Forget Forgive and Forget its Wrong!

To forgive and forget implies we forgive someone his or her transgression(s) or mistake(s) and then let it go.  This is how transgressions and mistakes reoccur and can easily lead to escalation of the issue.  If you want growth and development this is wrong!  Especially as there are constructive alternatives.

The appropriate alternative depends on the situation and individual’s roles and responsibilities within the relationship.  To select the most appropriate response to a transgression it is important to consider the type of relationship, the individuals’ awareness and ability to meet the expectation, as well as situational requirements.

First start with the relationship.  Clarify is it an equitable relationship, where individual’s are considered to have equal power and input?  Or is a hierarchical one, with positional power differences?

In the case of true equitable relationship then the first, as always, step is to check if the expectation being transgressed is clearly articulated and agreed upon.

There is no way of getting around the reality that most, if not all, individuals are not mind readers and we can only live up to and reasonably be held accountable for expectations we are clearly aware of.  Thus if expectations in an equitable relationship are not clearly articulated and agreed upon doing so is the first process that needs to be carried out when a transgression has occurred.

To clearly articulate each expectation, it needs to be considered from the point of view of it being realistic.  It is not realistic to expect someone to go without food for a week.  It is not realistic to expect someone to do tasks they don’t have the ability to do or aren’t clear of what the task requirements are.  That is the expectation needs to be doable and clearly described.  Does everyone know what is required and have the ability, personal knowledge and skills to do it?  Do they have a supportive system and environment?  Do they have the required resources?

When any of these are not fulfilled then ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ by enhancing the system, providing the resources and develop the required knowledge and skills.

Finally is the expectation really agreed upon?   Is it necessary to negotiate or renegotiate the agreement or adjust the expectation so all parties really agree. Full agreement empowers individuals’ to live up to agreements and expectations.

In the case of hierarchical relationship its important to fulfil and then go beyond these steps.  It is important to be aware and remember those who are in positions of power are responsible for the wellbeing and development of those in their care.  Yes in their care.

If you are in a position of power it is not simply a matter of saying ‘do this because I say so’.  It is a requirement that you enable those you have a position of power over, those who you are responsible for, are able to do the tasks that they are required to do whilst maintaining their wellbeing.  Occupational Health and Safety Laws so say!   You are responsible for their safety and wellbeing.

If you are in a position of power you are responsibility for ensuring those under your command are able to do the required tasks.   This means: clarity of expectations, the tasks and timelines; provision of the required resources, including systems, materials and time; and development of required knowledge and skills; training.  This is a foundational responsibility of positional power roles, whether as a parent, supervisor, manager or CEO.  This means when transgressions occur the person with greater positional power needs to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER!  Not forgive and forget.

Start by considering the reason for the transgression.  Is it due to lack of ability, inadequate system support, inadequate resources, knowledge or silks, or perhaps a combination?

The person(s) with lessor power have the responsibility to ‘Forgive and Learn’, to EMPOWER themselves.

Finally it is also important to consider the possibility of a mismatch?  That is if an individual doesn’t match the requirements of the role and appropriate development is not realistic.  In which case adjusting the team, partnership, maybe the most appropriate alternative.

In short when a transgression has occurred take into account the type of relationship and roles and responsibilities within the relationship.  Consider the ability to meet the expectation and empower to enhance the ability to meet it where possible.  In this way to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ promotes growth and increased satisfaction within relationships.  Rather than continued transgression, with possible escalation, that commonly results from forgive and forget.

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Distinguishing Challenging, Difficult and Toxic Conversations!

Reading about ‘difficult’ conversations or people can be quite confusing.  This is because the term is used too broadly.  By that I mean the topic covers a broad range of conversation types.  I break difficult conversation into four distinct types.  It is important to distinguish them, as they require different communication and self-protection strategies in order to have effective communication.

The first type is what I refer to as the ‘Challenging Conversation’.  I bet you have had a few of these.  This is when you, or the other, are emotionally aroused, specifically to the point where you can no longer think effectively.   You know that time your emotions got the better of you and well, quite frankly it didn’t turn out too good.   After all you are usually a really caring and considerate person, but in this case…   The two key characteristics of challenging conversations are emotional overload and infrequency. That is, the upset person is usually cooperative and considerate.

