you’re able to help people connect with their potential or the potential of a situation.
Advocate for the Underserved: Similarly to Voicing the Shadow, you’re more likely to be able to understand the thoughts and feelings of those who live and act more on the fringes of our society and culture. You can become a powerful advocate for these people helping them—and us—to get things back on track.
If you’re curious about how you can better use your empathy skills to create positive change in the world, check out my Healers Training starting Spring of 2018. http://projectspace.in/work/project/katelive/train-with-me/integrative-healing-training/
It’s ok if you haven’t always known how to change your life story, or even what your life story is. At 15 years old, I was a mess. I was exceptionally miserable, smoking, drinking, and dabbling in drugs. Perhaps, some of you can relate? For me, on any particular day I could be sobbing in the bathroom, cutting myself, contemplating suicide, or just being plain reckless. I wish I could say that the despair started at 15, or ended then, but if I go back in my mind I can find it starting in my early childhood, and it lasted years later.
There are many ways that pain like this gets categorized: The histrionics of an adolescence, an uncommon experience of an unfortunate individual, growing pains (*rolls eyes*)… However you define it, my 15 year old self could not cope. For me, my pain became the story that guided the first part of my life. Learning how to change your life story is a skill that takes practice and it’s something you need to truly want. Here’s what I learned from my own experience of channeling my awareness to wake up and change my story to one of happiness, abundance, and purpose.
The first question is how did it happen in the first place?
What happened to me happens to many people. Repeatedly and systematically, I was told that my instincts were wrong, that my emotional responses were bad, that my way of being was unacceptable. I was told I needed to think a certain way to be smart. I needed to feel a certain way to be good. I needed to talk a certain way to be accepted. My life became a series of acts, transactions, and obligations. I was disconnected from my own truth.
My experience is not unique and this was not done to me out of cruelty. In fact, sometimes it was done by people who were trying their best to be loving and supportive. Collectively, we lack the broad knowledge of essential tools that help people create a personal experience that truly serves them. Instead, we default to a misguided status quo as if every individual would be fulfilled by meeting cookie cutter expectations and norms. It is very rare that anyone tell you, in the midst of your formation, that you can learn how to change your life story.
Unfortunately, by the time most people have reached the end of their childhood they have little idea of who they are, negligible emotional intelligence, and a profoundly deep belief that they need to be another person to be loved. We feel this way at the culmination of our “formative years.” We learn to compensate for what we have come to believe are our shortcomings and weaknesses – we act the part to get by. Most of us forget that there is an alternative.
Our limiting story has to be put into place.
Our first step in using awareness to change our life story is to begin to wake up to what is meaningful and enjoyable to us. It starts by pursuing a life where details large and small are things that are meaningful to us. We define what is “meaningful” through a process of personal inquiry into who we truly are. Giving ourselves this approach to life is a sign of love and respect.
As we begin to live in a way that feels right to us, we begin to uncover our own gifts. Often, these gifts have been covered over by the conditioning of our earlier lives. Many times, when we unpack what we thought was our fatal flaw we discover a powerful gift and a major part of our contribution to the world.
Our actions help us become more aware, they shift what we believe about ourselves and what we think is possible.
It is in this way that so much of who we are goes unrealized and our potential power to create our own wellbeing and positive change gets lost. Some of our seemingly meaningless quirks have a productive and positive application, we just need to wake up enough to begin looking for it. When we do, we feel better about ourselves and we begin to make a more positive contribution to the world.
Practicing forgiveness and acceptance is the key to changing our story. Acceptance and forgiveness are for both for ourselves and for others. It only takes a few trips to a therapist or an in depth writing exercise to become aware of our story. It takes a little more time to see how we keep ourselves on the hook and to begin the process of giving self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Many people never develop this foundational respect for themselves and instead mask it with things like accolades, egoism, or bitterness.
Likewise, we cannot truly move forward until we have accepted the events of our lives and forgiven the people who we believe have hurt us. If we can become more aware of where we are holding onto past hurts, we can release them and liberate ourselves to create an entirely different narrative.
The third awareness tool for changing our story is self love. As we become aware of what true self-love looks and feels like and learn to live it more in each moment, we begin to see our story differently and to envision an alternative story that better suits us.
When our self-love is strong enough, we are able to face the painful challenges of life. We are able to learn from what is happening and apply it to our life in a way that makes us stronger and more ourselves. As a result, we change the narrative.
Apply the wisdom that gets developed when living life from a place of self love and acceptance.
