Yesterday morning, Carol and I were in the barnyard watching two kittens. They would bat around a feather, toss it, and catch it. They abandoned the feather and wrestled, then chased each other, twisting and turning in circles.
When they saw us, they stopped frolicking and bounded over for attention.
These barn cats were not always like this. When we first met them, they were several weeks old. They did not know us and were afraid. As we’d approach them (I’m sure we seemed big and powerful), the kittens would back into a corner, every hair would raise, and they’d hiss and spit. If they could, they’d run and hide.
It took a long time to build the trust with them. Daily we’d move closer, in a loving way, until finally the curious kittens came to us, feeling safe in our company. If we did something unexpected, or forced our power on them, they would hiss, lash out with their claws, or run for cover. Our intent was to give them love, but they didn’t know that.
In a Different Barnyard
Recently, Carol and I were coaching a couple at our home. Now and then during the discussion, one of them would say something as an assertion of power or “rightness”, and the other would hiss and spit with an attack, or run for cover by closing up totally. It happened both ways, and each time we interjected with questions to help them become consciously aware of the results they were creating, and then to begin building the trust again. Their intent was to have a fabulous relationship, but their behaviour was incongruent.
How does this relate to you?
When are you forcing your power or “rightness” on your partner, and when are you hissing, spitting, or retreating like a kitten?
My challenge for you, should you choose to accept it, is to “be” the BIG person by creating new effective communication habits. Here is a reflection, and 7 levels of self-questions to support you.
Think of a recent situation when your partner said or did something that ticked you off. You may have felt a need to correct the situation the right way (your way), or you felt like you were being attacked. In your mind, put yourself into that situation now, just prior to your response or reaction. Imagine that you are there right now.
Notice what was going on for you, so you can see what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt. What did you see – colours, shapes, darkness, brightness? What did you hear – conversation in your mind, words, tone? What did you feel – heat, coolness, shallow breath, rigidity, queasy-ness?
At that point, just before doing or saying anything, STOP. Let’s create the situation differently so you can replicate it next time.
New Healthy Habit
Take a deep, cleansing breath – several times until you notice a sense of relief or relaxation.
Now ask yourself some questions in your mind. Take all of the time you need.
1. When is the best time for us to talk about this? ASK for agreement to discuss the topic in a calm, cool way now. Or, ASK for agreement to talk about it at another time. Get clear agreement from both of you so the discussion takes place at a specific time. Notice the word is ASK, rather than TELL.
2. What are my best ways to behave so our relationship grows stronger – so I work to build trust, rather than destroy it?
3. How can I use my abilities and talents to effectively communicate my needs and wants, while respecting my partner’s needs and wants – creating a win/win situation where our relationship is enhanced?
4. Why is this situation important to me? What are my values and beliefs that are being threatened? How are my assumptions (based on past experiences) affecting me in this situation now?
5. Who do I want to be? How can I consciously and consistently emulate the qualities of the person I would love?
6. In the biggest context, who else can I be when I continually strive for excellence in my relationship with myself and my partner?
7. What do I need to do NOW, to deepen my commitment to my goal?
I don’t know what your answers will be, but you do. Psychologically, this process of self-questioning will help you to solve problems at a different level of thinking than the one from which they were created, and you’ll gain the motivation to follow-through.
You can use this same process in any situation, whether in your personal or professional relationships.
3 final questions for you – choose one
1. Do you want to force your love, attention, and rightness on others?
2. Do you want to be a fearful kitten, hissing, lashing out, or running for cover?
3. Do you want to be the kind of person that romps, plays, and thrives in your loving relationship with your partner?
Allez-y ! It means “Go to it!”