Want less conflict? Try asking this question
Here's a quick tip that can have a big impact on communication. This is a tip that I often recommend for romantic partners but I also HIGHLY recommend using it with anyone in your life that you are close to - including friends, family members, and colleagues. Before I share the tip, quick question: how often are you asking for consent before you engage others in an emotionally charged conversation? If your answer is “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” or “huh??" - read on, my friend. It is so important to be able to rely on one another during challenging times, and is also critical to the integrity of our relationships that we confirm that the person in the supporting role has the bandwidth to play that role. We often take for granted that our partner, friend, or family member - especially the type that seems to be more comfortable in the role of “giver” than “receiver” - will just be there for us any time we need them. But remember - that person is also a human with their own emotional and energetic boundaries. They may or may not have the bandwidth to be in the supporter role - even when we really want them to be - and we must try to honor that. Beyond just honoring our loved one's boundaries, we are also avoiding a common conflict that I see happen. It goes something like this in romantic partnerships: Partner A - slumps down onto couch next to Partner B, who is silently reading through emails on their phone after a busy work day: “Ugh, I had such a crappy day at work again. My boss literally ignored my emails asking for clarification about the presentation I had to give. So when it was time to present, I got horrible feedback from the VP who said that I had focused on the wrong aspects of the project. I have to re-do the whole thing. It was humiliating!" Partner B - continues to silently read emails without looking up: “Huh. That sucks. Sorry babe.” Partner A - sighs heavily and stares at partner B: “That's it? Seriously? Were you even listening to me?! You are always on your phone! I feel like you don't even care sometimes!" … We can see where this is headed, can't we? And I'm guessing that many of you are on team “Partner A” in this scenario. That's fair. Partner B is not exactly showing up as their best self. But let's flip the perspective a bit and see if we can give Partner B some compassion. Maybe Partner B has had a very long day as well. Maybe they are in a shame spiral about something that they did “wrong” at work too. Maybe they are just tapped out and don't have the bandwidth to play the role of supporter right now. Could we see a world in which Partner A asks Partner B: “Hey babe, do you have the bandwidth for a vent session right now? I'm feeling really worked up about that meeting I had this afternoon.” This gives Partner B the opportunity to do one of two things: answer with a “Yes, of course babe, let me put my phone down.” OR “I'm actually in a bit of a stressed mood myself. Could we talk about it in an hour once I've sent these emails? I want to be in a better headspace so that I can really tune in to you.” Can we see how: 1) Asking for consent (Partner A's responsibility) and 2) Answering with “Yes” or “Not right now, but here's when I will be available to support you" (Partner B's responsibility) diffuses the tension and leads to a potentially healthier exchange? So next time you are about to launch into an emotionally charged conversation, I encourage you to ask the other party for consent first - it's an important way we can set ourselves and our loved ones up for successful exchanges of time, emotion, and energy. Have someone in mind who might benefit from this tip? Spread the love and send it their way! Until next time - may you feel loved. May you feel worthy. May you feel free.