This wisdom can be applied to every moment of our lives. Our developed ability to hold ourselves in a place of love and take affirming action in the face of opposition has the power to transform our world. If we no longer negate ourselves or feel the need to justify and rationalize our pain, if we are able to act constructively when faced with the obstacles of life, if we are able to remember that we are the critical change agent of each moment, then what we can accomplish individually and collectively is without parallel.
Each day holds countless moments in which we can shift things in the direction of the positive, in which we have the opportunity to leave the past and create something powerful and new moving forward. I did it and I can help you if you want to learn how to change your life story. To learn more click here to sign up for my newsletter.
Life is continually showing you how to raise your awareness, but do you see it’s instructions?
From my perspective, each and every moment of life is offering us an opportunity to become more aware. We are in a constant state of choice, in all of these moments, to either expand or contract. Expansion brings a richer experience of love, truth, gratitude, forgiveness, and service. Contraction brings limitation. The payoff of learning how to raise your awareness, even if it’s just in a few of these life moments, is exceptional.
Sometimes we may overlook the choice we have to raise our awareness, and other times we may feel we don’t have the power, in that moment, to make it. The risk here is that, when we do not choose to expand our awareness, we get pulled in the opposite direction. The limitations of whatever we are experiencing start to become the structure of a myopic viewpoint, which makes it that much more difficult to choose something more than we currently have.
Learning how to raise your awareness does not mean you will get it right every time. It does mean that you will have the toolkit to keep yourself better on track in your personal growth and that you’ll be more aware of your choice in each of life’s moments. If we are vigilant about our intention and willingness to become more aware, we can experience all that life truly has to offer.
There are many ways to expand our awareness. The following are some tools that we can use to keep ourselves on track, regardless of circumstances. To do so, we only need to focus on the wisdom associated with the following words.
Love: A simple tool for liberating ourselves and returning to our heart. Finding our way back to love. Whether it is a busy morning and bad traffic or a fight with someone that you love, finding a way to return to a place of love provides us with a feeling of wellbeing and a springboard off of which we can launch into new levels of awareness. After all, is it more important to be angry at the other driver on the road or to feel a sense that we are all in it together?
Truth: It is very easy to get caught up in the “he said, she said” situations of the world. We begin arguing about the minutia that really make no difference and we quickly lose touch with our core and with the truth of our situation. When we start looking for the greater truth or speaking our personal truth we begin to open up to new awareness that creates real solutions to our situations.
Gratitude: Sometimes life is just one hard experience after another. There are stretches in time when it seems as if there is no relief. This can begin to wear us down and we can get stuck focusing on what we don’t have or what we have lost. Whether we are in hard times or not, remembering to see what we have, and be truly appreciative of it, is helpful in expanding our awareness. Where intention goes, energy flows – so when we pay attention to what we do have, we feel better and feel like we have more of it.
Forgiveness: Whatever grievances have been done to us, the only person who hurts because of our lack of forgiveness is us. When we hold onto the hurts of the past we pick up a heavy weight that restricts us from moving toward what would really serve us. When we learn this, and we remember to forgive others, we set ourselves free from the pains of the past and welcome in a brighter future.
Service: Our awareness is continually expanded by our willingness to see what we can do to change a situation for the better. This is an act of service. The question is, how can I contribute in a way that creates a better now? And if I can’t make a better now, then how about a better future? Being of service raises the bar on our own empowerment and helps us craft what we truly want.
When you work to expand your awareness, your cares and concerns shift and you feel a greater sense of freedom. Focusing on any of these practices helps us see that our experience of life is the result of our willingness to expand into new and better ways of doing things –to cultivate our awareness.
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We all have one — an inner voice that expresses criticism, frustration or disapproval about our actions. It might sound like, “you should,” “why didn’t you?” “what’s wrong with you?,” or “why can’t you get it together?” The actual self-talk is different for each of us, as is its frequency or intensity.
It is a cultural norm to believe that criticism or guilt-induced comments will motivate behavior. Perhaps the thinking is that if you realize that your actions aren’t good enough or ideal, you’ll want to change. The critic also gives us a sense of control. So others in our lives may make “helpful,” yet critical comments to reinforce and control our behavior or control their feelings. We can also use judgmental or controlling thoughts with ourselves as a way of coping with fear, shame, and the unknown. Over time, these comments (from both others and ourselves) internalize and become our “inner critic,” the persistent negative self-talk that keeps us stuck.