The second is when this this type of reaction and other uncooperative communication strategies have become habitual.  At some level you care, but well these techniques, for one reason or another, work and you don’t have a better way to achieve your intention. Such techniques include carrying on, intimidating, asserting your right, manipulating or some other means of control.  Alternatively it might be that you are just too tired or stressed out to do anything else.

On the other hand perhaps you are trying to figure out how to have decent conversation with someone like this and are getting nowhere.  In some way it is accepted that ‘power over’ conversations are, well, the ‘way it is’ even if we don’t like it.  Or perhaps you don’t even realise this is what is going on.  This is what I call the ‘Difficult Conversation’ habitually it ‘sort of works’, short term anyway.   However it would be nice if there was a better way.

Finally we come to the ‘Toxic Conversations’.  I break ‘Toxic Conversations’ into two groups.   One group has accepted the use of ‘power over’ or ‘controlling’ conversations as the best way to be.  This group has decided to use power over communication, whether consciously or not.  This is different to ‘Difficult Conversations’; where it is habitual practice, however change is a possibility.  There is openness to improving communication skills.  In the ‘Toxic Conversation’ that is not the case the ‘power over’ and ‘controlling’ communication strategies are accepted as ‘best practice’.

The second type of ‘Toxic Conversation’ is with people who are biologically quite different; there was no real choice or decision on their part.  They are just that way.  They don’t care about anything but their own satisfaction.

It is really important to recognise the different conversation types, as you need to use very different communication and self-protection strategies for each type.  If you use the wrong strategy it can cause more harm than good.  And this is happening all too frequently, as many individuals’ aren’t aware of the different communication styles.  Let alone how to distinguish them.

Note I consider it important to use the word ‘conversation’, rather than ‘people’, in our day-to-day life.  This is because as we are usually so poorly taught cooperative and constructive communication skills we often find foundational conversations ‘difficult’.  I refer to discussing certain ‘topics’, differences of opinions and perspectives, providing feedback and accountability conversations.  These types of conversations are not difficult within and of themselves, once we have the skills.  This means there is a potential that a ‘conversation’ is ‘difficult’ related to our skills rather than the ‘other’. Worse if we decide it is ‘them’ we feel justified in doing nothing; we can blame ‘them’. This doesn’t help.  Change is within our own hands.

As a consequence while it is important to learn to make the distinctions between the types of difficult conversations it is also important to maintain personal responsibility and empowerment.   Thus for starters I recommend one learn

  • To distinguish between cooperative and controlling communication strategies.
  • Get comfortable with all your emotions so you can recognise emotional overload from a controlling strategy.
  • To consider if you are the ‘difficult’ individual in the conversation.
  • Consider what your current communication skill level is and more specifically are you operating within it?
  • To extract yourself from any conversation that YOU are finding ‘difficult’ in order to consider what YOU want to achieve in the conversation, if indeed you want to have it.
  • To select your environment and the people you spend your time with.

I will address each of these points in future articles.

Responding to accusations of being a Bully!

The 10th of October is Mental Health Day!

Thus now is an ideal time to consider the issue of bullying.

Anti-bullying campaigns are everywhere these days.  And rightly so!  Bullying has a significant negative impact on mental health and numerous other aspects of life. However the anti-bullying programs appear to be lacking in effectiveness, as bullying is still a major issue for our society.

Part of this relates to issues around the commonly used definition of bullying which makes it relatively easy for ‘bullies’ to get away with their actions.  I suspect the intention behind the issues is to protect people from inaccurately being accused.  It is more effective to discuss what you can do when accused of being a ‘bully’ and you genuinely are not one?

The Australian Human Rights Commission (2017) states:

‘Bullying is when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions against someone or a group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.  These actions are usually done by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else fell less powerful or helpless.’

The major issue with the definition when it states to intentionally…cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.  This is purely because individuals say  ‘I didn’t intend to distress them or risk their wellbeing’  ‘I did not intent to bully’.

As a result, too often, they get away with inappropriate behavior.  Individuals involve rarely intend to be a ‘bully’.  They don’t want the label.  And often there is no intent to ‘do harm or risk wellbeing’, simply because the idea may not have cross their minds. They are not thinking about the other at all.

