ERP 129: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part Three

By Posted in - Podcast December 7th, 2017 0 Comments

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 (11-15)

11. Learn how to address issues.

Most of us do not feel uncomfortable with conflict or addressing a conflictual topic with our loved one. Often, we have experienced pain, difficulty, and upset during conflict in the past. The take away message has been “I don’t want to do that again.” Unconsciously, we make a decision to avoid sensitive topics.

There is a balance to be struck when addressing a conflict.
A) You will not want to invest the time and energy with just anyone. You will reserve this process for people who you are very close with, intend to have a lasting relationship with, and would like to deepen the intimacy with.

B) You will want to get in touch with what is true, but you will also want to practice tact and consideration when expressing yourself.

C) You will want to develop skill in addressing an issue. Like anything, there is a learning curve towards developing any level of skill. Acquired skill does not come without learning and practice.

Conflict in relationship is a tricky area to develop skill in because it requires us to tolerate some pretty uncomfortable emotions, particularly, how to deal with fear and anger.

Often, we don’t have a safe practice ground. When you were learning to drive, did your parent take you to the country or an abandoned parking lot to practice? The idea here is to have a safe place to get acquainted with all the mechanics and practice without hurting anyone or anything.

We do not have this practice ground in relationship. It is real-time. Live and often feels like do or die.

Your partner’s skill level matters greatly in the equation as well. Whether or not they can manage their emotional reactivity and insecurities. Do they take things personally? Do the assume the worst? Do they get protective, defensive, or blaming?

Avoiding doesn’t work either.

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger, but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.” by Julie Gottman

12. Practice respect during conflict.

When push comes to shove, do you step up or do you step away?

In my younger years, I had to work towards calming down my reactions and tempering my impulses. To think before I speak and not lash out. To try to be more objective and considerate in my languaging. To not to be so defensive when I feel attacked.

Whereas, other people have to work towards coming to the table, when their impulse is to step away. Maybe their pattern is to distance themselves or get passive aggressive. Or maybe they ignore, reject, or cut people off.

Stepping up and stepping away can both be done in disrespectful ways.

Knowing your tendency is helpful when trying to understand your patterns in conflict. Do you know where you go when are not at your best in conflict?

One shift that helped me be more respectful during conflict was to have the goal of practicing respect as a form of integrity, in that treating someone with dignity and civility is a way that I can feel good about myself and my character.

If character and integrity become the goal or measure, then what helps accomplish that goal? Taking care of yourself. Calming down. Removing yourself from the dynamic. Setting a boundary.

Here are a couple of examples of how to practice respect during a conflict:

  • Be objective and fair in recounting of the story. Stick to the facts.
  • Have tact. “Tact is telling the truth kindly, considerate of how your words affect others’ feelings. Think before you speak, knowing what is better left unsaid. When you are tactful, others find it easier to hear what you have to say. Tact builds bridges.” By The Virtues Project
  • Be considerate. Your partner has a perspective and a position as well. Can you make room for their experience?
  • Start a difficult conversation gently instead of waiting for things to reach a boiling point.

“The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.” By Emily Esfahani Smith, The Atlantic

13. Strive for the 5 to 1 ratio.

If you are familiar with John Gottman’s work, you may have come across the 5 to 1 ratio. This ratio recommends having five or more positive interactions for every negative interaction, so that you can have a stable and happy marriage.

The basic principle here is that when kindness outweighs negativity, happiness is a more likely to occur.

In most human interactions, we have some type of transactional analysis going on.

  • Am I giving more than I am getting?
  • Are they adding to my life or are they taking away from me?
  • Is our relationship equitable?

Granted, relationships cannot be 50/50 all the time. However, it is a very human experience to respond to the balance of giving and receiving in relationship.

“When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections.” By Dr. Gottman

Unhappy couples tend to engage in fewer positive interactions and their positive-to-negative ratio during conflict is more like 1-to-1, which is unhealthy.

There is a great deal of emotional power in negative interactions, such as criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, contempt, mocking, eye-rolling, and sarcasm. This is why it takes five positive interactions to counteract the one negative interaction.

In happy marriages, people expect to feel safe, and when a negative interaction occurs it is quickly repaired with understanding, validation, and empathy.

Is there a way to lighten the mood, crack a joke, look at your partner and smile, or touch them softly when discussing a difficult topic?

14. Offer reassurance.

There will be times when your partner feels insecure, afraid, and uncertain.

Unfortunately, your partner may not have the capacity to tell you explicitly when they are feeling scared, anxious, or worried. Whether or not their doubts relate to career, friends, family or relationship, you have a powerful opportunity to remind them of their goodness and value.

Sometimes, the kindest thing we can offer our partner is genuine, sentiments of belief and reassurance.

  • Offer affirmation to your partner.
  • Let your partner know you believe in them
  • Validate their strength.
  • “It is going to be okay.”
  • “You got this.”

15. Forgive Your Partner’s shortcomings.

Typically, when our partner does something off-putting, it is easy to feel offended and hold a grudge. Holding a grudge usually does not help us feel better, nor does it bring a resolution with our partner.

Even with attempts to resolve an issue through a conversation, we can continue to take issue with our partner’s actions is like if punishing them would somehow change the situation.

If grudges persist, we can withhold our affection and become passive-aggressive. We can grow distant and critical. And we can start to see our partner as the problem, rather than as our trusted ally.

What would it take to let go of the grudge, be vulnerable about your pain, and be open to reconciling? To choose to open your heart, make peace with the circumstances, and work with your partner?

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 next several tips for building kindness in the upcoming podcast episode. Until then, check out the Connected Couple program to develop happy, lasting love:

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TRANSCRIPT:

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If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.

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