When In Doubt, Connect

A few words on what to do when you don't know what to do. The following blog post is suitable for anyone who has a relationship in any capacity with someone else. I hope that keeps it broad enough. In my practice I facilitate strengthening the parent/caregiver/child relationship. However, the following same principles apply to romantic relationships, friendships, teacher/student interactions, workplace relationships, etc...



It's not often that I quote myself, but when I do, it's because I struck a chord I needed to hear myself. In parenting or in other relationships we may find ourselves at a loss, confused, desperate, hopeless, discouraged, or hurt. It's in those times that we should respond with love and connection.

How do goals of behavior affect our responses?

I  frequently talk with parents about a child's goals for misbehavior--that behavior is goal directed and children are trying to fulfill a need. Adults do the same thing except our misbehavior looks differently, but is rooted in the same needs.

In our relationships and interactions with others, we automatically assign a story to our beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about our situations. These beliefs will trigger emotions which trigger a reaction. This reaction is trying to fulfill a need.

When we are are feeling discouraged, challenged, hurt, confused, or hopeless in our relationships, it would serve us well to reflect on what might be the other person's goal and what might be our goal.

Power/Control, Inadequacy/Fear of Failure, Revenge, Attention

1. Goal: power and control. The belief behind power/control is: I belong or I am valued when I am in control or proving no one can boss me. 

2. Goal: avoid inadequacy. The belief behind inadequacy/fear of Failure is: I don't believe I can belong so I'll convince others not to expect anything from me. I am helpless and unable. It's no use trying because I won't do it right. OR I will do everything I can to avoid being perceived as inadequate.

3. Goal: hurt, get even. The belief behind revenge is:  I'll hurt others as I feel hurt. I can't be liked or loved.

4. Goal: attention. The belief behind attention is: I am valued only when I am being noticed. I'm only important when I'm keeping you busy with me.

What's the best response?

To change a negative attitude you're holding about an individual, you'll need to uncover the underlying belief or goal that's creating your unhappy feelings. Begin by asking whether you believe people, in general, are doing the best they can. Researcher Brene Brown has discovered that believing that you and others are doing the best you can requires compassion. "You may not be absolutely sure about the intention behind someone's behavior, including your own. But being compassionate is about cultivating the attitude that normally people do their best with the tools they have. Compassion allows us to believe that we can all learn from our mistakes, enabling us to grow and change." (ThePropelPrinciples.com)

What's the most generous possible interpretation of the intentions words, and actions of others? (Brene Brown)

Equally, what's the most generous possible interpretation of our own actions? 

1. Identify goals of behavior with the most generous possible interpretation.

2. Evaluate whether your reaction is responding to their need/goal AND whether your reaction is self serving your goals of behavior. Are you reacting out of your own sense of inadequacy, need for control, from feeling hurt, or to be recognized?

When in doubt, do something that connects or communicates love.

When we feel at a loss for an appropriate response or don't have the time or emotional energy to calculate goals or beliefs, respond in a way that connects, preserves a relationship, or communicates love. (Remember, another person's response to your extension of connection does not determine your adequacy or value).

Offering connection or love does not imply permissiveness nor does it allow someone to take advantage of or walk all over you. Brene Brown recommends Living BIG: Boundaries, Integrity, Generosity. "Setting boundaries means getting clear on what behaviors are okay and what's not okay. Integrity is the key to this commitment because it's how we set those boundaries and ultimately hold ourselves and others accountable for respecting them." (Brene Brown, Rising Strong).

The Resolution to No Resolution

When we are always BECOMING we have no room to BE.
— Glennon Doyle Melton

Just Be: with all of your God-given gifts, quirks, flaws, qualities, and looks, just be. When we are present with those around us we give our attention to one thing or person at a time. We embrace the goodness of a situation or person. We see beauty and life. When we are present we give hope and love for another to receive.

It's not logical. It's perhaps ironic to have a resolution to no resolutions. When we are always striving for perfection, to meet a worldly standard, or to attain the next level, we miss out on recognizing the goodness and beauty in our present.

Sure we want to become a better person or better at what we perceive defines us. When we learn to integrate our ideal self with our true self, to just BE, we open our selves up to possibilities of love, hope, and life. And that's the BECOMING to attain. Not a better this or better that, but a genuine and congruent or balanced individual.

It this permission to be lazy or selfish?

When we focus inward, we ask our selves Who am I? What is my purpose? Allowing yourself the freedom to be present will shine light on the answers to these questions. Accepting and allowing yourself to BE provides clarity and fuel to move forward. Focusing inward prepares us to pour our best outward.

What if I'm an extraordinary multi-tasker?

Multitasking can be very efficient and can accomplish many goals at once.  When you practice Just Being, your task is the present. When we multitask during moments meant for connecting with others, our connection can actually be misinterpreted and can send an entirely different message: I value you only as much as I fully attend to you. In moments of connecting with others, Just BE WITH.

But what if I need a checklist? What's so bad with making goals?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with checklists or goals. We want to ground our goals, rooted to our core beliefs. Life situations and emotions sometimes blur, twist, or alter our core beliefs. We behave in ways and make choices that reflect our core beliefs. To JUST BE helps us to reexamine our core beliefs, while taking in the present, and to regulate our emotions so that we may offer the best part of ourselves to others. Then we're ready to tackle some goals. But for now, the resolution is to have no resolution and just try being.

When Life as We Know It Changes...

When life as we know it changes, whether unexpectedly or in anticipation of the change, how do we accept it and move forward? 

In my office is my reminder that amidst storms and darkness, both of which to some degree come with change, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness" (Hillsong United lyrics). He is my cornerstone. 

Jesus never promised to eliminate all of the chaos from our lives; He said He’d bring meaning to it.
— Bob Goff

We can miss catching that meaning if we are dwelling on the storm or the darkness. What I have found helpful for me to move forward through change are 3 things: noticing goodness, celebrating, and resting. MOPS International's 2015 theme for mothers of preschoolers around the world focuses on these 3 theme tenets from which we could all benefit. First, we need to use our eyes to see the good things all around us--little or big-- and our words to express our thankfulness. Second and third, we need to take time to celebrate and rest. It is entirely possible to be resting while you celebrate because "Rest is participating in things that are rejuvenating" (Mandy Arioto, MOPS International).

What rejuvenates your soul?

Who rejuvenates your soul?

How can you celebrate the small or huge victories in your day to day life?

Who needs you to celebrate with them?

What do you need to let go of in order to notice, rest, and celebrate? (Productivity, shame, guilt, pride?)

Back to the cornerstone--which is why I have a visual reminder to keep me focused. What or who is your cornerstone that keeps you together, that serves a greater purpose, upon which you depend? You trust your life upon this foundation. It is the heart and core of you. It is the basis for your existence and well being. It is the "middle point from which anything rotates or revolves" (dictionary.com). So when life as you know it changes or when things seem to be spinning out of control, trust your foundation, notice goodness, rest, and celebrate.