Today’s guest blogger, Adrienne Glasser LCSW, continues the theme of mind-body awareness with a set of coherent suggestions on how to make your communication more compassionate—for your partner and yourself. The method also works with friends and family and anyone else with whom you want to have a more humanized experience!
We all argue. It’s only human to get frustrated with those we love. In fact, arguments are often noble attempts at communicating effectively that go awry. A few weeks ago, I was trying to get some writing done at home and deadlines had me pretty stressed out. My husband just would not stop bothering me. He asked me questions about the upcoming weekend, or did I want breakfast. It didn’t matter what he said, my resentment grew by the minute. “Doesn’t he see that I need to concentrate?” I heard loudly in my head. My nervous system actually perceived this breakfast offering as an environmental threat worthy of a fight, flight or freeze response. This time, the wheel of fortune for survival stopped on FIGHT.
“When are you going to leave for work? I mean, can you just go already?” I snapped.
“I don’t care just leave!”
Of course it immediately hit me that I was being pretty mean. Even though I pride myself on my meditation practice and being a compassionate therapist, I found myself snapping. In the past, I would have compounded this awareness by beating myself up afterward. I would feel embarrassed but still have a hard time controlling the impulse to lash out. But this time I recognized that my attempt to gain control of my environment was really about my suffering, and instead of beating myself up, I did something else: I smiled at my feelings.
In this moment I allowed for some self-compassion, which led to compassion for my husband having to reckon with a partner that confused breakfast with a threat. I quickly took a breath and said how sorry I was for not saying what I needed in a nicer way. These kinds of arguments can really escalate quickly (many times much more dramatically than this example) and can be avoided if we are able to use mindfulness and compassion with our loved ones.
Below is a 5 step process that I use in my practice as a therapist to help couples and families build compassionate communication. It’s also what I practice in my relationship. This 5 step process is a practice, and takes much time to cultivate- so be compassionate with yourself as your initial attempts will be imperfect.