Unfortunately, this type of communication is anxiety-provoking and shaming, which is the opposite of motivation. It triggers us to avoid, reduce anxiety and stay safe. Avoidance (reducing anxiety) is not the same as motivation to change. Avoidance generally includes things such as procrastination, addictive behaviors (such as overeating, grazing when not hungry, drinking, smoking); behaviors such as constantly checking your smartphone, or watching excessive TV; or even avoiding the source of the criticism or shame such as the person, activity, place, or even yourself (i.e., staying busy to stay out of your own head).
If the messages are shaming, such as “what’s wrong with you?” or “you’re not good enough,” we can become paralyzed. When we feel shame, we feel that something about us makes us so flawed that we don’t deserve to be in connection with other people. Shame disconnects us from others and teaches us to feel alone. As humans, we are hardwired at a cellular level for connection. When we feel shame, these feelings physically make us want to go inside ourselves, withdraw, and can further trigger avoidance behaviors as a way to comfort or soothe. The point is that shame and self-criticism keep us from doing the things we need to take care of ourselves and ultimately find comfort, connection and motivation.
Awareness is the first step to recognizing and letting go of your inner critic. Many of us don’t even realize its presence. Catch yourself the next time you’re aware of feeling anxious, distracted or numb. Identify the voice of the inner critic. Identify the situation that may have triggered the inner critic. What are your authentic feelings about this situation? Remember, the inner critic helps you to feel in control. So ask yourself, “what am I afraid of? What would it mean if that happened? And what would that mean?” Allow yourself space to dig deeper and find your most vulnerable feelings about the situation. This is what the inner critic is protecting you from feeling. Do you really need all that protection? Probably not. You can handle it!
Here’s an example:
Jessica went shopping. She didn’t know her sizes at this store and tried on a few things. She thought, “Ugh, these clothes are tight, they don’t fit, I feel like such a failure, I’m so fat and ugly.”
What is she afraid of? “I’ve gained weight, which means I’m a failure. It means I’m old. I’m ashamed and scared of getting older and gaining more weight.”
What authentic feelings might she be having about this situation that aren’t related to shame triggers? What are her vulnerabilities? (Identify your vulnerability and feel those feelings.)
Jessica says, “I feel out of control, fear, grief/loss. My body is reacting differently than it did in the past. It’s harder to maintain weight and muscle tone, it feels hopeless. I feel afraid, overwhelmed.”
What do you really need? Jessica says, “I can deal with it. Acknowledging my vulnerability prompts me to take better care of my health. When I feel worthless, there’s no hope at all. Shame is not motivating.”
Try this for yourself. What are some self-criticisms that you are aware of hearing yourself say? Say it in the second person. For example: “You’re such a coward. You’re despicable, worthless. Be careful or you’ll get hurt. You should try harder.”
How do you feel as you hear that? Get in touch with that feeling. What are you afraid of or afraid of feeling? What are some authentic feelings you may be having about this situation that aren’t related to shame triggers?
What are some opposite feelings? What are some reactions to these?
What do you say to that voice that says you are useless?
What do you really need to take good care of yourself? Or, what is it that you really need to hear? Express this to your inner critic with compassion in the following steps:
Express empathy for the inner critic’s fear and out-of-control feelings (what you felt in step 3 above). For example, “I understand that you are terrified of getting hurt and feeling rejected. I know you’re trying to protect me from those feelings.
Express your reaction (steps 4 and 5). For example, “Your critical voice is not helping. Please do not talk to me that way. It is preventing me from getting what I need, which is to feel connected to others. I will be OK. I will be able to cope with whatever happens. What I really need (step 6) is to reach out and connect with others. I don’t have to be afraid nor do I have to deprive myself out of fear.”
The inner critic’s self-talk tends to fall into one of two categories, “bad self” and “weakness.” Bad self is shame-based. Those who struggle with it might feel unlovable; flawed; undesirable; inferior; inadequate; deserving of punishment; or incompetent.
The weak self is based on fear and anxiety. Those who fight it might feel dependent on others; unable to support themselves; submissive; unable to express emotions without something bad happening; vulnerable; worried about loss of control; mistrustful; isolated; deprived; or abandoned.
These beliefs are neither useful nor helpful. They are generally destructive. Practice listening for clues to these beliefs by paying attention to the self-talk of your inner critic. Challenge those beliefs! They are not true. You are worthy, capable, and deserving of love.
reposted from psychcentral.com
Great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict, but from determining an agreeable pattern for how to resolve conflict. Defining the rules of engagement for how you “fight” with someone you care about is ultimately much more important than trying to never have a disagreement.
