I’m always inspired when we have experiences that shift us and create more possibility. Whether it’s a relationship, a conversation or a story made up in our own head, space for something new opens up.
When connection replaces disconnection this shift becomes possible. If we are willing to stop behaving in ways that divide us like…defending, judging and blaming (to name a few), and choose instead to create connection that brings us closer together, we move towards healthier relationships. Here are a few ways we can create more connection, there are many more:
1. Accept people and situations as they are. We cannot change anyone, resistance is futile and very stressful.
2. Stop trying to force others to do what we want them to do. Even if we have good intentions, defences go up when people feel control or domination.
3. Learn to become more aware of our stories we make up about people. By “story” I mean a fictional narrative we’ve created in our head about someone or something that happened in the past. The story colours the way we see the person and we lose our effectiveness.
We seem to be so conditioned to have our attention on the other person, thinking they should do this or shouldn’t do that. It’s a subtle form of control (and sometimes not so subtle!). If we want more satisfying interactions and relationships, we need to keep the focus on our own behaviour. With the focus on ourselves then, can we dare to trust that we can be surprised by a person who we have seen as unfair, difficult or controlling? I say absolutely, but this is not for those who have no interest in improving a relationship. This is for those who have struggled and are at a loss for what to do. It is for people who may not want to be in a close relationship with that challenging person in their life but who still need or want to interact with them with less stress. If we stop our own disconnecting behaviour, the seemingly impossible becomes possible. This is because when we choose to connect, even slightly, we take charge of our own behaviour and it can be a game changer.
By choosing connection, I have personally experienced more peace and freedom with the people in my own life, whether it’s in my most important relationships or not. It’s simply about getting along better with people in our lives. There is a definite link between better relationships and improved mental health.
I am always thrilled for a client when more possibility is created in their relationship. I’ll share Cindy’s story (name has been changed for confidentiality). Cindy’s lawyer had suggested that she send her ex-husband a communication asking for certain information needed to help her case. After a coaching session, she was willing to tweak her communication in an email to him. Cindy quickly identified that the story she had told herself for years was that her ex-husband had controlled her in this particular situation. She realized that her story made her feel powerless, which kept her from communicating effectively. So she dared to trust that by using connecting communication and controlling herself only, he may respond differently than before. She was astounded to receive a reply back from him shortly after, and for the first time in 10 years felt that his response was authentic, explanatory and kind instead of condescending and void of any of her requested information. Now they had a real chance to not be at war and negotiate from a different place.
It is challenging to trust that something new can happen in our more difficult relationships. Our stories and perspectives can be strong; combine that with a culture steeped in what William Glasser, a psychiatrist who invented Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, calls “external control” and it’s easy to see why. When disconnecting behaviour stops pushing us further away from peace, we can only naturally move in the other direction.