Isn't it amazing how we can become our own worst enemy?
Thank goodness I've come to see that I can create a threat to my own wellbeing, without even realizing there's a much better way to improve my chances for true happiness. I've learned to keep on learning to listen to how I sound, and even more importantly -- how I come across to the other person, when things get sticky.
Sometimes, I'm given the opportunity to reflect back this important habit to someone I care about, and help him or her understand it's value too.
I was chatting with a dear friend about life and how it treats us. It's so easy to point the finger at how unfair things can be, and how irritating our mate/partners can get -- to the point of high-level irritation/aggravation/dislike.
My friend was telling me about her increasing amount of distress about this lately. Her dear husband (who we both agreed is a lovely guy with a big heart and a generous spirit) was creating in her in a state of total aggravation more frequently as time goes on. She was beginning to loose patience with him -- in a serious way. She even wondered what was to become of them unless something -- like HIM ... changed!
My heart hurt for her -- and him too. They are both wonderful people! What was going wrong?
I decided to share some of my own discoveries with her -- how putting the brakes on "blaming and criticizing", and taking a good look in the mirror had helped me so much.
I asked her: "Have you ever wondered why he reacts like he does to your criticism of his behavior?" Her response: "Oh, he always thinks he has all the answers, and that he's always right!"
As we talked more, I asked her to put herself in his shoes. Now she was listening to her criticism of him, and especially her tone of voice. I asked her to hear the criticisms in the same tone she said them to him. "Well, I'm so mad by the time I tell him what I think, I'm not very nice about it." Bingo!
I shared with her that this story is not at all uncommon, even in good relationships.
Quite a while back, my Good Fairy helped me tremendously by making me stop and hear how I sounded when I got irritated with my dear husband. The question is not whether he did or said something to offend me, but how I responded to it.
I started sharing with him (in as caring and pleasant a tone as I could muster!) how I felt when he said something to me that hurt my feelings. I added, "It's not that I didn't deserve the critique, but how would you feel if I expresses my irritation to you the way you just did to me. Would it hurt your feelings too?"
He stopped his "pitch", and looked at my hurt expression (genuine!). His face changed, and he said, "You're right! I would be hurt. How could I have said it differently?"
That was the start of a whole new way for us to share actions and ideas we didn't agree upon -- by first clarifying if I'd meant what I said, in the way he'd heard it. I learned that taking the time to understand what he was feeling was very important to our relationship.
We found that depending on what else is going on in each of our worlds could make us spout off rather unpleasantly, without meaning to hurt our loved one at all. Realizing this as a fact of human behavior started a whole new way of sharing our thoughts and feeling with one another... caring about how we made each other feel, not just think.
Not that we always agree on things even now, but we agree to disagree much more caringly, without hurting each other.
I've learned to have a look in the mirror and ask myself, "And are you so perfect that you can cast the first stone? How about starting with my reactions that make it all worse?" This seems to help me get some perspective on the issue, and stop exaggerating its seriousness. After all, what is most important in our relationship?
As I shared this revelation with my friend, I saw her face change, become less angry and resentful. She realized how easily we can all just blurt forth an unthinking response, in an angry tone, which only made the situation worse.
Realizing that we humans are imperfect (at best!) can help us to rethink the way we communicate, or "react" to comments that we, or our mate, threw out thoughtlessly -- simply reacted, and how their sting made the listener react badly, in turn.
Instead of responding just as thoughtlessly, it felt so much better to take a deep breath and recognize that their remarks had hurt, sometimes to the quick. Then sharing that you don't disagree with the content of their remarks, just the way they delivered them, is the key to resolving the conflict, rather than keeping another thorn in your side.
My friend got very hopeful about this approach -- rethinking her reactions to his criticisms -- and how she could change her own style of "telling him off" too!
If we think anyone (including ourselves) is going to have or be a perfect partner, never saying anything except in the most positive tone.... dream on! It's not easy to make these changes, as the negative way is usually instinctive, but I can't tell you enough how worth it the process is! The changes in how you relate to one another once you practice a heartfelt, caring approach -- still saying what you feel, will let you get used to the hugely positive effect a more caring way works.
You'll wonder why you didn't do it this way a long time ago. The treasuring of each other's hearts enhances your whole relationship in a very deep way. And you actually learn a lot more about one another's true feelings, in a loving way.
One more thought....
I realize that this perspective comes from a female point of view. But after all... what am I? If any of my male SPs would like to share their unique way of seeing this, please send me your thoughts. I'd love to expand my thinking -- with your help!
And.... Your way to express your appreciation for any new insights you may have gotten might be to share your Happiness From the Heart approach, with someone you care about! It feels so good!