What they are thinking of and do intend is to ‘have their own way’.  The do intend to use fear to gain control over others.  They do intend to use their, actual or perceived, position of power to ensure what they want is achieved.  They may intend to ‘get back’ at the perceived injustice that someone ‘would not go along with their wishes’ or ‘made them look bad’, for having done a perceived wrong.  These are the intentions of a ‘bully’.  These intentions result in the intimidating and coercive behaviors that cause the distress and risk to wellbeing.

Another, more useful, definition of Bullying is:

‘the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power, which distinguishes bullying from conflict (Juvonen, J. Graham, S., 2014).

Fully fledged bullies, while denying they are bullies, know they are doing the wrong thing.  Their timing and sneakiness indicates this.  They behave differently in front of others, especially those they perceive as having more power than themselves.  They hide and actively deny their actions.   Yet they believe they have the right to do as they do.

At the same time it does happen that people feel they are being bullied, treated inappropriately, when it is genuinely not intended.   Yet regardless of the intention when it is experienced as bullying the same negative impact can occur and it is important to deal constructively with the incident.  These situations maybe because:

The accused has poor relationship or communication skills or

The target’s individual perspective

Resulting in misunderstandings.

This reality highlights the need to remember that ‘Bullying usually is a relationship issue and thus relationship solutions are recommended’ (National Centre Against Bullying, 2017).  At the same time there is a limit to the potential effectiveness of relationship solutions.

If there is no mutuality in the relationship discussing the issue in the relationship is not likely to work.  Too often it only makes things worse for cooperative individuals. Someone who believes they have rights of dominance may ‘go along’ with the ‘orders’ from the higher power, but they are also likely to find another way to achieve their intention.   This escalates rather than resolves the issue.   In such cases further protective action is required on behalf of the ‘other’ or ‘target’.   These situations are not the focus of this article.

Today we look at when there is no intention of bullying, or harm, or force and there is respectful mutuality in the relationship.  In these situations the way to respond to accusations of bullying is very simple: Listen and then ADDE value.

You need to Listen to the accusation and accept that is the others experience, despite your intention. Respond to their experience.

Apologise this lets the other now you didn’t mean for them to experience what they did. This action also reminds you that you have made a mistake and need to take corrective action, even if it was only to increase awareness of the others perspective.

Demonstrate your good will by reassuring the other. This includes: addressing their concerns; explaining your intention; where appropriate explain the policies and procedures you are following; and ask for and carry out suitable actions to repair the harm. It may take time to build or rebuild trust.

Discuss the situation until both parties are clear and comfortable with the intention of the communication and relationship.

Enhance your skills in order to prevent a similar situation occurring again. It is very important to follow through. Where required, ensure skill development occurs.

If you have been accused of being a ‘bully’ first be honest with yourself, do you think you have the right to dictate to others?  Or perhaps you have a right to ‘get even’?  Do you treat those you perceive as having more power than yourself differently to those who you perceive to have less power than yourself?   If neither of these is the case and your intention is for a mutually respectful relationship, an appropriate response to an accusation of bullying is to Listen and ADDE value.

 

Australian Human Rights Commission NA What is bullying? https://www.humanrights.gov.au/what-bullying-violence-harassment-and-bullying-fact-sheet accessed 8th October 2017

Juvonen, J.; Graham, S. (2014). “Bullying in Schools: The Power of Bullies and the Plight of Victims”. Annual Review of Psychology. Annual Reviews. 65: 159–85. PMID 23937767doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115030.   Via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying

National Centre Against Bullying Definition of Bullying https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/definition-of-bullying/ accessed 8th October 2017

 

Manners: A better way?

What has happened to manners and being polite?  A question so commonly asked today. We need to be polite!   It was driven into many of us as children.   Say ‘please’ ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’.   It all sounds rather good and nice.  The problem was we were trained to do this.  That is ‘do it’ even when we don’t ‘mean it’.  Worse still he had to accept others insincere politeness and act on it!

Being polite and respectful somehow drifted into social correctness and insincerity. Rather than the appropriate respectful use of the phrases, please, thank you and sorry, the deep meaning of them has been lost.   Consideration of others drifted into self-denial and disrespect or worse.  Little white lies, some call it.  In the name of being kind!

