Almost there. End of Election Day 2016. In seriously considering how to be a good citizen in this election, I came across a sure fire one. It’s research based, and all respected professionals agree with this one.
Communication in love = improved relationships.
Yeah, that’s right. I suckered you into reading this. But why stop now? This is good stuff!
I’ve seen a lot of head-shaking and apathy this election season. As a mental health specialist, I have been watching the behavioral and relational patterns of interactions, whether from leaders at a podium or the lay person on the street. I actually DO see some really good communication patterns in some people who exhibit characteristics that follow. But as I wrote about in a blog post entitled “Effective Communication” a few years back (right before the last election), the examples many of us see reflect abysmal communication styles. Well, at least if we want to be respectful. IF you’re attempting to minimize, disrespect, and emotionally distance, fair WARNING: do not read and apply the following.
Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Communication styles have very clear results in various settings (in case you are wondering, passive-aggression can often be placed as a subtype under aggressive). Assertive communication is based on mutual respect, regardless of how much you disagree with the other person. Abusive language or behavior are out of the question. Assertiveness always involves respect. You may strongly state a point or quietly listen, but finding an assertive sweet spot is key- speaking the truth in love, and sometimes learning to just close the mouth.
Check out the Mayo Clinic’s thoughts on this one, or for organizational settings, look at Daniel Ames’ research at Columbia Business School.
The famous marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that turning towards a partner (which is not passive/casual agreement, but a positive stance of staying invested in one’s spouse), is significantly correlated with couples who stay together versus divorce. This means that in every “bid” that’s made for attention or connection, the masters of marriage turn towards the other person most of the time. I think there’s a lot to learn by studying successful couples’ interactions- after all, these are the people who are able to somehow stick with the same person for YEARS!!
Distress Tolerance is the ability to manage high levels of upset (distress), while staying grounded. Intolerance of uncertainty (IU), seen especially in OCD and anxiety disorders, can be successfully redirected by developing Tolerance for Uncertainty. Maybe the most common misconception with these are similar to misunderstanding forgiveness: to forgive doesn’t mean to just smile and approve. These all involve character-building at a deep level of maturity where a person can still hold to what is true, while at the same time having peace when the world around seems (or is) out of control.
Back to Gottman. He joined up with Anatol Rapoport to form an amazing Conflict Blueprint. It involves working hard to really “get” what the other person is saying, and it recognizes underlying longings- and respects them- in the other person. READ: NOT the same as adopting their perspective. Furthermore, Softened Startup entails bringing something of significance and/or pain to another’s awareness, while staying gentle and guarding against criticism, blame, and shame.
These things are actually really simple. But they take discipline and deeper metamorphosis to bring about in daily life. What can you do when all around you people communicate with disrespect and contempt? Be a difference maker by communicating in love.
That’s my election choice. What’s yours?
Justin K. Hughes
A Psychotherapists' thoughts on healthy living.
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