Blog & Resources

Relational Toolkit

Posted October 15, 2010

The skills needed to be a successful broker, a gifted carpenter, a dedicated schoolteacher or a fighter pilot, are not the same skills called upon to be a good partner. As adults we spend the vast majority of our time in our livelihood, be it an occupation or be it raising children and running a home. Many skills that are valuable in a professional or business setting, are actually detrimental in certain arenas of an intimate relationship.  When I’m telling my husband about something that carries a lot for meaning to me, I want him to be engaged and curious. I do not want him educating me on this aspect or that; I do not want him trying to convince me of his point of view on the subject;  I do not want him offering me an astute analysis of this approach over that one.   I want him to listen, to be responsive,  if only because he cares for me.

If, on the other hand I’m lying prone on an operating table, curiosity, openness and sensitivity to my feelings from my doctor are not my top priorities. Instead, I want her to be single-minded, somewhat removed from the fact she is slicing through my epidermis, certain of the task before her and steady-of-hand.

Notice those behaviors that make your relationship more harmonious, more loving, more sustainable, more resilient, and make them a daily practice.

A sound Relational Toolkit includes:

Speaking gently and respectfully.
Being open and interested in your partner’s point of view.
Finding ways to validate your partner’s point of view.
Learning to recognize when one or both of you are distressed, or flooded, and having a ritual for self- and other-soothing.
Taking responsibility for your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, certainly
your words and your assumptions.
Using Repair early and use it often.
Building Rituals of Connection.

Sometimes the simplest of notions are the most potent. Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. drew upon principles from indigenous cultures to develop a program that enhances our ability to live and work together well. It’s called the Four Fold Way. It’s clear, it’s wise, it’s powerful.

The steps:
Show up. Choose to be present.
Pay attention. Listen with your heart.
Tell the truth without blame or judgment.
Be open to the outcome. Let go of any attachment to the outcome.

Again, notice what attitudes and behaviors invite your relationship to be more grounded, more intimate, more durable and more vibrant.

Do them consciously and do them often.

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