Do you remember hearing the phrase as a child, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Everyone makes mistakes. So of course parents want you to listen to their words and not copy their actions.
Unfortunately, that’s not how we learn best. When we grow up to be adults, we tend to keep the behaviors we learned as children through our parents, or whoever raised us. Sometimes we learn something that no longer serves us, and it’s difficult to change because we either don’t realize it or we don’t know how to change; it is all we have ever known. So how can we learn what we never learned?
Mindfulness. What does that even mean? It means being aware of our thoughts and feelings when we act a certain way. Notice how others respond. Notice patterns and things that seem to relate. Easier said than done, right? Sometimes it can be difficult to find these patterns on your own. Here are a few tips to get started.
- Be aware. Notice what triggers you and makes you uneasy. Any time you feel that you may have overreacted to a situation, that is usually a sure sign that you’re reacting to something quite different from the situation that caused the argument. Is this something you’ve experienced before?
- Remember that it takes two people. It is often easy to see what the other person did wrong. However, we play a part too. See if you can pay attention to what your part is.
- Assume the best intention. I’m guessing the person you are involved with did not wake up this morning and think “how can I piss (insert your name here) off today?” Whether it is a romantic relationship or a friendship, they are in a relationship with you because they care about you and like you. They aren’t trying to hurt you intentionally. They probably said and did things that were not favorable because they were upset.
- Communicate when you are calm. Sometimes when we are in the middle of the argument, it is so easy to continue back and forth. But it isn’t productive and things only intensify. Can you notice when it’s escalating and take a break? Come back when you’re ready to have a conversation discussing what your part in the argument was and what the other person did that caused you to feel upset.
Try to practice these suggestions, and hopefully they will help you identify and change some of the patterns in your current relationships and increase your ability to cope with them. Sometimes things are in such a difficult place, you may need a little more support. Therapy just might be the next step.