ERP 130: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part Four
In ERP 125: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part One, I talked about the article, titled “Masters Of Love,” by Emily Esfahani Smith The article discussed the key to lasting relationships comes down to kindness and generosity. Based on the research of Gottman and others, “kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.” (Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.) If you are interested in practicing more kindness in your relationship to strengthen your love, download this free pdf. The goal is to choose one kindness action or gesture a day for 25 days. 25 TIPS FOR BUILDING KINDNESS (16-20) 16. ACCEPT YOUR PARTNER’S PERSPECTIVE. In relationship, people want to feel heard, understood, respected, and validated. This is especially true during conflict or a difference of opinion. Often partners will go around and around explaining themselves over and over in an attempt to feel understood. When they don’t feel heard and understood, voices raise, conflict escalates and disconnect increases. Amazing shifts occur when partners can take the time to not only hear their partner’s words, but truly listen… not only comprehend their partner’s issue, but to understand it deeply. You do not have to agree with your partner to understand and entertain their perspective. A big key in being able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes is to slow down. So often, we feel a sense of urgency and we want to rush through the conflict as quickly as possible. However, this generally causes more problems. When partners can see the validity in each other’s experience, they begin to work together and their conflictual dynamic dramatically improves. Letting your partner know that you get why they feel the way they do or how their perspective makes sense (even if you don’t agree) helps them feel seen, heard, acknowledged and respected. When both partners feel understood, acknowledged, and respected, they can collaborate more easily to work towards creative solutions. If you need more practice with this, consider checking out this article or some of my podcasts about conflict. 17. EMPATHIZE AND APOLOGIZE. Offer sincere empathy when you take your partner’s perspective. When you imagine what it is like for them as they describe their experience, attune to their emotional world. Try to understand what they have been feeling or better yet imagine what you would feel if you were in the same scenario, exactly as they described it. Brené Brown has done so much to teach us about the power of empathy and human connection. I still recommend her TED Talks and RSA animated shorts (see below for links). Empathy can be conveyed in a few simple words or even through your nonverbal expressions and gestures (i.e. body posture and facial expressions). The goal is to be present with your partner’s pain and not turn away. Be willing to “feel with” your partner. Empathy helps people feel accepted and connected, rather than feeling shame and alone. A little bit of empathy can go a long way in building an emotional bond and sense of togetherness. Apologies are where we acknowledge how our ways have impacted our partner and maybe even admit fault. Yet, many people have a hard time getting to this place because they feel defensive and protective. Apologies are easier when we drop the ball. We know we messed up and we can easily apologize. An apology is much harder when you had no intention to hurt your partner. Even harder still is apologizing when you feel that your actions were justified. In this case, it may be an apology for a specific part of the interaction. “I am sorry I reacted.” “I am sorry I got defensive.” “I am sorry I hurt your feelings.” 18. ACKNOWLEDGE PLACES YOU AND YOUR PARTNER AGREE. As I mentioned before, negative emotions carry a lot of weight. Hence, this is why John Gottman recommends the 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions, as it takes 5 positives to counteract the 1 negative interaction. In the business sector, it is common for customer service representatives to get more negative feedback than positive. Generally, people will complain about a concern, but they will not comment about their positive experiences. This is also true in relationship. We vocalize our complaints and issues, but we don’t always express our positive feedback. During conflictual times, it is easy to lose sight of the positives. We forget our partner loves us. We overlook all the ways they give and care for us. We ignore their good intentions and positive efforts to help. We forget they are in pain too. One way to acknowledge the areas that are working well in your relationship is to look at the places you agree and are on the same page. Finding opportunities for agreement can build a sense of alliance and help shift the direction of the conversation. Any form of agreement can build some quality of togetherness. Some couples have shared that when they had a bad experience with a therapist or coach, one good thing that came out of the experience is that they joined together in their complaints, which ironically had a positive impact on their relationship. 19. WORK WITH YOUR PARTNER. Learning to work with your partner, during a conflict is probably the most important task we are faced with in relationship. During a conflict, it can feel like your partner has the power to hurt you and possibly utterly destroy you, the last thing you will want to do is be gracious, kind, and emotionally vulnerable. Most likely, everything in your nervous system is going to tell you “Protect at all costs.” Yet, this is the very thing that makes your partner your adversary, which will over time tear your relationship apart. As much as we would like to stay protected, behind our defenses, and only meet our partner when it appears to be safe, our hiding and protective strategies contribute to our feeling unsafe. True understanding, empathy, and collaboration cannot happen when we are busy defending and protecting ourselves. First, calm yourself down and reorient your goal to “work towards a resolution with your partner.” When I just started practicing some of these relationship principles, I remember having to check-in with myself during an argument. I would ask myself “Do I want to win right now? Or do I want to work towards a resolution?” Many times, my honest answer was “I want to be right. I want to win.” If that was my answer, I would do my best to shift my goal or end the conversation to revisit at a later time. If you treat your partner as an ally, you will accomplish so much more. It is so interesting that our legal system is governed by the rule “innocent until proven guilty.” Yet, in our intimate relationships, we accuse each other as guilty, with the utmost certainty, even before having a dialogue. How can we be so sure? The certainty comes from our most protective instincts. Our instincts actually don’t care if they are misreading the situation or are operating on inaccurate information. All they care about is protecting against any threat, saying “Better safe than sorry.” This is why we need extra training in how to deal with stress, differences, and pain in relationship, so that we can be allies together on the path of long, lasting intimacy. 20. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. In the beginning stages of love and romance, men and women go to great lengths to show appeal and sexiness towards their partner. Then, the demands of life set in, and we can start to feel drained and depleted. Often, the goal of partner bonding becomes more practical…something along the lines of comfort, relaxation, and soothing. Unfortunately, it can feel as though time erodes the feelings of care and concern in even the best of relationships. People stop doing the nice little things they used to do for each other because they’re too tired, too stressed out, or start waiting for the other person to do something nice first. Partners can feel taken for granted and horribly lonely. Have you gotten lazy in regards to romance and extra gestures of love and care? Can you do something special to express romance and/or sexiness towards your partner? Enjoy a candle lit dinner. Slow dance together. Get dressed up. Wear a sexy undergarment. Use your imagination. If you are interested in practicing more kindness in your relationship to strengthen your love, download this free pdf. The goal is to choose one kindness action or gesture a day for 25 days. Stay tuned for the last five tips for building kindness in the upcoming podcast episode. Until then, check out the Connected Couple program to develop happy, lasting love: MENTIONED: ERP 125: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love (podcast) ERP 128: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part Two (podcast) ERP 129: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part Three (podcast) ERP 036: How To Offer The Gift Of Listening( podcast) A Step-by-Step Guide To Turn Any Argument Into Effective Communication (article) Masters Of Love by Emily Esfahani Smith (article) Brené Brown on Empathy (video) The Power Of Vulnerability (TED Talk) Listening To Shame (TED Talk) Sex a In The City clip: Miranda Moment Brazilian (video) Empowered Relationship FB Page Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash TRANSCRIPT: Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 130: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part Four [transcript] If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please reach out to me. Here is my contact information. 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