Last week I set a challenge, for both of us.
I’m challenging myself to identify and share the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-did.”
Those key things I’ve had to figure out over the decades in order to be happier in my own skin and behind my own eyes; those things that I’ve needed to grasp in order to understand other people; those things I’ve learned the hard way by all the failed connections, anger, sadness, loss, discomfort and unmet needs. These 12 skills are (so far) my answer to those unspoken “What if I’d known this?”” questions I’ve asked myself as I’ve bumped along on my own. To refer back to my math analogy of last week – what if I’d learned more than basic arithmetic at school before being asked to move into a world filled with calculus problems?
Participate! Co-create this list. Here’s how. I’m exploring one skill per month, in one post per week – usually on Wednesdays. Check-in with me each week to see what you think of the ideas. I’m going to tell stories, post video clips, explore my reasons, & maybe share my own goof-ups. I’d love your feedback. Try these ideas on. Take them for a spin. Watch what happens. And remember – these are not exclusively “couples” skills. These are the building blocks for all loving relationships – loving ourselves, our parents, children, friends and yes, of course partners.
That you’ll become more aware of what you do that works – what brings you closer to people. And that you’ll become more hopeful and empowered as you consider those relationships that are fragile or cracked. Are there ideas here that will help you build a firmer footing?
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After three decades of paying attention to how we connect with one another, I’ve come to believe that the essence of our human interactions can be pretty simply stated: We’re each trying to manage our feelings and meet our needs in the context of one another. And that’s why it gets so interesting.
At one extreme, to paraphrase Albert Camus, is the victim (someone who, for many reasons, is unable to advocate for him or her self) and at the other, the executioner (someone who ignores or crushes the feelings and needs of others). Neither path is satisfactory because the fact is, we need one another.
We need one another to show up with our true agenda more than we need either a resentful capitulation or a one-sided victory. Both these positions are destabilizing. There’s a score to settle. Pay-back and revenge are in the air. Someone has won or lost a battle but Peace has not broken out.
We need to be able to resolve issues with difficult neighbors; judgmental in-laws; stressed partners; angry children; our community – however we define this for ourselves. And, we need to be able to connect with happiness, celebrating the special moments, appreciating the day-to-day.
In brief there’s a whole lot of complexity to nurturing quality relationships and not a whole lot of teaching or guidance along the way.
So, about those skills.
I’ve gathered this list together from a variety of sources. Principally I want to acknowledge ~
- Dr. Richard Schwartz and Internal Family Systems;
- Marshall Rosenberg and Non Violent Communication;
- Dr. Haim Guinot and Between Parent and Child;
- Dan Wile and Collaborative Couples Therapy;
- Dr. John Gottman, and 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work;
- Dale Carnegie and How To Win Friends & Influence People
- My parents, whose individual lives were rich and principled yet whose marriage was tough. Their difficulties motivate my quest.
- And my own family – husband Mark, son Charlie and daughter Mona, who know how much I fall short of my efforts to relate well, and yet who love me anyway.
- My rich and wonderful community of friends. You know who you are. You are supportive, forgiving, funny, kind, persistent, generous, giving and more. Oh – and you keep some champagne in your fridge “just in case!”
My Top Twelve
It might not make total sense to you at first but I hope you’ll hang in here with me. And, because life is a work-in-progress, I may edit this list as the year progresses.
SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING
- Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”
- Learn how to be pro-active: choose how “y’all” show up.
- Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity.
SKILLS FOR CONNECTING
- Master the art of conversation.
- Discover how to listen with your whole self.
- Crack the empathy nut.
- Practice kindness.
- Negotiate with a win-win mentality.
SKILLS FOR RE-CONNECTING
- Build (or rebuild) trust.
- Apologize & “Do-Over” – when you blow it.
- Forgive and move on – when they blow it.
SKILLS LETTING GO
- Let go! Relationships end. You’ll learn, grow & carry on.
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The 3 next January posts will be exploring the many facets of ourselves. How come we can be assertive, brave and magnificent with these folks, and yet feel like a blithering idiot with those? What is this constant inner chatter? Why do we get caught in dilemmas with totally competing arguments racing back and forth in our heads? What’s going on “inside” ?
Did you guess why I chose today’s featured image? This is a community of Bonobos. Considered amongst the most peaceful and egalitarian of apes I figured we’ve got something to learn from them. Thanks to World Animal Protection for this image.
© Gemma Utting , January 2015