Better communication = Better Relationships

This is a handout given to the mums at the end of a support group meetup. We had done a brief exercise where mums were asked to believe a certain statement: "This person has something very important to teach me", "this person could hurt me in some way", and "this person likes me". 


After the feedback we discussed the following:


As you have all had different responses with each belief despite staying with the same partner, you can see how the reality you created each time was a function of your belief and your inner response to it on all levels. Thus you projected all of your inner responses onto the neutral screen of your partner.


How often do we ever truly see people as they are rather than the story we are creating about them?


Even in the present, many of your thoughts are just stories – what someone is thinking when they look at you, what it means that your partner went out for drinks with his work mates again this week, what you imagine when someone is late again or doesn’t call you back.


In other words, your thoughts are not facts.


This last point is so very important because these thoughts will to a large extent create your own reality. It is said that a loving person lives in a loving world and hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror. If we all live in the same world, how can that be?


It is because your beliefs are like tinted glasses through which you see the world; and the world, as a mirror, reflects back to you whatever belief you present to it. The kind of world you create and experience for yourself depends upon which glasses you wear, that is, it depends upon your beliefs, even though you may tell yourself it is the other way around.


This is so crucial to how we relate to others because if we are relating to them through the various filters of our beliefs and whatever expectations we have, we cannot truly see them as they are, we cannot relate authentically.


This is where a beginner’s mind, being open and curious about the other person’s world can really foster healthy and harmonious relationships.


An important part of improving relationships is to learn good communication skills:


We need to be able to express our thoughts and feelings to others to improve / clarify / develop / deepen the relationship...we think we know the following but do we actually practice them:


  • “I” statements

Practice saying “I” not “you”. Culturally we’ve been brought up to say “you” or “one” but this separates you from yourself. When you feedback to another using “you”, straight away the other person may feel accused and so becomes defensive, probably attacks back. Instead, take responsibility for your feedback: instead of “You make me feel...” try “I feel...when you...”


  • Be precise and describe behavior

Rather than labeling the person, you can describe the behavior. Describing is an excellent way to slow down defensive reactive relating. It avoids escalation, generalisations and judgements. For example: I have been feeling insecure lately because you haven’t been spending much time with me” is much more productive than saying “You are a self-absorbed idiot who never pays any attention to me”


  • Active listening

Cultivating our ability to listen. We think we listen to each other, but we don’t often really listen. A way we can communicate that we’ve listened is to repeat back what we’ve heard – “so what you are saying to me is...”


  • Respond vs React

There can be a ping pong quality of exchanges. We can practice not becoming immediately defensive. Give ourselves more time to allow what we experience, feel and to contain it however briefly, before replying. This leads to responding rather than reacting.


  • Expectations and attachments (what we are holding on to)

Become more aware of what we are unconsciously hanging on to with the other – needing them to be a certain way so we can feel OK. “Our expectations lie like heavy cloaks on the other who languishes under their weight”. The other is not our possession. Also, our expectations can create the dynamic: if we expect a child to be naughty we look for thisd and jump on it when we spot it. If expecting partner to cheat he will be under constant supervision and so may be pushed towards edge of infidelity.


  • Blame / guilt

Letting go of blame and guilt. Blaming the other for things being the way they are so I don’t feel guilty that things are the way they are – keeping me away from experiencing my own responsibility. In other situations we can be very attached to guilt: this ensures things stay the way they are – unsatisfactory but familiar. “Better the devil you know”


  • Allowing difference

We can have different opinions, preferences, tastes, perceptions, etc. Practice giving the other the space for their difference rather than trying to convince them, change them or make them wrong. For example: “I hear you...and I hear that you feel that”; or “I’m sorry that you feel such and such...”not “I’m sorry that I...” unless this is true for you.


  • Learning opportunity

May be difficult to see at the time, but even in hindsight we can ask ourselves: what does this situation give me the opportunity to develop in myself?