I have had a request to write about how to deal with parents or in-laws in a mindful way. So here are some thoughts.
It’s not really that different from parenting your children. The key is the combination of forgiveness, acceptance, and staying out of feeling defensive. Think about Turning NO to ON as applied to relationships with history.
Remember the blog titled Interpreting bias in decision-making – posted August 5, 2010? In it I wrote about the problem with responding from a defensive place and through bias and how this interfered with decision-making. Defensiveness and bias skew how information is interpreted. Each skew to the negative and set the stage for reaction rather than mindful response.
Bias is sometimes a result of a belief that may have represented a previous experience but is not necessarily Truth. Defensiveness can be a result of habit, history or misapplication or misunderstanding of the other person’s intention, tone, or action. In this way defensiveness can be like bias.
Being clear in a neutral, non-defensive tone, with unbiased and uncharged language allows for fuller communication and an opportunity to re-work old issues with a peaceful and active resolution.
So here are some ways to help you move into neutrality when interacting and also get a handle on what you may be bringing to the situation that is unhelpful, defensive, or a habit reaction pattern from earlier in the relationship. After you identify that there is something left over, an old unresolved issue or belief then you can determine whether you want to keep it.
These can be applied to any personal relationship or situation, but is most applicable toward parent or in-law relationships. Our relationships with our parents are very powerful and so hold a lot of complicated meaning about our own power and sense of self.
Defensiveness comes from a need, or interpreted need, to protect ourselves from attack – if we have had miscommunications, or simply mis-takes in how we related with our parents then this can be overly charged and difficult, and can be intensely layered over time. Following these steps will assist you in working through some of this to increase positive interactions.
- If you feel defensive wait – stop talking, breathe, open your mind, be open to what the other person is trying to say – move into receive rather than send in your communication. Try to clarify what you really want from the situation and then focus on that, and only that – don’t get distracted and moved onto a more negative path.
- Think about, and feel into, what is behind the defensiveness, follow it like a thread back into your history – this gives you a place to tether the defensiveness – then you can determine if that original event or set of events continue to apply, or how you would like to shift the energy. It is through this process that you can identify where you want to focus your interaction with the other person.
- If you feel angry, wait – stop talking, breathe, open your mind, try to receive what the other person is trying to say – try to simultaneously discover what is triggering an angry response in you, then as above, consider whether it is something you need to resolve then or let go and refocus on the current issue.
- If you have a block or just can’t understand – or see – what the other person is saying – stop, try to look at it from a different perspective and see if you can identify what perception or interpretation you have that may be blocking your understanding of the other person’s point of view. Get the other person to re-describe their feeling, experience in different words or give an example so that you can better understand what they are saying.
- I am not suggesting that you must agree with their point of view, I am suggesting understanding comes from seeing both perspectives – remember the figure-ground issues – looking at the images below – see the bear and the vase or the duck and the bunny . This is Steven Covey’s concept of seek first to understand. When you understand the other, then you can understand where you connect with and disconnect from the other person and this allows for a place of resolution agreed upon communication about any subject or issue.
Increasing your awareness and applying your mindfulness to the situation allows for increased understanding and increased connection. This may result in a different course of action. It may not result in a change, but in this case you will be able to support the situation through a more mindful, neutral approach. It may allow for a negotiation that incorporates both paradigms – not a compromise, but a collaboration or blending that meets the needs or perspectives of both parties.
Just as in parenting your children you are focused on being mindful and interacting in the present moment taking into account your child’s needs and your personalities; this is like turning a NO to ON but focused on your historical relationships and bringing them into present time and creating them to be positive.
Be truthful and honest in the content of your communication; kind and caring in the tone of your communication; and warm and real in your presentation. This style and these actions will go the furthest to create a space for a powerful and positive interaction that can increase the depth and breadth of your relationship with your parents or parent-in-laws.
You will have wonderful results.
See you tomorrow.