Why Choose Connection?

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.

An Empowering Question

I asked my daughter the question, “How are you feeling today?” She’d had an upset with a friend the night before so it seemed like a normal question for me to ask her the next day. But I started thinking: there is a more empowering question I could ask her, and I felt my next blog post coming on.

“How are you feeling today?” It seems like a nice, logical question to ask someone; a way to connect, check in, perhaps gather information. However, a more empowering question might be: “What are you thinking today?”

I’ve heard the “thought leaders” of the world say that “our thoughts create our perception”. Also, they explain that what we think causes our feelings. So, if we base how we are on how we are feeling, maybe that has us at a disadvantage. Which of the two questions allow us to be in touch with a deeper sense of ourselves?

The question, “What are you thinking today?”, can give us better information and help the person we are talking to notice their thinking in that moment. Then they can choose to think something else if they realize their thoughts in that moment are not serving them well. It comes down to being responsible for choosing our own thoughts and for producing our own peace and happiness. Having a sense of well-being is not outside ourselves, nor dependent on someone else or a different circumstance. It’s within our control. How do we know a thought is not serving us, though? The thought leaders say, we can tell by how we feel in our body. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever feel sad or mad. But, we can let the feelings run through us; they won’t stay “stuck” in us for days, months or even years, if we stop choosing the same thought over and over again. We have the ability to have a different thought when we choose to. We can turn a thought like, “I can’t believe he said that to me, what is his problem!” into, “He said what he said, it doesn’t make it true and I’m not going to let it bother me, I’m fine.”

That more empowering question, “What are you thinking today?”, allows us more presence. Harvard brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor says, “We all control our thoughts, we are not our thoughts and if you don’t think it, it doesn’t exist”. Shakespeare similarly said, “There is nothing neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

If our conversations stopped revolving around our feelings and more around our thinking, it could produce more peace and happiness. Jill Bolte Taylor explains that “when you pay attention to the circuitry you are running, and interact with people differently, the rules change and the game changes, it demands change.” I think I will put this to the test the next time I catch myself asking someone how they feel.

Connection-Our Greatest Influence

As my adolescent grew into the teen she is today, I had a sense that in order to keep a connection with her and not lose her so to speak, I needed to not manage her. To not nag, criticize and tell her what I think she needed to be doing or when and how she should do it, as much as I could anyway. Sounds good right? If parents were to take a real honest look though, they might find they fit the description of a manager better than they think. It doesn’t make us bad parents, just not as effective as we could be in actually getting what we want: influence over our kids. Influence is defined as …”the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour of someone”.

So what’s a parent to do? How do we not lose influence over our teens? We know they still need us to be there for them. It’s not a time to disappear, probably a time more than ever to stay close by. What would work though?

I wanted to be her sounding board, on her terms of course, to be visible yet quiet, to smile, love, listen and to check in with her with few questions. And for god’s sake, keep all her friends straight or I’d never hear the end of that one! This strikes me as the role of a consultant.

Our teens are in a time of their lives where power, freedom and belonging are huge needs for them. Managing infringes on their needs and causes disconnection, consulting can help serve their needs while keeping a connection. This is where our greatest influence lies with our amazing teens.