Life is short.
Or, according to Chris Rock, life is long, and I get his point. It can seem awfully long sometimes.
But whether it’s short or long, it is fair to say that life is hard enough without humans creating extra problems for ourselves in our day to day lives. Creating unhappiness in painful interactions that could go much, much better if we just got a bit conscious of what we are doing to create the unhappiness.
What we are doing is being directed and controlled by our defensiveness. It happens to the best of us and the worst of us and it happens in a nanosecond.
One second you’re feeling okay. The next second someone does or says something and suddenly you are completely not okay. You are triggered. You react. Then the other person reacts to your reaction. And this is the beginning of the end of good feelings for at least the rest of dinner, the night, the week, the marriage (relationship).
If we are to heal relationships, this is where it starts. It must start here. Right where the trigger happens. Right where we can do one thing differently.
The one thing to do differently is to press Pause. To stop action in the moment of the negativity and decide to choose a different path than the defensive one.
This is so, so simple and so, so hard to do. It’s easier to run a marathon. Most people would tackle that before this. That is the power of the fear-based reactive mind. It’s a force to be reckoned with.
This is so hard, in fact, and so important, that I teach my clients to just remember one thing. The rest can come in the moment, and does not need to be memorized.
The one thing to do when things suddenly feel bad between you and someone else is to stop action and say something that communicates you would like to do something better in that moment.
I go for the very direct, very obvious, dummy-it-down-for-me style. It’s easy to remember and is very clear. I tell my clients to say something like, “Let’s pause,” or, “Please pause.” And then, “Let’s do this better,” or, “Let’s use a tool here.”
I do train them to use specific communication tools that repair disconnect, and bring understanding and connection after the pause. But the most important is the Stop, and to get cooperation from the other to Stop.
It’s like a train wreck happening in front of you. It can and must be stopped if you are going to learn to not only decrease damage but also to create an environment of safety for growth and expansion of each individual in the relationship.
It’s not enough to apologize later. After years of destructive breakdowns and subsequent apologies, the damage to the bond may be too severe to repair in a deep way.
“Let’s do this better.”
“Let’s use a tool here.”
Try this at home, kids. It can free you to deeper and higher places on the journey of intimate partnership, and more productive and pleasant relationships at work, with friends, family, neighbors, and children.
May you experience more freedom from painful interactions.