7- Self Awareness (Mindfulness in Motion)
Self awareness is the means by which we can dig deep. It’s the means by which, in any given moment, we can scan our whole consciousness, inward sensory system and workings, plus the incoming sensory input to be present with what is really going on in this moment. both for us, and for others. Its the practice we learn to do in meditation, it’s the subject of the practice of mindfulness and our challenge is to make every waking, relating moment an experience of walking mindfulness, of presence to the real people and the real world in front of us, as well as to what’s really going on within us. And its the practice by which we become 100 fold better at both love and honouring ourself and our own needs, thus it helps us get better at self love and self respect.
Plus it helps us be that much more effective at what roles we play in life, at being better friends, partners, parents, colleagues and bosses, through improving the quality of what “material” we have available to communicate to one another authentically. The greater our self awareness grows, the more capable we become of discerning "us" from any given other person (where we end and they begin), of being able to merge with the energy of the people we love when we chose to and then separate out to be the expression of “us” we’re here to be in the world when we have to, of discerning past from present, head from heart and soul, of recognising wishful potential from present reality and thus creating the quality of connections we REALLY want to be creating in life.
Because the better we become at listening to, to hearing what’s REALLY being said right in front of us. But more than that, the more we learn about non verbal communication and verbal communication skills, the better we become at making sure what our mouths, or bodies and energy are actually saying match up with what message we wish to express and better interpreting what others verbal and non verbal communication is really saying to us (wether they’re consciously aware of it or not.). It’s seeing their body language as well as their words, its feeling their vibe to work out what’s really going on right now. More than that, the more time we take to notice and take in what’s going on with someone else, what’s truly most important to them and the finer details of what makes them tick, what makes them light up like a Christmas tree and what makes them cry and commit it to memory to be mindful of, the more closeness it creates. When we go beyond mentally attempting to empathise with how things must be with someone, by using our whole sensory system and our hearts to become attuned to and present with what's actually going on with them, like Jake and Nateeri in Avataar, we come to know people, connect with them, plus be able to move in sync with and work in harmony with them more-so than ever before.
Arguably one of the moment important qualities of all for successful communication and deepening trust and connection in our relationships of all kinds, not to mention resolving conflicts, is acknowledgement. As I was saying in a Facebook Live earlier today, being able to acknowledge and validate what’s really going on for the other person in any given moment, can literally be a make or break point in relationships of all kinds, depending on wether we choose to practice it or we don’t. When we do, people feel heard and understood. When we don't, particularly when a boundary of someone's has been transgressed and a hurt or betrayal incurred, as Belgian psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity Esther Perel puts it, to not acknowledge the gravity of the experience for the person who feels hurt can literally be the point on which the majority of people will terminate a relationship, on the belief that the other doesn't care and or doesn't care to take responsibility for the impact of their behaviour on the other, in which case, their ceases to be emotional safety within the relationship. In the case of the healing and empowerment journey from abuse, acknowledgement is a whole step in itself of the healing process, which involves an element of self acknowledgement of what has happened, and an asking for support and acknowledgement of the people involved, as well as potential partners in healing (like members of a women's or men's circle for example) who may be key in witnessing and holding space for the abuse healing journey.
As per the 5 step communication infographic i posted in last week's blog, acknowledgement thus is a key step in successful communication. In the words of Stephen Covey, first seek to understand and THEN to be understood. Particularly when someone else is highly upset, and even when they’re happy, it goes a long way to acknowledge first the point the other is attempting to make. Before trying to make our own, to fix, point out where they might be wrong or suggest solutions , we first need to acknowledge the significance to them of what they just shared. Then we find out if there’s anything further we need to clarify to understand and then ask them how can we meet or support them in getting what they want or need. And it’s so important its like the windscreen and windows of the care we're travelling in on this roadtrip of life, themselves. For us mere mortals who don’t have computer driven cars and still drive ourselves, receiving navigational support from our partners, we need to be able to see what is going on in the relationship landscape of the highway with the other drivers to be able to drive in sync with others and stay on the road, or we’d likely crash. Acknowledgment is just that important.
Which brings me to the next quality, discernment. Intuitive discernment is knowing when to put your foot on the break and slow down as may be situationally required. Combined with it’s cousin self discipline, which is the actual break system itself.
When we’re driving our car along in a relationship next to someone and the person in the other car, yells something aggressively out the window about our driving or theirs, that leads us to believe it would be best to take this immediate exit to the town, “SAFETY” and hence to a destination away from our original destination “THE NEXT STAGE MANIFESTED OF OUR SHARED VISION”, intuitive and cognitive discernment is the means by which we can ask one fundamental question that will save us and our relationships necessary heartbreak and detours away down the exits of conflict and that question is:
“What’s REALLY going on right now?” Followed by a refocus to “What do you really want or need?” As opposed to playing in the cathartic indulgence that it sometimes is to floor the emotional volume on our own pain when we need to make or defend against a point in a discussion, or perhaps, when we feel hurt and want the other to endure equal pain to the suffering we believe they've caused us. In doing that, we have to be careful, not to be like a screaming toddler in the back seat, screaming what they want at all costs in an attempt to immediately alleviate or have alleviated their discomfort, demanding what they want at all costs, when in actual fact, they’re a grown adult driving on a freeway in traffic. What happens to the moving car and surrounding cars if they slip into the toddler seat in the back while the cars are in motion? Discernment + self discipline is what we practice to stay in the drivers seat to the deepening of connection within the relationship and continual motion towards the realisation of our relationship visions.
