“The Story I’m Making Up Is...”
Wired for Connection
Humans are biologically, emotionally, socially and cognitively wired for connection. We are tribal creatures.
connection. We are tribal creatures.
Our relationships include family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and people in our community.
Community is not just geographical. Most of us belong to communities based on larger issues like race, ethnicity, social class, group membership, ideology, faith and politics.
When relationships breakdown, shift or slide, our reactions and responses can and do spill over into every other aspect of our wellbeing.
can and do spill over into every other aspect of our wellbeing.
It affects me when a relationship becomes tricky. It could be anything from:
- my husband asking me if I’d like him to leave (in a belter of a Covid lockdown argument)
- the nice lady in the greengrocers being a bit ‘off’.
I have a tangible, physical response (usually gut); it occupies a lot of headspace; it wears me out but stops me sleeping and sometimes 4 or 5 of my wellbeing spokes begin to buckle.
What to do
Deal with it – appropriately. My husband and I needed to get out of the house, away from the kids, and discuss the actual issue - which we did.
The lady in the vegetable shop just needed a smile and to be asked how she was. Her cat had to be put down the day before – she wasn’t being ‘off’ with me.
Prepare yourself – if it is causing you stress, it’s important to get your body ready to deal with it. Use breathing techniques to bring adrenaline and cortisol levels down. This is a practical tip, something to actually do before you face the problem/person. You will look and feel calmer.
Speak authentically – this is hugely important. In ‘Dare to Lead’ Brené Brown offers a really useful phrase to use when you are in disagreement with someone. If you start the discussion saying "the story I'm making up is ..." Brown says that it conveys "I want you to see me and understand me and hear me, and knowing what you really mean is more important to me than being right or self-protecting." With those six words, you check the narrative in your head.
Practise with a tried and tested approach - Try out Piers Carter’s “I’M SQuIFY” approach to difficult conversations or his “LEAPS” approach to handling conflict.
Move together – if you can talk to someone about a difficult situation whilst walking in blue/green spaces you are unlikely to raise your voices and the fresh air will benefit you both enormously.
Get professional help – counselling, Family Constellations, mediation, coaching, marriage guidance – there are people trained to help you deal with this. I’ve been married for 25 years, we’ve had counselling twice and it is fantastic. Personally, I think all couples should do this once a year whether there are difficulties or not.
What not to do
Nothing – ignoring it, hoping it will go away or blow over will make it worse. Well known speaker Peter Bromberg says “When we avoid difficult situations, we trade short term discomfort for long term dysfunction.” This is what happens when we fail to hold people to account.
Rehearse - don’t write a script in your head detailing exactly what you plan to say, then rehearse it over and over, out loud in the car or with a loved one. That conversation will never play out as you expect it to.
“Cock a deaf ‘un” – I’m from the Midlands and was brought up hearing this phrase whenever there was conflict. I think this is a British trait of deliberately not hearing (or seeing) awkward situations. Some of my extended family members still say this out loud and practise it. It astonishes me, because the result is trite, banal conversations at best, and nothing ever getting addressed at worst. It means family members who mess-up don’t get called out. We aren’t actually connecting or communicating as an extended family. That makes me sad.
What makes an employee happy at work?
According to happiness guru Lord Richard Layard, it’s the same things that make people happy in their lives: a sense of belonging, social connections, and a purpose or meaning.
Good relationships and a strong support network make us happy. We need each other. Babies who are not held, nuzzled, and hugged enough can stop growing, and if the situation lasts long enough, even die. For old people, loneliness can be as big a health risk as obesity, smoking, or alcoholism.
We need each other for our ultimate happiness and wellbeing, that’s why there are so many gorgeous songs written about relationships:
I’ll be there for you – The Rembrandts You got a Friend in me – Randy Newman With a Little Help from my Friends – The Beatles Count on Me - Bruno Mars You’ve Got a Friend – James Taylor Lean on Me – Bill Withers That’s What friends are for – Dionne Warwick You’re my Best Friend - Queen
Which songs help you?