Certain people in our lives seem to have a way of knowing exactly how to push our buttons.
And in those moments, the last feeling that we want to feel is “connection.” Our brains like to tell us there’s danger and that we either need to yell (if we're comfortable doing that,) or to escape the situation and do something to numb our feelings.
But neither yelling nor numbing is going to create a feeling of connection. And those are the exact moments when they usually need us the most. They really aren’t out to make our lives miserable. They are just being humans with human brains, showing up in the only way that they know how, needing your support.
Taking ourselves from a place of resistance to a place of compassion, understanding or love involves a process of questioning the unhelpful thoughts that we are currently thinking, allowing ourselves to feel and process the emotions that they create, then working on re-routing our brains to thoughts that will serve us better. A lot of times, the reason we are feeling disconnected and angry is because of our own feelings of shame or inadequacy.
Always remember that you can’t hate yourself into becoming a better person. That’s you against you and you will lose every time. Remember that you are completely whole and complete just as you are. The reason that you want to work on this area of your life should not be to make you a more worthy person. A better reason is that you don't like the results that hiding away or yelling creates. The definition of a successful parent or (insert relationship name here) is one who is the kind of ___________ that THEY want to be. The way that the other person responds to you isn’t a reflection of that. Give yourself lots of time and grace. Relationships are messy and complicated. And they are SUPPOSED to be. That's what life is about. It’s hard work and it’s a continual learning experience. And YOU are the perfect person for the job of being there for them.
I want to share some secrets that will help you to connect more easily during those tough moments when all you want to do is yell or run away. Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak of our thoughts!
Pick the one that resonates with you the most, and practice that one first. You can write it on a note card and keep it in your pocket to peek at throughout the day, or set it as an alarm on your phone to read at certain times. The key is being intentional and allowing those opportunities to practice, practice, practice!
Secret #1: NOTHING HAS GONE WRONG HERE
When someone is back talking, lying or yelling at us, our peacemaker-brains like to tell us that something has gone wrong. This immediately creates a disconnect.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Everything is going just right. People are supposed to confront us or cause chaos around us sometimes. (Gasp!)
How do we know this?
Because they do. It’s part of their classroom experience. They are learning to be humans on this earth. And sometimes, talking back to you, yelling at you, lying or blaming is part of that learning experience.
Does this mean that we just let them walk all over us? Absolutely not. It’s always good to set boundaries when appropriate. But the key here is that you don’t hinge your happiness on whether they get it right away, and you don’t let it mean anything about you or your worth.
People's behaviors are not what make us mad or frustrated. Our feelings come from our thoughts. So it’s our thoughts about, or the meaning that we give the behavior that makes us feel miserable. Telling yourself, “Nothing has gone wrong here, and leaning into what is lightens everything up, so we can access more useful emotions, like curiosity or humor.
Secret #2: GET CURIOUS
The reason that humans get upset or misbehave is that their brains are telling them that they aren’t safe. In that moment, they are needing some help processing their emotions in order to calm down and help their brains start operating from the prefrontal cortex, where logical thinking happens. Who better to help them with this than you?
Ignoring them may do the trick for the moment, but it doesn’t take care of their need. So it’s going to resurface again eventually.
And the problem with getting defensive, lecturing, or punishing them is that it won't change anything. Especially because their brain is likely operating in fight or flight mode, not able to think rationally. It only makes them feel alienated. Think back to the last time you spouted out your expectations to someone. You most likely had very little engagement from them.
All people, no matter what age or ability, have a voice and want to be heard. Remember the last time you felt shut down or ignored by someone. It feels awful. Allowing people to feel their feelings and express them will help them to learn that they don’t have to overreact in the future, and will help them grow into more emotionally mature humans. So why not help them with that?
Try encouraging the flow of communication by using non-committal acknowledgments like: "mh-hm," "oh," "really," and "Tell me more about that."
The phrase, “Tell me more about that” is like magic. It doesn’t place judgement or accuse, and it shows genuine interest in them. And it really helps foster connection.
Secret #3: HE/SHE IS JUST LIKE YOU!
