This past week, I had the honor of being chosen to present at an event called FanFare, a yearly event hosted by a wonderful organization called the Family Action Network. (To check out their website click here: http://www.familyactionnetwork.net/) FanFare is an event showcasing speakers on a variety of parent education topics, and each speaker gets 10 minutes to put forth their best ideas for parents. My topic was related to parenting, but from the angle of the importance of taking care of the couple’s relationship (the co-parents) as one of the most important ways to foster health and well-being in the individual parents and in the family as a whole.
My talk was entitled: Listening Passionately: The Five Deceptively Simple Habits to Foster Greater Peace, Intimacy, and Connection and was inspired by this quote from Harriet Lerner, “If we would only listen with the same passion that we feel about wanting to be heard” (This idea has really stuck with me!) and by my study of applying Buddhist teachings and mindfulness meditation and interpersonal mindfulness exercises to strategies for being more present with our partners and fostering greater connections. I wanted to share with all of you these five “deceptively simple” habits! (So called because they actually are super easy to do, but can appear difficult when our emotional reactions to our partner get in the way.)
#1 Set your intention. If you have practiced yoga, done meditation, or engaged in some sort of “practice session” of a new skill or a skill you want to improve, you may be familiar with the idea of setting an intention for the practice before you begin. The intention functions as a cue to prepare us for doing something unusual or novel, and then becomes our anchor throughout our practice when we inevitably get distracted or off track during our practice so we can simply notice and come back to our intention each time. This same concept can be applied to the relationship with our partner. Before beginning a conversation with your partner, try pausing first to set an intention for how you want to be or what you want to practice during the conversation. The intention can be anything, but one example I often use for myself is “Be the partner I want” – a version of the golden rule so I have something to come back to each time I get cranky or lose my temper.
# 2 Use water logic. “Water logic” is a Buddhist concept and means cultivating qualities of fluidity and openness to people and situations. Often without realizing it, we are using the opposite of water logic when talking to our partners which is “rock logic”. Rock logic sounds something like this, “I already know what you are going to say”. Sadly, when we use this approach in a conversation it usually functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Water logic is like a river you’ve never canoed down before, and sounds something like “Let’s see where this goes”. See if you can approach a conversation with openness (it often helps to have an image of flowing water to help you stay open) or at least notice if you are in rock logic and make an effort to shift when you notice yourself being more closed to what your partner is saying.
# 3 Don’t soil your own nest (i.e. Don’t s#@%t where you eat!) We often forget the reality that our happiness and our partner