As I reflect back on 2018, I realize that this past year has brought about many changes to my life. Growth happens to be the word that comes to mind most often during my reflections. This happened in many parts of my life and I couldn’t be more pleased. Growing responsibilities, family, and realizations of my priorities have completely changed the way I view my life. This is difficult, as well as fulfilling.
This is our bread and butter, really. “How to talk with others” is the shorter version of the title (and is way more general). However, we’re keeping it specific because, while some people struggle with basic conversation (for a variety of reasons), others struggle with bringing up and/or talking about hard things.
And it’s on to the next one. Stonewalling, my friends. This is the third horseman of the four. This one is pretty interesting, though, in that there’s some physiology that’s at play.
This is the long and short of what happens.
Partners A and B start having a discussion with heart rates around 70 beats per minute (average). It shifts into a conflict discussion/argument/disagreement. Partner A’s heart rate jumps to 80 beats per minute the second the conversation heats up. Partner B’s heart rate has gone up to about 74.
When we talk about the four horsemen, we're not talking about the apocalypse. We're talking about four styles of communication that, when present within relationships, predict the eventual dissolution of that relationship.
Here's the scenario. I'm in session with a couple and we start an intervention that requires stating things from a personal perspective for one person and listening and summarizing for the other (without giving their interpretation or jumping into why). Easy peasy, right?
This isn't a fun topic for people, although I would argue it's one of the most necessary things that people should do. Personally, I love this topic. I love seeing people self reflect in such a way that they can honestly own whatever it is that they're doing in a given situation. I also personally love this topic – I'd rather know what my stuff is then have it metaphorically slap me in the face later on to the point that I feel completely blindsided.
I think this is going to be a really obvious blog for people who are reading, but I've been surprised before, so it's worth it to share.
When I work with couples, I tell them that the work they do is broken down into three large themes (too much detail to get into, seriously), all of which are based around the Gottman's work. We spend time on conflict (duh - that's what most people come in for), existential issues (i.e. life roles, dreams, meaning), and friendship.
Seems really simple, right? "Just be friends with your partner!" is what they tell you, "Laugh together!" is what they say. But when you're in the throes of conflict, or when you can't even look at your partner without feeling resentment or rage or exhausting frustration or defeat, then laughing together seems like the absolute furthest thing from what you're capable of.
And, to be honest, that's not the type of thing I would tell you
There are three basic things you can do to make sure that your relationship is in a good place. Granted, I can't make you (or your partner or partners) do any of these things, but I can let you know what these basic things are in the hopes that you'll start to implement them.
Let's get clear on one quick thing. These things are simple, yes. Although they aren't necessarily easy.
Of course not, right?