Have you heard? How, every day, you might be closing off connections to the people around you? Without even realizing it OR intending to do so?
Everyday interactions, the ‘little things’, are the slow missiles that can either chip away at intimacy and connection or provide the slow consistent nurturement required to establish and grow forever relationships. We like to focus on the ‘big bombs’ and to be fair, they are way more spectacular in their size and immediate effect on a relationship. Betrayal, abandonment, deceit… they go BOOM! Elaborate weekend getaways, expensive gifts, grand overtures of love and friendship… they go BOOM! But statistically, the bombs are not usually what kills or truly heals partnerships, friendships and family connections. It’s the small deadly or life giving missiles, we shoot off daily.
There’s a conversation you’re having every day, sometimes several times a day, that may be creating distance between you and those you love.
Often, it’s the conversations outlined in this article, that may play a leading role in many failed relationships and friendships in your life.
You’re not alone. Many of us don’t even realize that the way we handle casual conversation is actually pushing people away instead of inviting them closer. And so much of modern day life is designed to connect us, whilst disconnecting us, in everyday life.
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Here’s what I mean…
Ask someone important in your life “How are you doing today? ”
And they respond, “I’m really feeling tired/low/sad/stressed. ”
What would you typically say next?
Would you tell them:
You’ll feel better tomorrow.
I was tired/low/sad/ stressed just last week! Here’s what I did…
(Sigh) You’re always tired/low/sad/ stressed!
You might be well intentioned by trying to reassure them... When you change the subject toward yourself, maybe you’re just trying to offer empathy... It’s not your intention to be dismissive by reminding them how often they complain.
There is even part of our society DNA that tells us, the only way to answer “How are you today?’ is with ‘fine’ OR ‘good, and you?’ regardless of how we may really be feeling. But with those people really important to us? Those we want to truly establish a deeper connection with? That polite outdated concept must be discarded.
When someone tells you how they’re feeling and you either dismiss, minimize or change the subject, what you’re really doing is essentially (although unintentionally) communicating:
I’m not interested in you or how you’re feeling.
Visually, there is also crucial misstep we all make during these conversations, that has a hugely negative affect on our relationships
Where you are looking during this conversation? Whether that be in person or on the phone, during this everyday chat?
Okay, maybe when you casually asked ‘How are you’, you were in the middle of uploading to Instagram, posting on Facebook, tweeting away or drilling away on a work presentation. However, when the response came… “I’m really feeling tired/low/sad/stressed.” Where did your visual focus shift then?
So many of us, can honestly say, still looking at my phone, my computer screen, or on whatever I was doing. And for some of you, the idea of making direct eye contact with someone to have that ‘feelings’ conversation sends a few chills up the back of your neck. Even when we are not face to face with this person, if we continue on looking at what we were doing, instead of pushing back the desk chair and turning our mental focus on that person on the other end of the line, it will show clearly to them we are not truly engaged.
What most people want from a relationship is to be acknowledged, and more specifically, to have their feelings acknowledged.
They want to be heard. Not necessarily understood or helped, just HEARD. To get reassurance that what they’re saying is important to the other person in the conversation. That they matter.
When you inadvertently ignore a loved one’s feelings, when we fail to stop, and shift our attention fully and make eye contact, it is destructive to our relationships.
Our words and our actions show clearly their level of importance in the pecking order of life.
In the future, that person may not want to discuss anything heart-felt with you because they will assume that you don’t want to hear about it. Or you just want to try and fix it. Which isn’t the result they need. Remember, they just need to be heard and acknowledged.
No one likes to feel like an annoyance. They’ll say they’re “Fine ” even when they’re far from feeling fine.
And it only goes downhill from there…
Over time, they will start to pull away. Bit by bit.
They won’t come to you to share anything of significance.
They won’t trust you with their innermost thoughts.
They’ll avoid having anything but the most topical conversation with you.
Before you know it, they’ll stop calling or coming by, and you’ll be left wondering what happened to your relationship.
If you were to ask my own partner his number one complaint in our relationship… he would say I am on my phone (social media) when he is talking. I used to easily dismiss that claim ‘Well, I am not doing this big bomb, or that big bomb… what’s the big deal?” Even responding with annoyance “Can’t you see I am busy??!” However, that’s just it. Day after day, I was disregarding him, showing him clearly he is less important than posting that meme or making that comment… and little by little, we were talking less and less.
Ever heard yourself say “We never talk anymore!!” I have. Those small missile, tearing hole after hole in our connection and our relationship. The space between us widening, making it harder to have casual or meaningful conversations.
Now, I TRY (no perfection here, just awareness and intent) to institute the following relationship safety drill, when I find my eyes glued to my phone and he has walked into the room for a chat.
Stop. Drop. Look. Acknowledge. And Connect!
The result of this fairly little daily tweak??? HUGE!