How can slowing down improve the quality of my relationships?

Ann Birot-Salsbury/ Nonviolent Communication Certified Trainer, CPCC

Are any of the below situations familiar to you?:

I feel drained of all my energy after a conversation with certain people
I notice myself “talking at” others vs. “with” others.
I don’t want to let someone else “get the last word in” during a conversation.
I am uncomfortable asking questions for clarification about something my boss has asked me to do.
I feel like I “lost” during the conversation.
I don’t feel heard after a conversation.

All of the situations listed above are much more common than we realize and yet all of them can be changed if you want them to!

After several decades, I realized that despite having many friends in my life – I was not happy with the quality of my connections with my friends as well as with my family and my work colleagues.

I found a way to turn that all around by “slowing down” and being willing to STOP when I feel triggered by something that someone else did or said. Now, instead of speaking my reactions and therefore speaking from an “unconscious” place which is surely only going to further escalate the situation, I stop and:

– take some slow deep breaths,
– slowly move my body walking or shaking my limbs
– notice what I am feeling in my body (e.g. my throat is tight, my heart feels blocked, I have a strong sensation that I want to hit something, etc)
– get in touch with what I am wanting vs. what just happened i.e. how do I want it to be different?  (e.g. If a family member is raising their voice above their normal level while talking to me, I may be overwhelmed and scared and what “I want” is to feel like I am in a safe space where there is openness to having a dialogue so that I can trust we will both have a chance to be heard.)

By doing this, I am connecting with myself.  Without that self-connection, I will not be able to connect with others and therefore will not have a chance of feeling heard in a conversation.

Here are some simple steps to follow to SLOW DOWN:

1. Start a journal (I recommend buying a small notebook that you can easily keep with you) and notice when you are triggered. What was the trigger i.e. exactly what did the other person say or do that stimulated you? Try to separate any judgments you have from the situation (e.g. (with judgment) When that idiot took my notes or (without judgment) When my colleague left the meeting with my notes.)
2. Once you have kept the journal for at least a week, notice how it is for you to write down exactly what happened without including your judgments. i.e. is it difficult to do this? Does it take some charge out of the situation? Etc.
3. Now see if you can just once, STOP “real time” when you are triggered. Once you are able to do this then see if you can take some deep breaths, move your body around, notice what is happening in your body and get in touch with what you are wanting.  Add this to your journal.

After you have tried the above, notice the impact to your energy? Do you feel different than in past triggering situations? Add any insights you have to your journal.

Above are some simple steps towards de-triggering yourself and helping you to feel more empowered even in a difficult situation which is a first big step toward improving the quality of your connections with others. I encourage you to keep practicing these steps and to also be kind to yourself when you forget to practice these steps.  This self kindness is also part of the slowing down process.

By Ann Birot-Salsbury/ Nonviolent Communication Certified Trainer, Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC)

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