Tuesday, November 24, 2009

“Magical” Communication Solutions for Difficult Relationship Moments

By Amy Phillips-Gary

This week's blog posts are centered on improving your relationships. Paying attention to how you interact and connect with or disconnect from the people around you is an integral part of your personal growth.

We all fall into habits in our relationships that often correspond with the inner habits we maintain. Some of these habits support the growth and expansion that we want and others are mainly obstacles.

As the holidays approach, your habits that tend to stand in the way of relationship and personal growth can become intensified and even inflated.

Yes, Thanksgiving and the various December holidays such as Hanukkah, Yule and Christmas are times of gratitude, giving, celebration and togetherness.

But we can all probably attest to the fact that these holidays can also be quite stressful. Old wounds that have never been given the chance to heal can become re-inflamed as you see a family member with whom you share a challenging past. In the flurry of shopping and parties, tensions between even the closest friends can rise and hurt feelings can be triggered.

The manner in which we communicate is often a barometer for how stressed out and tense we feel.

We might find ourselves saying something hurtful or harsh to a person we care deeply about. We may lash out verbally at a mate, child, co-worker or friend who has very little or nothing at all to do with why we feel strung out or angry.

This is unfortunate and it is also something that just about every one of us does from time to time. Becoming aware of how you are feeling and actually listening to your inner needs for relaxation and release can help prevent these uncomfortable and even regrettable moments.

The great news is, the ways that we communicate-- even about difficult topics-- can be the means by which connection and closeness and personal growth happen.

Taking care of your feelings and needs rather than shoving them aside is a wonderful first step to improving communication with others.

A second step is setting an intention (and then remembering it) to communicate to connect. Too many times, the underlying aim of communication becomes to prove a point or to be “right.”

One person becomes attached to how “right” his or her perspective seems and then the conversation becomes all about justifying that position instead of offering up a particular view and then listening to what the other person has to say.

The sharing and connection get lost when “rightness” is the intention.

There are probably times when you truly want to communicate to connect with another person, but you also want to be certain that your voice is heard and acknowledged. You can absolutely do both!

Relationship coaches and authors Susie and Otto Collins have written an e-book titled: Magic Relationship Words which includes 101 words and phrases that are designed to encourage connection, honesty and openness in your communication.

Here are a couple of “magic” words from their e-book that you might try in your relationships:

* “Please tell me more...”
How many times have you made up a big story in your head about something another person said to you that seemed vague and confusing? Perhaps your story about what you think was meant left you feeling upset, fearful or angry-- and you don't even know if your understanding is accurate!

When you realize that you are starting to fill in blanks and make up stories about what another person said, stop yourself and go to the person. Ask him or her to “Please tell me more...” about the statement.

This request for more information can potentially save you both from inner turmoil and relationship conflict.

* “I feel...”
“I feel” statements have been around for a long time. They are so potentially powerful in relationship communication that I think they bear repeating again.

For example, you can tell your partner that his or her flirting is “making me insecure or worried that an affair is going on.” Chances are, this statement will trigger defensiveness in your mate which can shut down communication quite quickly.

Instead, you might say something like: “I feel insecure and worried that you may be having an affair when I see you flirt.” It is a subtle change. Your partner will probably not be overjoyed to have this conversation with you, but the emphasis is different.

With these “magic” words, you are taking ownership for how you are feeling AND you are bringing attention to a situation that is troubling you. A greater sense of openness is introduced into an otherwise disconnecting context.

From this point, you can listen to what your partner has to say, possibly ask questions for deeper understanding and then possibly create some agreements.

Connecting communication in relationships may not occur as instantaneous as any of us would like.

Yes, it does take both inner listening and also a willingness to practice engaged listening with the other person. But the effects of working through a challenge or conflict with a sense of integrity, cooperation and closeness can truly feel magical.

*Personal Growth Planet blog is taking part in National Blog Posting Month (http://www.nablopomo.com/). Every weekday in November, you'll find daily blogs linked by weekly themes.

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