 I don’t see how disrespect and insincerity are ‘good’ or ‘nice’ or ‘kind’. Do you?

‘Please’ a respectful request, to me, has almost become a begging.   Worse I have noticed often there is an element of expectation attached to it. I said ‘please’ so you have to do it. Ouch! What happened to the right to say no.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am all for requesting.  Demanding is not a first choice, it too takes away a right of choice. Y et sometimes, when boundaries are broken, a demand actually becomes appropriate.  I just think I don’t need to beg or expect my fulfilment from one particular source.  If you say no, I can ask someone else.

‘Please’ really is about letting the ‘other’ know they have a choice.   So the phrases:    Could you? Would you? Often seems more fitting to me.

‘Thank you’, an automatic couple of words so often empty and lacking a sense of gratitude.   Come on you know what I mean.   They said ‘thank you’ but was it a genuine appreciation or just empty words?

Appreciation radiates a sense of connection and satisfaction that draws one in, so we can do it all again.  That is what is it about.  We want to make a difference.

 Genuine appreciation and gratitude guides us to use our energy where it makes a difference.

Did you like it?   Did it make a difference for you?  If so, say ‘thank you’ with ‘meaning’ and draw that experience in some more.  Acknowledge what you like.  Say thank you with appreciation, so the source knows it wasn’t wasting its time and energy.  Believe me, you will experience more pleasure this way.

‘Oh sorry’, now I can do it all again.  What!  No that’s not what ‘sorry’ is about!  Yet isn’t that a really common practice today?  ‘I said sorry, what more do you want?’

Well actually I don’t like it, so I don’t want it.   I want to experience something different.

A genuine ‘sorry’ is about recognising an inappropriate action and correcting it.

The words are empty if there is no experiential difference for the ‘other’.  Yet this doesn’t mean you have to change for others, to fit in with them all the time. T he trick is understanding what is important to you and being able to let go of what isn’t.  Being creative enough to find ways to meet everyone’s needs when appropriate.  Sometimes this means looking at our priorities and remembering to let go of ‘others’ so they can grow.

It is unfortunate that being polite, intended as respectfully considerate of others, has become a form of social correctness.   This social correctness is what concerns me.   That is when good manners are token empty gestures or requires us to go along with the social norms and commonplace behaviors that reinforce disconnection and lack of authenticity.

The genuine use of requests, appreciation and appropriate behavior adjustment, along with candid caring communication lead to more fulfilment and life satisfaction.  Yet candid communication maybe portrayed as disrespectful, in reality, I think this claim is a means to prevent growth and maintain questionable social practices.

Learn to speak candidly with respectful kindness, and how to develop relationships where you know the other has your best interests at heart and will support you being your self!  And that you will do the same for them.   Let others know what you appreciate and that you are aware they have a right to say No. 

The Importance of Self-Care

Monday 24th of July is International Self-Care Day.   In honor of the day lets acknowledge the importance of Self-Care and consider how we can enhance our Self-Care skills.  For Self-Care is our first and primary role and responsibility.   It is about honoring our health and wellbeing, as well those around us.

Effective Self-Care is the practice of constructively paying attention to, and fulfilling one’s own needs, so as to nourish and maintain one’s health and wellbeing.

Constructively refers to being effective and respectful, respectful of our self as well as of others.  To be effective and respectful we must be aware of our own needs, be able to distinguish our self from others and recognise that we have separate and often different needs and desires.   We need to believe in our ability to fulfil those needs, while considering others’.  Finally we need the skills to consider varies options, before selecting and actioning the most appropriate way to have the need(s) meet.

As a babe we did not hesitate to let others know our needs until others fulfilled them, or we learnt helplessness.   As we grew we developed skills to fulfill our needs and desires or remained in a space of learnt helplessness and decided we wouldn’t have what we wanted.   Some of us learnt effective Self-Care skills.  We were empowered.   The result being we had the skills for a fulfilling and satisfying life; we experience health, wellbeing, quality relationships, personal success and how to deal with the challenges of life. Unfortunately many of us did not.

Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable,  and you are worth the effort.  Deborah Day

If we have unfulfilled needs they tend to fester and break out.  They may break out as irritation, passive aggressive or outright aggressive behaviors.  These behaviors have damaging effects on our health, wellbeing, relationships, and consequently our life.   As an adult it is our responsibility to develop our Self-Care skills so we can be both self-determined and respectful.   To do this we need the skills of self-awareness, empathy, creativity, negotiation, decision-making, action taking, and accountability.   Learning these skills are Self-Care essentials.

Self-Care means being able to give the best of yourself,  rather than what is left of yourself.   Katie Reed

If you already have many of these skills, in honor of Self-Care Day I suggest you put aside time to consider an act of kindness for your self and your loved one’s and action it as soon as possible.   For kindness is another foundation of Self-Care.

If you are struggling with your personal Self-Care, I recommend giving yourself permission to not only determine but also meet your personal need and desires.   First steps include taking the time to consider what actions make you feel better and which do not.  AND committing to doing more of what helps you feel better.  Start with the simple things.   Perhaps taking time to read a good book, talk with a friend, sitting down to savor a nourishing bowl of fruit salad, or vegetable soup.   Importantly, know you deserve to enjoy your life and that the little things that nourish you are the backbone to doing so.

What action are you taking today to enhance your Self-Care?

How are you celebrating International Self-Care Day?

Other potential resources:

For specific ideas of Self-Care check out: 45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul.

Self-Awareness exercises.

The Art of Empathy by Karla McLaren

Crucial Accountability by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and Ron McMillan

Befriending Your Emotions II: A better way.

Emotional intelligence and health are key to your over all health, wellbeing and life satisfaction.   This is because emotional health is the foundation to effective relationships and as social beings we are dependent on others.  This dependence is embedded in our physiology.   It is deeply ingrained within our pain, pleasure, survival, and growth aspects.   Emotional health is part of our physiological, as well as, our psychological beingness.  Emotional intelligence has four key aspects: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-determination and other-awareness or relationship management.   Each aspect builds upon the previous.

We need to be self-aware, have self-regulation and determination to be able to effectively be other-aware, so we can have fulfilling relationships. Fulfilling relationships are key to our health and life satisfaction.  To move from a place of disconnection to self-awareness, from survival mode to personal growth and life satisfaction we need to Befriend our Emotions and connect with our self and live a self-determined life.   This in turn supports us to experience fulfilling relationships and life satisfaction.   This is not up for debate it is reality.

While we need to build up from self-awareness, developmentally, I will encourage you to begin with self-determination.   This is because as adults we are responsible for our own life.   It is essential to let go of any thought that it is up to someone else.   As an adult you can and are responsible for making decisions for yourself and take responsibility for the outcome.  This is the foundation for ownership of your life.   So if you are looking for life satisfaction and fulfilling relationships, begin by give yourself permission to claim your own life, to be yourself, to meet your own needs and desires and be responsible for yourself.

Next, identify your needs, preferences, desires and values.  What is important to you?   This is the process of being self-aware. To be self-aware is the opposite of the disconnection experienced when suppressing and denying emotions.   It requires you to slow down and pay attention; this is paying proper attention, to what your body and emotions are telling you.  To develop your inner connection, begin by distinguishing between what feels right or comfortable and what does not.  This is the first indication of your needs, preferences, desires and values.

Once you have identified your needs, preferences, desires and values you can begin to fulfill them.  You can start with one or two, if you like, just start somewhere.   If required give yourself permission to meet the chosen needs or desires.  Remember to do so respectfully.   As you work with your selection and become more comfortable with the process, other needs and desires will reveal themselves.   And so your journey continues.

From there you can begin to distinguish between different emotions and what they are trying to tell you.   Start with those emotions that are strongly pushing their way into your awareness.  Then move onto listening for your emotions before they become so intense.   All the emotions have subtle forms, just many of us don’t recognise them.

Self-regulation really becomes important as we tap into suppressed and denied emotions, we can become rather reactive, rather than respectfully responsive.  To be respectful of all it is important to respond to your needs, desires and values effectively.   If you don’t these physiological and psychological needs will seep out, cause reactions (unconscious actions) with your loosing the power of choice. Self-regulation is foundational to the Power of Choice.

