Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Two words you might never want to say

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

“Why do you always spend too much money?”

“It drives me mad that you never spend any time with the kids!”

“You’re always late.”

“My boss never appreciates the care and attention I put into my work.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

‘Always’ and ‘never’ are such black-and-white words aren’t they? They’re defining and clear. How much easier it is to pigeonhole someone if they ‘never’ clear up after themselves or are ‘always’ rude?

Yet people aren’t black and white: we are a million shades of grey according to mood, circumstance or method of communication. Black or white are in fact pretty rare states in the human condition, but to make our thought processing easier, our minds collect data about the people around us and draw quick conclusions in order to make sense of the world and to help differentiate amongst the greys. Behaviours are exaggerated to fit a pattern that we see emerging, and then labels are formed.

In our War to Peace workshops, exaggerating and using these words is one of the ‘Unlucky 7’ signs that you may be at War. Noticing that you are using ‘always’ or ‘never’ about a person you are finding difficult (or about yourself) is a warning bell that you need to stop and examine the evidence.

Rachel’s story

Rachel was feeling very low about her relationship with her young son. In particular, she found his high energy and need for interaction exhausting and she felt that she couldn’t keep up. This left her feeling both guilty and angry. When Rachel described her son’s behaviour to the group, she used phrases like ‘he always makes such a noise tearing around the house’, or ‘he never stops!’ She was equally damning of herself when she talked about her own behaviour in reaction to his, saying ‘I never play with him anymore’ and ‘I always shout’. Rachel was at War both with her son and with herself.

Working with a partner at the workshop, Rachel began to examine how much truth was behind the statements she had made. She realised that her son did have calmer moments: they enjoyed snuggling up and looking at his magazine together on a Saturday morning; he enjoyed baking with her; and that he was always engaged when she and her husband read him his favourite book at bedtimes. Rachel also realised that, although she wanted to make the games longer and more frequent, she did play football with him once a week. And that there were plenty of times when she would talk, sing and giggle with him with no shouting whatsoever.

Rachel’s feelings towards her son’s behaviour softened and became much less defensive, and she was able to stop feeling guilty about her parenting too. This enabled her to work on actively finding opportunities to have fun with her son at an energy level they were both comfortable with, which has led to much a happier place for them both. Not ‘always’ happy, nor ‘never’ cross, but at a much better place in between.

Over to you

  • Be on the lookout for ‘always’ and ‘never’ creeping into the language you use to describe others’ behaviour or your own, and notice how these statements make you feel.
  • Examine the evidence behind those statements. Could you prove them in a court of law?
  • Find a recent example of when that statement wasn’t true – when they weren’t late, for example. Notice how this new perspective shifts your feelings. Incidentally, if you start making excuses for why this example doesn't count, know that it's normal to do this when we are at War. Take a deep breath and try using our Spiral of Disempowerment™ tool.

Do you know someone who could benefit from War to Peace®?

If you know someone who would benefit from learning how to feel better about their relationships with their family, colleagues and friends, we are running our next open-access War to Peace® workshop in London on 13 October. To book a space, click here. Please note, we have just 9 spaces left.

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'Always trying hard? Never appreciated? We know the feeling!

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©Halcyon Global 2017

Letting off steam – or blowing your top?

Monday, October 10th, 2016

When we’ve been wronged in some way by someone, it’s natural to feel hurt and upset. When people around us see that we are upset and ask about what’s happened, our instinct is often to tell them.

Imagine you are walking to work and a stranger barges into you, spilling coffee on your jacket and knocking you to the floor before disappearing without a sorry. When you arrive at the office, dishevelled, you are highly likely to tell your colleagues what happened – it can be cathartic to share the experience, after all. You're unlikely to see that person again and, when you have been given a coffee and commiserated with for a few minutes, you can clean up your jacket, take a deep breath and get on with your day.

letting off steamBut what about if the person who wronged you is someone you have to see regularly? A colleague, friend or family member, for example? Is it always healthy and cathartic to tell others about what has happened to you, or could you end up getting into an unhelpful place of gathering of allies?

Gathering allies is one of the signs of being at War (or going into conflict) that we talk about in the War to Peace workshops. If we are a country about to go to war – or a person about to become in conflict with someone – we've learned that it's in our interests to get as many people as possible to be on our ‘side’.

So the barging stranger example earlier isn’t generally going to be a War situation – it’s hopefully just an annoying thing that happened on the way to work.

But what about if Wendy still hasn’t written that report that you need for your presentation tomorrow – and she promised it three days ago? And what if she did this to you last week as well, and you had to pull an all-nighter to get ready for the big meeting? Is it OK to have a moan to your colleagues? You’re really annoyed, naturally, and it’s cathartic, right?

What about if your colleagues join in with your moan and tell you that Wendy left them waiting a few times too, and that her work was sloppy when it arrived? Would that make you feel better or worse? Does the conversation still feel cathartic, or is it starting to feel toxic? How would you feel if Wendy walked into the room as you were talking? And is your relationship with Wendy getting any better as a result of sharing your frustrations? Would you think to include the times that she had helped you or done some fantastic work in this conversation? (By the way, when we go to War with someone, it's largely unconscious and means it's usually very difficult to recall much good about the person or anything they've done).

There’s a big difference between a short ‘vent’ into a journal or to an unconnected friend and a gathering of allies such as the example above. The first allows us to let off steam, which often helps us to move on and deal with the problem at hand; the second only sends us further into the war zone by reinforcing to ourselves and others how 'right' we are about the person, and gathering further reinforcement and evidence of this from our allies. In short, it’s a quick route to being at War.