She gets ornery when she’s hungry...She’s just like me!
She worries that she’s not fitting in... She’s just like me!
He gets fired up when he feels threatened. He’s just like me!
He lies sometimes to avoid discomfort... He’s just like me!
She procrastinates doing things that aren’t fun... She’s just like me!
He gets wants to relieve his stress by escaping from the chaos and watching TV...He’s just like me!
It’s interesting how our brains tell us that something is wrong with people when they do things we don't like. They are human beings. Humans are supposed to struggle sometimes. Don’t you struggle with some of the same things? Try extending the same compassion or help that you would want someone to extend to you when you show up as human beings do.
Could your expectations be a little high? Consider it. Then repeat these words in your mind: “He’s just like me!”
Secret #4: THEY DON’T HAVE TO EARN YOUR LOVE
Do you tend to withhold your love when your family members don’t comply with your expectations? Ask yourself this question honestly.
It feels so easy to love them unconditionally during the good times — like when we're celebrating their latest triumph, sharing a laugh, or when they accomplish something amazing. This is when unconditional love is easy. It feels like we'll ALWAYS love them, no matter what in those happy moments.
But then things change, and things DEFINITELY change in earth life. They don’t do their part. They lie to you. They talk behind your back....Okay, now what? UGH...one of those potentially confrontational situations again. You wish they would just be easy.
Do you still unconditionally love them? Do you keep interacting with them the same way that you did when times were good?
Most likely not. Because you have a human brain. Most people unknowingly abandon unconditional love in these moments. It can feel impossible for us to love people in these "bad" times--when their feelings aren't so positive and their behaviors aren't so pretty. Isn’t it ironic that when they need our love and connection the MOST is when we fail to love them completely?
Think of a time when a family member did something that you didn’t like.
Got it in your head? Now, I want you to go to Fantasy Land. Picture what it would have been like to love them without conditions in that moment.
How does that feel to you? How would things have been different?
Our feelings are what drive our actions. And the feeling of love feels amazing. When we can just decide to love with no conditions, it drives us to respond in a connected way, which will get you...and your loved one...much better results.
I like to keep in mind that as human beings, our worth was decided as 100% the moment we were created. Nothing that we do or fail to do can change that in God’s eyes.
So why not extend love no matter what when people mess up? Just try it...see what happens. You can teach right and wrong without withholding your love.
Secret #5: THINK OF THOSE “MOMENTS” AS
A CHANCE TO PRACTICE!
Urges only become problems when we act upon them. For example, the urge to eat a bowl of ice cream at 10:00 pm only becomes a problem when we actually eat it.
Same goes for lashing out….or hiding in our room scrolling on our phones when people are fighting.
It’s not a problem to have those urges because our bodies were totally made to process them. But acting on them can turn them into big problems. So think of processing and allowing urges like getting really good at a skill, like shooting a basketball into a hoop. The more you practice, the more skilled you get at doing it. Instead of getting all upset (or hiding away) when your child smacks a sibling on the head, try thinking of it as a great opportunity to practice your urge-processing skill. You could even make a game of it and keep track of it. After 25 times of staying calm and engaged, you get to go buy yourself a new shirt! Hey, how about going for 100!? Processing an urge 100 times will make you a PRO.
Learning to engage like this requires a ton of work and tests us more than we ever imagined. But using these little secrets that I have learned from life coaching can help you keep that all-important connection.
Try writing them on sticky notes and posting them in a place where you’ll see them often. Or create reminders in your phone that pop up during times of the day when things often get tense.
Teaching people how to calmly engage with the people in their lives, instead of acting passive-aggressively or avoiding them, is a big part of my coaching program. I have used life coaching to move myself to a place of acceptance and peace, where I once thought there was no way it was possible. I have since become a Certified Life Coach and I specialize in helping people who identify as Enneagram Type 9's or Peacemakers. I LOVE what I do and would love to talk with you!
I work with my clients over Zoom, so it doesn’t matter where you live. It’s so easy to get started! Go to www.heatherfillmorecoaching.com and click on “Work With Me” to sign up for a free discovery call. I've got you!