The 2nd vital skill for good relationships

It happened so suddenly. One minute John and I were in the dining room looking forward to a nice dinner with his family.

The next minute I was so angry that I found it hard to breathe. Tears pricked my eyes.

To a casual observer, it might have sounded like just an off-hand remark on John’s part. But that’s not how it felt to me.

The 2nd Skill

Knowing how to deal with situations like this is the second vital skill for satisfying relationships.

And it’s a hard thing to do because our brains and bodies are hard-wired to pressure us into actions that might feel good in the moment, but that will make it more difficult to resolve the issue and will ultimately undermine the quality of our relationships.

For example, one impulse in me was to tell John how hurt and angry I felt, and all the thoughts that went with those feelings – like how wrong it was for him to have said that, what a thoughtless and inconsiderate thing to do, etc.

It’s taken me a lot of years, but at least in that moment I found the strength not to do that – at least not much.

Another impulse was to rush from the room and curl up somewhere by myself to comfort my hurt feelings.

The fact that John’s family was there helped me not to choose this one. I didn’t want to have to explain things to them later.

So I managed to stay through dinner and the evening; I even joined in the banter and conversation. But whenever I thought about that moment, I felt upset.

The Next Morning

Sometimes feelings like these resolve themselves overnight. But when I woke up the next day, I was still feeling bothered.

So I mentally went through the steps in the 1) Heal and learn when difficult interactions happen process and I felt lighter, happier and at peace.

But I also wanted to understand what had happened for John and how we could prevent a similar situation in future. So I prepared for a conversation with him using the steps in the 2) How to talk and make decisions with others process. Doing both 1) and 2) took about 10 minutes.

As a result, when John woke up and seemed interested in talking, I was able to introduce the topic in a connecting way and be ready to hear what he had to say.

It took less than 8 minutes and we both felt better after the conversation (he’d been bothered about what happened too). We reached an agreement about how to handle similar situations in future to avoid frustration and hurt on both sides. And it’s been working!

To me, this is such a miracle compared to the past before I learned these skills. When my experience went from yelling and tears, to silence and sulking, to carrying hurt in my heart, sometimes for years.

It’s experiences like this that make me passionate about sharing these skills so we can all have the kinds of relationships we truly want.

The First Step

For me, the first step in the process is to notice and name how I feel using a Feelings List like this one. 

This does 3 very powerful things:

  1. It helps me to take my attention off of the other person and bring it to where it needs to be: on myself, with care,

  2. It helps take me out of my judgmental, thinking brain and put my attention on something more fundamental and grounded: my feelings,

  3. By inviting me to give each feeling a name, it helps to integrate my thinking and feeling brains so I have access to the resources of my whole brain at the same time.

What do you notice when you try this?

Warmly, 🙂 Glenda

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