Let’s walk through a little exercise to examine our closest relationships and see what kind of impact they are having on our health and well-being. Work through each step recording your answers in a journal before moving on to the next step for the most effective results.
Make a list of the twenty people you spend the most time with. Include work and home connections, and focus on who you are ACTUALLY around, not who you wish to be around. Think about a typical day, typical week and write down the names of the people you run across on a regular basis.
Circle the top five according to the amount of time spent with these individuals. Who do you spend the most time with? This list is the people who have the most influence on you.
Now, take a minute to analyze each of these relationships – whether it is a work relationship or a personal one. Consider whether or not you feel like you can be yourself around each of these people or if you feel like you are holding back. Use a scale of one to ten with ten being highly empowered relationships and one being deeply disempowering relationships. When talking about a person ranked ten it might sound like, “I never have to hide my true self from this individual,” and a one maybe, “I am never allowed to be myself with this person.”
Empowering relationships, where you are encouraged to be yourself, are life giving. Empowering relationships make you feel better about yourself and the world. So how can we address those relationships that are disempowering? One way is to choose to spend less time with those particular people and increase the amount of time/number of people who are empowering in our circles of friends.
If a close relationship is disempowering and it is one you want to or need to keep close, consider using the Non-Violent Communication method to deepen understanding between the two of you. It basically works like this: the two people in conflict agree to discuss this issue. One is a listener….really LISTENING to the one sharing his/her concerns. One is expressing…. honestly, openly, using all four of the steps. Discuss the listener’s responsibility before beginning so they aren’t surprised by your expectation!
First the one expressing the conflict goes through all four steps. 1) Make observations without judgements/opinions/feelings. 2) State two or three feelings evoked by the situation in step one. 3) State two or three needs you have that weren’t being met in the situation. 4) Make a specific request of the listener. What could that person feasibly do that would make life more wonderful for you? Here’s an example: “When you asked me to meet you for lunch and you were ten minutes late and didn’t let me know, it made me feel self-conscious, mistrustful, and insecure because of my need for connection, support, and respect. Next time you are running late would you be willing to call or text and let me know?” Note: there are no generalizations allowed. No exaggerations. Just observations, feelings, needs, and a request.
After the one expressing completes all FOUR steps, the listener replies not using a word for word replay, but capturing the essence of the communication, also including all four parts. It might sound like this: “When I was ten minutes late to lunch it made you feel insecure and disconnected because of your needs to be respected, connected, and supported by me. I will absolutely call or text the next time I am running late.”
The idea is that once you get in the habit of communicating this way with your closest circle, you won’t have to be so lock step in the method, and it will be more organic.
Try it and let me know what you think/how it works for you.