At the same time be patient with yourself as you move from a place of ‘reactive’ action to one of responsive action by choice.   You are developing your ability to practice authenticity; your actions align with your intentions, things won’t always go smoothly.   Yet you are still moving forward if you keep cycling back to self-determination and focus on improvement.

You need the skills of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-determination before you can learn to manage relationships effectively.   These skills promote your ability to be authentic, fulfill your needs and desires plus distinguishing yourself from others.   Becoming other aware, recognising others as separate individuals, will enable you to manage your relationships, respectful cooperation relationships based in equality and mutuality, effectively.   All of this is embedded in your physiology such that by developing these skills you will become more comfortable, satisfied, healthier and happier.   You will enjoy a more satisfying and pleasurable life.

Saying No Appropriately is Powerfully Respectful.

Saying No appropriately is essential.

It is about being respectful and setting clear boundaries.

Many of us have been taught to ‘do the right thing’, ‘put others first’ and ‘to be nice’.  Often the implication and result is we come to believe saying ‘no’ is not ok.  In addition many people expect others to always say Yes!   Perhaps including your self.   Both of these views are not in your or anyone’s best interest!  Not only is it ok to say No, it is vitally important to appropriately say No.

Saying No ‘appropriately’ means knowing what you key priorities are.  It is about knowing, caring and attending to what is right for you, your values and your priorities.    As well as what is not.  By allowing yourself to focus your attention on what is most important, you are practicing self-respect.   That is you don’t have to fulfil others needs all the time.  You matter too.

Saying No doesn’t mean the other have to go without; it just means you won’t fulfil that particular request, perhaps only at that particular time.   You could suggest another way they can get what they are asking for.  By validating them and their request you are acknowledging both your right to say No and theirs to ask.  Being respectful of others is also important.

As is fulfilling your role in a relationship.  However, this does not mean saying ‘no’ is not ok.  Indeed to say yes, inappropriately, that is to fail to say no appropriately, is practicing disrespect for all.   Being respectful to your self is foundational to respecting others.

Saying No appropriately allows clear boundaries to be set.  It clarifies what is important acceptable and not acceptable for you and or the situation.  While allowing your self to be ‘distracted from what is most important’, ‘spread too thin to do justice to anything’ or ‘accepting inappropriate behaviour’ are forms of disrespect.

Identifying, creating time for and standing by what is important to you means you are being powerfully respectful of yourself and sets boundaries for what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in your life.  In essence saying No appropriately is setting boundaries to allow respectful behaviour for all.

Our conditioning to say yes (be nice) is one reason we find it challenging to say No.   Other reasons include concerns the other person will not receive our No well.  They will be upset, or hurt, which could create conflict or damage to the relationship.   The lack of understanding of the value and importance of saying No fuels these misguided ideas. Develop your understanding and apperception for the value of appropriately saying No!

To help you get comfortable with this remember you, indeed everyone, has a right to ask for what you want and who ever has been asked, has a right to say No.  All an appropriate No means is, there is a need to ask someone else and or get creative with the request.

You have a right to say No!

This means others can say No too!

The expectation of a Yes denies the right of choice.

Validation

Validation is key to powerful relationships.

It says:

It is safe to be our self.

Even when we don’t agree, each of us matters and is accepted.

To validate someone is to let them know they matter, that they are accepted for who they are.  It is essential for the building of relationships based in trust, cooperation, a sense of belonging and closeness.  Unfortunately validation is not that common a practice.  Our thoughts, feelings, experiences, and or reality are minimalized or dismissed on a regular bases.  The practice is so integrated into our communication style that we are often unaware, we may even have best intentions, when we practice it.  However the practice of being invalidated has the same impact whether it is done consciously or unconsciously.  

Invalidation leaves one feeling like they don’t matter,

are wrong and don’t belong.

The act of invalidation is so common it is

No wonder so many people struggle with a sense of being wrong and

of not belonging.

Think about it.  How often have you experienced or said, ‘Don’t get upset.’ ‘You don’t want that.’   ‘You are wrong.’  ‘Stop feeling that way.’  ‘Pull yourself togeather.’  ‘Your over reacting.’  ‘Don’t think about it, just do it.’  ‘It could be worse.’   ‘Cheer up.’  ‘Think positive.’  ‘Oh that’s nothing …’  ‘There’s no reason to be upset.’  ‘Your being irrational.’ No doubt you can now think of many more such comments and thus the list could go on.