In the meantime, Wendy is wondering how she is going to get through another day on no sleep when she's been caring through the night for her sick mother for a month now. She's so distraught, she daren't talk about it for fear of crying at work and looking "unprofessional." If only you'd known what was going on for her...

Over to you

  • The next time you find yourself telling someone about a ‘wrong’, ask yourself: "Am I having a cathartic vent or gathering allies?"
  • Notice what story you are telling yourself and your allies. How do you feel about yourself and the person you talked about afterwards?
  • How can you find more inner resources at times of difficulty? (clue – try starting with the ideas in this post or this one)

Do you know someone who could benefit from War to Peace?

If you, or someone you know, would like to experience how to let off steam in a healthy way and learn how to be at Peace, even with the people you find most difficult, our next open-access War to Peace workshop is on 3 March 2017. We only have 8 spaces left and spaces sell out quickly (especially our reduced priced tickets) so if you would like to attend, do book yours today.

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Digging over the past

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Theresa’s husband had been having an affair for over two years before she found out.

During that time, they had lost two parents between them to cancer, gone on the holiday of a lifetime to Australia and supported their son through a nasty case of bullying. Theresa felt that they had been there for each other, loved and enjoyed each other’s company through all of this, and that they were rock solid.

worker-30240_640Finding out about the affair through an acquaintance had brought her world crumbling around her. Immediately, she set about raking through her memories of the two years it had been going on. The day before her mother’s funeral, her husband had been out all day; he couldn’t attend their son’s school leavers’ service as he had been on a ‘business trip’; he’d spent a lot of time on his smartphone when they were in Australia and she’d assumed he was updating his Facebook status with what they’d been up to that day. Now she drew very different conclusions about what he had been doing on those occasions and many others. Looking through the events of those years in a cold light and rewriting her experience through her new knowledge made Theresa feel duped and angry, and she kicked herself for being so ‘naïve’.

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Frank’s boss had been very supportive. He’d seen that Frank had been having to leave earlier than usual and had asked if there was anything the matter. Frank had confided in him that his wife was finding coping with their toddler daughter very draining so he had agreed to come home and take over the reins, finishing off any outstanding work after they had put her to bed. His boss had been stopping by his desk regularly since then, asking how things were going, and Frank felt valued and appreciated. He was happy he worked for such a progressive, flexible employer.

Yet when a junior colleague in his department was promoted ahead of him, the reason for Frank’s boss’s ‘supportive’ concern became apparent: he was checking whether or not Frank was up to the responsibility of the new role. Frank looked back on all the chats they’d had and on all the work he’d completed well and on time, and he felt cheated and resentful. He’d even taken his boss out for a slap up lunch to say thanks for his support. Frank now wondered whether his boss had been plotting against him all along, and spent long hours awake in bed unable to sleep because he was raking through every conversation they’d had for months and imagining his boss’s negative thoughts towards him.

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Theresa’s story and Frank’s story may be far apart in context but they share a theme of altered perceptions. We all read our experiences in based on the information that is available to us at the time, mixed in with our assumptions, previous knowledge and the mood we're in. Theresa and Frank felt fully supported, then angry and resentful when they looked back at the experience with fresh knowledge.

Yet they were not wrong, stupid or naïve to feel happy at the time. And it is completely understandable why they may change how they interpret those past events given the information they have now.  But does it serve them to dig over events of the past and view them as more true / different than they had previously thought?

Most of us would find it hard not to take personally what Theresa and Frank experienced and to blame the 'errant' husband and 'unfair' boss, yet the cost is great to ourselves as we carry around the burden of resentment, which is like allowing the people we most dislike to reside in our heads rent free. It also means that we are far more likely to go to War with other people in our lives, becoming less tolerant, more mistrusting and more cynical - so we allow ourselves to become victims repeatedly, whilst continuing the cycle of blame.

A great way of breaking this cycle is to ask ourselves "what else could this mean?" We don't need to know the truth of why people do the things that they do - because the 'truth' is only ever a perception that is based on the information we have at the time, which we interpret through the lens of our past experiences. So, when Theresa chooses to decide that her husband's affair was nothing to do with anything she did or didn't do (e.g. it was about Theresa's husband being self-destructive because of his own demons, he has a sex addiction than he believes can only be fulfilled by other people etc.), and Frank's boss's decision was nothing to do with anything Frank's personal circumstances (e.g. Frank's boss was under pressure from his boss to meet the unpublished diversity statistics, he was having an affair with the person he promoted etc.), it allows them to begin to feel differently.

It is that simple. And we're not by any means suggesting it's easy!

Most of us have been brought up to think that other people and circumstances cause our pain. And it's so much easier to blame other people and feel victimised (after all, others in our friendship and family circles understand this way of operating) than to consider that we can feel entirely differently once we question our thinking and perceptions. For more on this, you might like this post. Otherwise, do come along to a War to Peace workshop and experience it for yourself.

Over to you

  • When you find  yourself digging up the past in your mind, consider the thoughts you have at the time and the thoughts you have now. What would be a more helpful way of thinking about this situation and the people involved?
  • If you are stuck and feeling very hostile and hurt, a healthy vent is extremely helpful to get out all the emotional pain and rage you are feeling. You can bash a cushion with a baseball bat whilst screaming or, if you're worried about the neighbours, write a completely uncensored letter to the person you feel has hurt you, really let yourself say everything you ever wanted to say to them. Then burn it. You will then be in a more resourceful emotional state to consider thinking about them in a different and more helpful way.

Do you know someone who could benefit from War to Peace?

If you know someone who spends a lot of time digging over the past, our next open-access War to Peace workshop is on 7 October. To join the waitlist, click here. To book onto our next workshop with spaces in March 2017, click here

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How can you dig over your past more helpfully?

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©Halcyon Global 2016