If you care about someone, then consider adopting these 10 rules as part of the way you communicate with them when you are trying to resolve a conflict:
Rule #1: Don’t yell. Adding emotion clouds the clarity of what actually happened. If the other person is yelling, it becomes especially important that you don’t raise your voice so as to prevent a natural escalation of competing interests.
Rule #2: Always start and end the conversation by affirming that you care about the other person. In the midst of a disagreement, you can never underestimate the power and importance of reminding the other person that you care about them and believe in them.
Rule #3: Be open to the idea that you made a mistake even if you are sure you did not. People rarely get upset for no reason, so there is a good chance that there is at least a kernel of truth to what they are saying.
Rule #4: Don’t speak in generalities of another person’s behavior; speak only to direct examples and instances of action. It’s hard for anyone to own up to a generalization and so you’ll likely just see his or her defensiveness activate. By isolating an instance of fact, everyone can quickly see where he or she was right and wrong.
Rule #5: Always work to be the first to apologize when any dispute arises. Although the idea of waiting for the other person to apologize first seems vindicating, it’s actually a guaranteed sign of how you care more about being right than in coming to a reconciliation.
Rule #6: Focus on trying to discover what’s right, not who is right. When thinking about what happened, try to remove yourself from the situation and evaluate right and wrong based solely on the actions that took place regardless of which side you’re on. Treat it as if you are refereeing someone else’s game.
Rule #7: Do not cuss. Exaggerated language is often proof of an exaggerated understanding of what actually happened. If you swear, the other party is likely to only hear the expletives and will stop listening for any validity in what you’re saying.
Rule 8: No name-calling. Belittling a person always shifts the focus off of resolving the actual problem. Verbal abuse is never welcome to a conflict resolution party.
Rule #9: Remind yourself the other person also cares about reconciling the relationship. One of the fundamental causes of many disagreements is feeling hurt that the other person is no longer considering your perspective, but if they didn’t care about a resolution with you they wouldn’t be fighting for one.
Rule #10: Remind yourself to never expect the other person to fill a hole in your life that only they can fill. Sometimes we fall into the trap of placing improper expectations on other people because we are hoping for them to satisfy a need in our life that they are not really capable of satisfying.
If we are fighting with someone, it means we both care about finding the best course of action and we both care about preserving the relationship. If we didn’t care about one another, then we would just ignore each other and leave.
The reason these 10 rules are important is because as long as they are in place, then no disagreement or conflict will ever shake the critical bedrock of knowing that the other person cares about you. As long as we know the other person cares about us, it will give us a common ground to work from as we try to unite two seemingly conflicted views.
It is often the case that the people we love most are those that we have the worst conflicts with. Our most intimate relationships can touch upon our deepest places of hurt, mistrust and wounding often leading to misunderstandings, distance or fighting. Although these bumps along the path of relating may be inevitable, we can smooth the ride (or at least manage to stay on the path!) by remembering to return to a place of love in all situations of conflict.
What does this mean? Well, It means that no matter how you are triggered, how right you feel, how hurt you are there is nothing that will support your relationship (and you) more than being able to stay connected to the deep love that you feel for the person with which you are in conflict.
There are lots of ways to practice this but today I want to give you the step by step of how you actually make the physical, mental and emotional shift from negative emotion to a place of love. So, that you can be more effective at solving the conflict and building trust and intimacy. These are the steps to take when you start to see red while engaging with someone you love. Whenever possible, as soon as you become aware that you are getting agitated, take a breath and a moment to do the following:
Step #1: Recognize where you are. See your desire to hurt, blame or separate from the other person.
Step #2: Switch your perspective. You don’t have to forgive, agree or accept them, anything they say, or what they are doing. Just remember what it feels like to love that person.
Step #3: Think of what you would do or how you would act if you were feeling this love. In other words, if you were to choose loving connection over hurt, blame or disconnection what would you do.
Step #4: Decide what you want. Now that you have seen each of the options, which is the one that you want to choose?
Step#5: Love yourself for making the best choice you can in the moment regardless of what it is.
It is really easy in the heat of the moment to lose sight of everything that we valued and believed when we were not in the conflict. Simply by reconnecting with the memory of being loving towards the other person, it frees us up to find new options for resolution and connection.
Join Dr. Kate Siner with her guest, relationship expert, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Romantic Alchemy, Tabatha Bird Weaver as they discuss ways to connect with compassion no matter what situation you are in on this weeks hour of Real Answers Radio. Tune in for the tools to reduce conflict and create deeper levels of trust and health in all of your important relationships. Thursday, March 12th at 12pm EST. Learn more here.