11- Respect and Honour
It’s also the means by which we can figure out, relative to our past recollection of what is and isn’t important to this person or people, and what they might have just said, wether what we’re about to say is situationally appropriate and in heart centred integrity with how we want to respect the person or people in front of us. Is what we desire to say or do right now going to help, relative to the relationship or team vision, role descriptions and code of honour we hold for this relationship? Or is it going to fast track us further towards an exit right now? Will it be a little like reading instructions for how to exit to “RE-TRIGGERED GHOSTS OF RELATIONSHIP PAST” or ‘CHILDHOOD TRAUMA” from page 30 of the Street Directory, which lead us to want to plot a course for page 50 E4, “SAFETY IN SOLITUDE” right now, when you’re actually both needing directions and to take action on how to stay on route to page 70 G3, “SAFETY IN CONNECTION?”
And early on, while we might sometimes interpret the desire to do something AS intuition (because it FEELS good or right), there’s a feedback loop in our hearts, that wires back to our intellectual understanding/memory of what is and isn’t important to and in the vision of the person or people in front of us, that feeds back to the pit of our stomach to tell us when we are and aren’t respecting someone’s and our own code of relationship honour (wether knowingingly, or unconsciously.) Learning to listen to it, to the intuition red flags when your intuition tells you “look again” or puts a particular person’s face square in your minds eye, along with that gut feeling, and then honour that knowledge that we may be about to shit on their boundaries and values, takes discipline at times. But when honouring the work or personal relationship in front of you and looking for the win win, you win a lot more friends over the long term than you make enemies of people we didn’t take the time to love and respect, to whatever growth or whatever end, with the love they deserved and maybe we do too.
Respect for the other’s wellbeing, as well as our own ends up being like the oil in the car engine that keeps it running smoothly, as opposed to seizing up and overheating with unwanted friction. It’s essential to each engines function, just as it is to the longevity of relationships of all kinds.
12- Reflection & Ownership
It also involves the willingness on our part to self reflect on our own behaviour, relative to what they just said. Do they have a point? Is there something we neglected to do or something that was within our realm of responsibility to manage, wether it was putting a bin out or getting a Facebook ad out, wether intentionally or not, that we may need to rectify or adjust our future course on? Or, knowing ourselves as we do, does it NOT ring true for us what we were just asked to take responsibility for (e.g. maybe we were just accused of something we weren’t somewhere at that time to have done, maybe someone expressed to us that they think we feel some way about them that we DON’T actually feel or think about them.) It involves taking 50% of the responsibility for what I have personally done to contribute to the picture/experience that now is? And what is within my power to now do to come into alignment with the relationship vision, role statements/code of conduct? And can I do to help get us out of this traffic jam and back on the road, taking action to creating the quality of relationship moment to moment that we defined we wanted in our original relationship vision, relational mission statement and expected code of conduct? What do they need and what do I now need to do based on that, to do my part to keep this relationship on course?
It might sound so obvious when I write about it now, but when the emotional heat is on in the middle of a tense discussion, it’s amazing how fast we can forget and fall back on self defensive coping patterns while we feel like we’re under attack and they feel like they’re in a fight to be acknowledged in the validity of a wrongdoing against them. In the evolution of that discussion, nobody’s really listening to each other any more, so much as honking with their cars pointed at each other, trying to make a point. Gottman and Nan refer to this as a form of what they call “gridlock” e.g. that’s when both parties get locked into a place of trying to make their point and end up talking AT each other, pointing at each other (from your cars stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway) without any forward movement whatsoever. Because they're not actually listening to or working together, so much as just trying to prove their own point, with little impact. Taking a second out to self reflect, take ownership of what they can do now and then starting with acknowledgement, seeking to understand the other person’s point and address their concern, followed by bring up one’s own, is the next part of the pathway to getting out of the traffic jam. The ability to do so is essentially to the growth and longevity of relationships.
13- Heart Centred Resolve (commitment to action)
Finally for this week, this is also one of the most important points for relationship longevity of all. There’s little point talking through all of the above, working through all of the above, just to return to old habits and do things the exact same way that created the exact problems one just got so upset about. To do so is akin to accelerating up to 110km/hr and aiming our vehicle at the concrete pillars at the base of the overpass ahead. Nobody is perfect, sometimes it takes time to change and change our ways of being. But to knowingly not follow through on purpose, well that's potential relational suicide, or homicide, depending on what we do or don't ultimately do. When we agree to a new way of being with someone, to behaving in new ways in relationship, we have to be willing to commit to the follow through into action, even when it’s crazy uncomfortable and puts us out of our comfort zone.
Relationships and teams are the fast track to personal growth because they show us all the places where we’re not yet exceptionally great at relating, communicating and delegating, as well as the ones where we excel. But we have to be integral in following through to action on the discussions we just had, relative to the relationship or team vision. Because doing so, again creates trust and safety within the relationship, whatever kind of relationship it is. And relationships where there is perceived safety and room for growth and to be all of ourselves, and the ones that go the distance. All make sense?
Next week, in part 3, we move onto extra points for conflict prevention and helping heal, post conflict, before a few extra points of keeping the the fun and the fire in relationships of all kinds.
Until then, have fun, take care.
Covey, S.R., Principle Centred Leadership, 8th Edition, Simon & Schuster, London, 1992
Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N., The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, HARMONY BOOK, United States, 2015
Gottman J.M. & Silver, N., What Makes Love Last, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2015
Perel, E. The State of Affairs Rethinking Infidelity, Harper Collins, New York, 2017
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.