Yet it is not overly challenging to travel the path to being a validator, rather than an invalidator, transitioning to someone who consciously values, respects and cares for themselves and others.   To do so make the choice to practice validation; to stop objectifying and discarding oneself and others with the use of invalidation.

By validating and respecting yourself you can become

the person you want to be.

Validating others supports the creation of a safe space.

Where trust, closeness and

a sense of belonging can develop.

This results in closer stronger relationships

based in honesty and respect.

How to validate:

The first step is to remember we are all real people, with our own perspectives, thoughts, and feelings.  As a consequence we will have different ideas, needs, preferences and desires; with each of us making our own choices.  This reality is a basic right of life.   This diversity is in fact the beauty of life.  Approaching others with this attitude makes an enormous difference.

Now: Be present, keep your attention in the now, on the individual of interest.  This shows they matter enough for you to be there for them.

In that presence, listen to what they say and acknowledge it.  You don’t have to agree with it.  Just let it be, acknowledge their view, ideas, feelings and choices as theirs.

Also pay attention to their non-verbal communication.  What that is saying about where they are at, then, instead of assuming you know, check in with them and ask for the clarification you need.

Remind them what they are experiencing is ok.   Ideally normalize it, let them know they are not alone, others may have the same experience.

To validate yourself and others is powerfully respectful.  It means you pay attention; act with caring, in best interests, to personal needs and desires.   You drop expectations.  As a result each person knows they matter, as an individual, and that they belong.   In turn we can share more of our self and build closeness in our relationships.

Finally lets remember to be real.  It is massively challenging for most people to stop one practice and instantly take on another.  It is the intention and implementation of validation practices that will make the difference.   Invalidation is likely to still occur. However, if we consider research from Positive Psychology we can take into account the four to one ratio.  That is for each negative incident four positives will counteract it.   So keep the focus on validating whenever you can, including acknowledging each one that occurs.

Building Closeness

Closeness is the foundation of healthy relationships.  It is the ability to connect with another, to gain access to their inner world, and it is a two way process.  As a consequence, while building and maintaining closeness is a skill we can learn, closeness can only occur between individuals that have the skills and wish to connect with each other.  Closeness is worth developing, for the experience of being socially connected, as well as the, better health, wellbeing, longer life and greater life satisfaction it provides.  Closeness is not just the glue for society it is the foundation for a truly fulfilling life.

To develop the skills for closeness it is essential to be aware it is a process, something to do and continue to do because life is about change.  The process of closeness involves two key steps 1) knowing and 2) caring.  These take time and being present.  Too often individuals’ feel they do not have the time and or are too preoccupied to be present with others.  Remember if you stop practicing closeness it will fade. The lack of closeness in one’s life ensures a sense of loneliness, separation and lack of belonging.  You can only gain from closeness by taking the time, learning to be present and practicing the process of building closeness with those around you continuously.

To get to know someone it is necessary to take the time to establishing a safe space, listen to what they are saying and practicing validation.  Key to the process is asking questions out of curiosity, a genuine interest in the other.  Alternatively to allow someone to get to know you it is necessary to be able, and willing, to share your own inner world.   And to do so in a way that is maintaining a sense of safety.  Getting to know someone and sharing with another are challenging processes.  There are important communication skills required: listening, questioning, validation, creating and maintaing a safe space.  The key mindsets of curiosity, openness and mutual respect are also valuable.

A sense of safety and trust builds with time, even when caring is expressed.  It is important that each individual knows they are cared for.  Caring for another involves investing in ‘their best interests’.  That is to empower them to meet their needs, desires, their right to have a life of personal fulfilment and satisfaction.  Being caring also has numerous skills the ability to be empathic, demonstrate caring, being able to handle disagreements and maintain a caring bond over time.  Plus the mindset of doing or being in service to the other(s), being kind, generous and having a sense of contentedness.

Building closeness is an important and complex process.  It is rather unfortunate that it is not commonly intentionally taught as it is the foundation of our life, particularly when we want a satisfying, connected life.