When we are triggered / annoyed / hurt / activated we have a tendency to react. It’s our natural, very well known way of being. But just imagine what it might be like if we could approach our sensitivities in a different way – a way in which they stand the chance of being heard. A way that results in loving one another and therefore feeling loved, seen and appreciated. Our reactions tell others that they are not heard, instantly. Reactions are also, very often words that can’t be taken back. The way that we react is not our truth of the matter. It is an automatic gut reaction that can be traced directly to our patterns.
So while there is a whole lot of work you can do to understand you and your story, there is a simple, likely foreign, communication process that can help. This process is best received, and with continued effort, will be successful only when both parties are in this – together.
Take Turns. When we sit down to share or check in we agree that one person has the floor, aka the ‘sender’. The sender’s job is to share their point without using “you”. The sender’s job is to explain what they are feeling or experiencing, what it means to them, and maybe even where it comes from.
Let’s call the other party the ‘active listener’. (I get this sounds prescribed … trust that once you learn it, like anything with practice, it will become second nature.) The active listener will have the floor the next time around. Let’s assume the active listener roll. Being the active listener means we have two tasks: to listen and accurately repeat what we hear. The challenge: to hear what is being said. Be present and open eared. Repeat what you hear back to the sender until the sender lets you know that your understanding is bang on. If the sender communicates that you are incorrect, take a breath and ask them to share again. If we miss the mark the first few times, it is not about us failing … we speak different languages and we hear from our own perspective. Take a breath and try again. This cycle needs to continue until the active listener has repeated back to the sender with accuracy.
An example would sound something like “So what I am hearing you say is that you (insert what you heard)” Again, this may take a few tries because we hear messages wrapped in our stories. At the end of the day we all need feel heard and when we feel heard, we feel loved and seen. So when the sender responds with “Yes, you’ve got it that’s exactly what I’m saying.” embrace the success. But don’t run away yet …
As much as we want to say things like “that’s not what I meant” or “no, you didn’t say that, you said …”. Stop. Bite your tongue. Listen. Hear. Repeat it back. Make a genuine effort to hear the message. The message is not about you, where you’re lacking, or how you are not enough. The message is theirs – it is how they feel and what they need. If you love yourself and want to feel less triggered/activated/annoyed you want to embody the belief that their message is theirs, and your message is yours. You want to love your person to the best of your ability – and you need information from them in order to know how to do this. Soak up the details, take notes, imprint visuals, clarify, and truly hear what is being said.
Actionable Item. We’ve heard our partner and now we know, with 100% clarity that he would like more sex, or she would like you to be more attentive. When we are the sender and communicating what we need or desire this needs to be clear and specific. If we are requesting more sex and our partner is receptive to this, attach a time frame and clarity around what this means. For example, maybe you would like sex (the ask) three times a week for the next month (the clear time line). Or you would like your partner to seek you out when he/she comes home at the end of everyday and give you a hug and a kiss (the ask) everyday for the rest of your days together (the clear timeline). This is all about clarity. We need absolute clarity in order to succeed. If we ask without clarity it will simply be a miss and will likely lead to resentment and of course, feeling unheard. When the ask and timeline is delivered the active listener needs to repeat the ask back to the sender. And when we repeat the ask back to the sender we are letting them know that yes we will execute the ask. This step is essential. We need to let our partner know that we’ve heard the ask, and we embrace the opportunity to lean in. We then need to take the information and put this intentional ‘to do’ into our calendar. We slide very quickly into taking our partner for granted. Love with intention. We need to show our partner that we heard them because at the end of the day we all want and need to be heard. Actions speak louder than words … truly. We need to lean in, not in a self sacrificing way by any means. This is learning how to love your person. And you too actually.
Awareness. When we sit with our partner and listen to them we may feel a physical and emotional reaction happening. Breath, because remember it’s not about you. When you are done hearing what’s been said, you’ve pitched it back successfully, and generated an actionable item you may need to do come unpacking for you. Take the time to tap in to what you heard. Knowing that we tend to go straight to wanting to defend our “position”. One, it’s irrelevant, and two it’s very likely inaccurate. Sit down, grab a piece fo paper (or hire a great coach or counsellor) and get a handle on what is underneath. Because this is not about you or you not being good enough. It’s about you learning how to love your person in the ways that they need. This is what you signed up for. To have and to hold. To catch. To love. To treasure. To fight for. Fight the urge to respond from reaction. Your partner is showing up and cracking into their vulnerabilities when they share with you … hear them for what they are. If you choose, or fall into, reaction you will get no where good, fast. Whether we are sharing or receiving, our patterns will be activated. And remember … our patterns get us the opposite of what we want. So breath, listen, write or talk it through with someone and then re visit or circle back once you have clarity for you.
Yes, this process can be challenging, but only because it is currently foreign. It will take practice and it may be a little bumpy … but if we can truly embody the fact that what is being said is not about us we have space to lean in and love. Breaking, or rather, re-programming our patterns, and their stories that hold us hostage is tricky. Getting familiar with our patterns can shift our lives and relationships in a direction that brings us less noise, more happiness and yes, even joy.