In my practice coaching clients on conscious relationships, my primary advice is to use curiosity as the foundation of all their relationship interactions.
It’s only through curiosity that the mind is open to understanding and finding a place of neutrality and dissolving unhealthy patterns that cause unfulfilling relationships.
In order to get curious, we often have to pause to stop our normal patterns of behavior. I suggest a deep breath and a pause. It’s like a reset button. Without a pause, we will continue on exactly the way we always do. Our default behavior. With a pause, we can shift from our current stance on the issue to curiosity.
To do this, it takes practice because society is embedded in reacting to triggers with an emotional charge because we feel our truth is the truth. Not only is reaction an addiction, we feel justified in our emotional reactions. Most of us feel entitled to the reactions we offer because we are clear on what the truth is.
The truth is, it is our truth and not the only truth.
Our partners deserve to have the right to their own truth. When we accept this, we find our desire to understand is greater than our desire to have a stand on our opinion, our experience.
You first have to be willing to not be right and be open to learning a new way of responding. In my experience, you will have to do it a few times or more to break the habit of reaction.
Reaction is different from responding. This is why it is so important to pause—to keep from acting on impulse.
“Reactions are done on impulse, without putting much thought into it or considering what the end result may be. Response – It can be defined as saying something in reply to an action or statement.” [sic]
In my work, I’m always looking to connect with other coaches or therapists who facilitate similar methods that I use in my coaching to bring about an awareness of how powerful these tools are. Doing one thing in your relationship today could shift things completely.
Like Dr. Julie Shafer, my answer is curiosity. When we pause from what we are doing and get curious, everything shifts. It’s a small shift that has profound effects.
I interviewed Dr. Julie Shafer, author of the book, Loved: Relationship Rules for Women Who Thought They Knew the Rules.
I found Dr. Julie’s work is in alignment with what I do. I found it fascinating and her warm, receptive style inviting to be vulnerable. I hung on to every word. I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at her Love Summit that airs September 13-17, 2021.
Lisa: What do you suggest to clients when they struggle with weighted emotions and disagreements? Do you have a process that you have found that works for emotional regulation?
Dr. Julie: Yes, “Emotional regulation is key to navigating anything difficult within relationships. We need to be able to respond to situations with an open heart and a dash of curiosity in order to work our way through misunderstandings and upsets. What I suggest to my clients when I’m working on improving their emotion regulation skills is a simple three-step process designed to get them to slow down enough so they can make a choice about how to respond instead of just react.
Step 1: Notice you are having a reaction. Say to yourself, “I’m having a reaction.”
Step 2: Take a slow, deep breath.
Step 3: Label the emotion (or emotions) you are feeling. Say to yourself, “I notice I’m feeling [feeling word].
This process should take 3-5 seconds. While this may seem like an eternity when you are caught up in a disagreement, it’s not a lot of time. The process of taking a breath and labeling your emotion does something magic in your brain—it brings your rational, language centers back online. These centers typically get disabled by intense emotional reactions. But they are essential for being able to identify your emotional state, so labeling your reaction will reactivate them.
With your rational centers re-engaged, you can now figure out how best to respond. Can you continue the conversation calmly? If not, take a break from the conversation in order to collect yourself before re-engaging.
If you have an intense emotional reaction to a situation, it’s worth taking some time when you are calm and alone to explore why you had that reaction and whether there is something there that needs to be adjusted.”
Dr. Julie is spot-on about taking time to explore the situation that caused the reaction, and I’ll add to that journal. Let those strong emotions out on paper. Once on paper you have it out of your head and can examine it more realistically.
Often, I find many think that working on a relationship is “hard work.” It doesn’t have to be the case. What is hard is letting go of our old ways and being open to new ways of being with ourselves and our partners. Once someone has committed to letting go of “needing to be right,” the rest is easier. It’s just a matter of learning a new pattern. It takes practice. The more you develop new skills in a relationship, the more fulfilling and easier it becomes.
Be aware of the mindset of one and done. This is a process, and if you want a quick fix, this isn’t the answer. It will be uncomfortable because you are changing a pattern in your brain. There will be resistance. Just notice the resistance for what it is and continue on. The end results are so much greater than the discomfort you will experience.
What I’ve found working with men and women is that instead of it spiraling downward, you’ll find that it starts spiraling upward. It’s possible to have a fantastic relationship that supports your thriving.
Small steps can make a vast difference in our romantic relationship. However, it does take consistent effort.
Think of it as a tune-up on your car to keep it running well. It’s just part of relationship maintenance. It’s ongoing. Once you get into a habit of new ways of responding, it runs smoothly.