The secret to having the best relationships is self differentiation. This is a fifty-cent term for knowing who you are, what you like, and having the ability to express this clearly, without hesitation, to another person. It requires insight, emotional intelligence, authenticity, transparency and assertiveness. It is a BIG concept that we can and should strive for throughout life in different circumstances with different people. It is essential for healthy relationships.
I will break it down for you in three simple parts.
Self Differentiation In Three Parts
First you have to know what it is that you like, want, and need, as well as what you do not like, want, or need. This is not as simple as it seems on the surface, especially if you are a person who believes that “You have to be okay for me to be okay.” This belief keeps you in a state of trying to anticipate another’s needs, pleasing them, and sublimating your own needs to do so. Some would call this codependency. People who live this way often cannot even answer the question “What do you want?”
Second, you must be able to express these likes and needs to another person in a way that can be heard, that is, assertively. All assertiveness means is saying what you need without stomping all over another person’s rights, or engaging in name calling, or character assassination. Who can truly hear anything when they feel attacked? When a person feels attacked it is called flooding. This requires attention before you can proceed productively with conflict resolution.
And finally, as well as the most difficult piece of this skill set, you must be able to ‘hold space’ if the other person does not respond favorably to your request. That means not having a big emotional reaction to their possibly big emotional reaction when you express your desires. It means knowing your own emotional triggers. It means trying to hear what is underneath what the other person is saying—perhaps an unspoken desire, need, or frustration they are experiencing as a result of your request. Their emotional reaction is not your responsibility as long as you made your request respectfully. This is especially tough if you are not use to doing it.
That last one takes practice, a lot of practice. But after you put these behaviors together and use them for a while, they get easier. So much so, in fact, that you will wonder why you didn’t start sooner. It makes life simpler. Expectations are clear. No more pretending, or constantly trying to please when your needs are not being met.
Clarity is kindness. —Brené Brown
Here Is The Secret To Having The Best Relationships
As Brené Brown teaches through her research “Clarity is kindness.” It often feels like we are trying not to hurt someone’s feelings when we ask for what we need, or express displeasure with a behavior. However the opposite is actually true. Practicing these skills means you don’t have to pretend, that you can be you, and those who love you will be the richer for it because they don’t have to guess, or mind-read, what you want and need. One of the biggest fallacies in relationships is this notion that “You should just know what I like and need.” Don’t let that kind of immature stance on mind-reading ruin your relationships, much less your mood or your day.
If you need help with this skill set, contact me here. I love working with people who want to change, without dwelling on what everyone else is doing wrong. They are willing to look at themselves and reflect on what they can change for them and their most important relationships. Does this describe you? If so, then you are well on your way to learning the secret to having the BEST relationships!