Best-selling author Harville Hendrix weighs in on improving your relationships while in quarantine.
Relationships are one of life’s most beautiful offerings.
What may feel like a gift on some days can feel more like a labor of love — with emphasis on the “labor” — on others.
Relationship stress is a part of life and can stem from a myriad of reasons. The COVID-19 epidemic and enforced physical distancing have produced household tensions, globally.
While this might be the default effect during times of stress, it doesn’t have to be — and is precisely what safe conversations are all about.
Positive connection strengthens our immune system.
Connection with others is valuable for our physical health. It strengthens our immune system as a defense against infection.
But, to connect and stay connected requires a skill that makes connecting possible: communication.
Good and effective communication is vital to our emotional, physical, and relational health.
Yet, we aren’t born with the innate ability to connect in ways that are always productive or positive.
Connecting is what makes people feel fully alive.
Anyone who has experienced any positive connection knows this to be true.
So, the question stands: How do we rectify our need for connection with our inability to effectively communicate, so we can connect?
Through the refinement of one’s interpersonal tool kit, healthy communication processes can be implemented and the benefits reaped.
Relationship experts Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt have listed 5 essential elements for improving communication in your relationships.
Ask yourself: “When was the last time I practiced this behavior? And, “How can I implement this into my current relationships?”
Designed by both Hendrix and Hunt, Safe Conversations is a research-based relational methodology, which allows the anxiety and defenses to diminish and gradually allow you to become more conscious of your emotional triggers.
Through this awareness, you learn how to get along better with your partner, heal the relational challenges of the past, and manage the difficult — and even toxic — emotions that are influencing your present.
Once you validate and empathize with each other’s inner world, the relational space becomes rich with curiosity, compassion, and affirmations.
Here are the 5 core components of the Safe Conversations process so you can improve communication during COVID-19.
1. Talk without criticizing.
Try using “I” statements, which allow for clarity and expression of feelings while avoiding the initiation of a blame game.
It may be helpful to explain what you’re trying to accomplish prior to employing these statements with your partner.
2. Listen without judging.
Speaking from the heart takes courage.
Remove judgment from the equation and allow for you and your partner to say what you think and feel without the presence of fear.
3. Connect around and beyond differences.
Engage your curiosity!
No two people nor two perspectives are the same. Choose to see these differences as unique qualities, rather than antagonists of conflict.
Explore and empathize — you might be surprised by what you find while taking a walk in your partner’s shoes.
4. Remove negativity.
Anything that is experienced as negative — by you or your partner — creates anxiety and disrupts feelings of safety, and that ruptures connecting.
5. Express affirmations.
Encourage an optimistic mindset by regularly expressing affirmations to your partner.
For example, this can be as simple as, “I really appreciate when you…”
When you subtract negativity and add affirmations, you create an environment of safety. You can survive in a dangerous environment, but thrive only in a safe one.
It is important to remember that the absence of conflict is not necessarily a sign of a healthy relationship. Inevitably, some kind of conflict will surface.
The sign of a healthy relationship is the ability to reconnect quickly with one another after conflict arises and is resolved.
By implementing these five practices into your relationship, your connections will reach new heights. And when conflict rears its head, you will be more prepared than ever to rapidly repair and reconnect.
Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. are partners in life and work. Their book, “Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples” has sold over four million copies worldwide. They are the co-creators of Imago Relationship Theory & Therapy, which has spread globally through Imago Relationships Worldwide, an organization that has trained over 2,500 therapists in more than 53 countries. For more information, please visit their website.