We are in the second part of a 2 part series on Relationships with a focus on communication. Part one of the series is here. We left off talking about the Red posture many of us end up in, often without even knowing why. This stance makes it difficult to communicate with the other person. Instead, we are protected, poised for defense or attack, overtly or subtly. How can we move toward the other, opening ourselves up to them, and inviting them to us? This requires Trust. We all have a Jenga Tower of Trust in our relationships, strengthened and weakened over time in our present relationship, and influenced by our past relationships.
Green posturing is an internal stance, a choice to make oneself open to the other and to open oneself up to the other. Can you see why Trust is required? Trust can seem like an impossible requirement when one finds themself hurt, afraid, anxious or overwhelmed. All of the protective Red systems we have developed over the years, controlled by the inner brain with the Amygdala sitting in the Captain’s chair, are working overtime to ensure our safety from the perceived danger. These systems are powerful and parasympathetic, meaning they go into action without our conscious intent. This is helpful when a Bear is attacking, but there is no Bear, only our counterpart, who too has been ‘triggered’ by something, and here we both sit, ready to protect or attack or disappear in withdrawal.
The first effort at moving into a Green posture is to become ever more aware of our Red posture. To ‘Notice‘ our internal reality, becoming ‘Curious‘ about what is happening and why? Are the words or actions I just observed the cause? Or did this bring up something more profound, an old scab I thought was a scar torn off yet again? Listen to the voices I hear rushing around in my head: i.e., “I can’t trust anyone,” “Everyone is dangerous,” “I am all alone,” etc. As I am noticing and becoming curious (not judging, just noticing), I am choosing to move Gewwn, believing that the Jenga Tower of Trust we are working to rebuild has enough in it to try something different.
There is a particular order to the steps of a Green posture: Validation, Consideration, Invitation. Each of them builds upon the other, breaking the cycle of our Red postured conflict.
Validation is the first move. Validation is NOT an agreement. Instead, it is communicating to the other, I” see you, I hear you, and what you are experiencing matters much to me.” Employ simple phrases that express that I am seeking to ‘Listen’ to the other, not just hearing them. Using ‘Restatement’ and ‘Rephrasing’ it may sound like: “It seems like what you are saying is…”, “If I am tracking with you…”, “Let me say that back to you to make sure I hear you…”. Then there is a turn toward the other’s experience: “It makes sense that you would be hurt…”, “I think I can understand what you are feeling…”, “I can see that this is a very intense experience…”.
Consideration is the next move for a Green posture to be experienced by the other. Consideration is simply taking a minute to try and imagine what it is like to be the other person. Re-posturing is a challenging move. Indeed, everything inside of oneself screams, “What about me,” “This isn’t fair.” If we can quiet the voices, listen to the other, imagine for a moment what it might be like to be them right now, we may signal that we are willing to consider their experience as valuable, instead of defending our own. Something happens here in the invisible realm. These two moves together, when done with pure motives (not being manipulative), speak right non-verbal brain to right non-verbal brain (more on that another time) words of love, affection, and the longing for connection. I see you, and I hear you, What you are experiencing matters much to me! Validation and Consideration open the pathways for connection during conflict.
Invitation is the last move, now that I have shown my intent for connection with the other. Invitation is my offering, not my demand, of what it is like to be me now, in this experience. You can see the importance of having done the ‘noticing,’ ‘curious’ work earlier. Now that I have seen, heard, and validated the other, I open my inner reality up to them to see, hear, and know. It may sound like: “I noticed an energy brewing inside of me, words like ‘failure’ and ‘alone’ keep popping up, I’m not sure where they come from or why, but that’s swirling around, and I wanted you to know.” Care and practice here are essential, as our Red protective systems can thwart our efforts quickly and cause us to bait and switch the other, instantly sending us both back into the Red, leaving the other feeling manipulated and unimportant. If done well, the other senses the safety of the invitation rather than the demands of conflict in the past.
“Submit yourselves to one another, out of reverence for Christ.”
This passage is before the all too famous words to wives and husbands. The stage is set first by stating that ALL of us should be trying to ‘out-submit’ ourselves to one another, out of reverence for Christ. The sentiment sounds similar to other words spoken by Christ in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his brother.” In this model of communication in relationships, we see a tangible example to offer our lives, submitting ourselves to one another, rather than what has tended to happen before, a protective, defensive posture leading to further harm. Red posturing may cause us to ‘win’ our fights, but we end up alone and without connection to the other. Instead, Green posturing moves us towards connection with the other, regardless of resolution, which is no longer the goal. Connection is the goal now, above all else. We become aware of the how of the conflict, rather than the what of our conflict. As we become more aware, we rebuild our Jenga Tower of Trust, one brick at a time. We get to experience what we both long for more than anything, our connection to each other.
This model takes time to grasp, understand, and begin practicing. Sometimes this work reveals how low our Jenga Tower of Trust is. The height can be from the hurts from each other and hurts we brought into our relationship. Identifying them becomes the ‘pre-work’ of establishing new communication patterns in our present relationship. In February, we focused on ‘relationships’ across blogs and social media. This 2 part series has highlighted our focus for March on “Self Awareness” as essential to not only our health but even our relational health.
To learn more, feel free to contact Jeremy Jobson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-588-7469.
Individual and Couples Counseling can be incredibly valuable on a journey like this. Often, the patterns are deeply ingrained and hard to see, and an expert guide can help us both see, hear, and learn more about what is happening. If this work seems interesting for you and your partner, regardless of where you are, call us at 407-657-5800 to book an appointment and begin the brave, arduous task of developing new, life-giving communication patterns. We have an incredible team of highly qualified counselors ready to walk alongside you both. The work is worth it, I know, because I have and continue to do it myself!