Seeking Peaceful Family Connections

April 13th, 2012 by Dionna | 13 Comments
Posted in Adults, Consensual Living, Eclectic Learning, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family

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My deep thought for the day came Tuesday while I was doing dishes after lunch. Tuesday was the April Carnival of Natural Parenting, and our topic for the day was Kids and Personal Care.

We featured Dulce de leche‘s post – Hair Brushing Is a Safety Issue – on Natural Parents Network. I shared the link on my Facebook page, and several people commented with their thoughts on the subject. One person felt compelled to say:

This is the most ridiculous thread and article I have ever seen. Really.

And I sat and thought and thought about how to reply peacefully to her. I thought about it through lunch, and then I thought about it while washing dishes. Then my brain went a different direction. And I thought:

If I spent half the time finding peaceful ways to reply to my family as I do trying to respond peacefully to some stranger online, I’d be a much more pleasant person to be around.

Deep, huh?

Surely I’m not the only person who finds it easier to be peaceful and respectful when the comment/argument/interaction takes place outside of your own home.

Ironically enough, 10 minutes after telling my husband about this revelation, we got into an argument, and I was completely unable to find a peaceful way to respond to him under pressure.1

Peaceful communication is so much easier for me when I have time to shake off negative gut reactions and really think about how to communicate with the person – especially in writing.

Which is easier for you – communicating peacefully with friends, family, or strangers?

I’d love to hear your ideas on how to practice peaceful communication with family, especially when it is not your “first language” (i.e., if you were raised in a home that did not employ peaceful communication).

  1. For the record, I did not respond violently, but I did shut down and tell him that I could not have a productive conversation when he was so angry.

13 Responses to:
"Seeking Peaceful Family Connections"

  1. Helen @ zen mummy   zenmummytweets

    This is a very timely article for me ~ I’m currently wrestling with the fact that I invest far more energy into dwelling on the people who are not kind or are disrespectful to me, when I *should* be investing that energy in my children and being a mindful mama. It’s so hard though ~ there’s something about the jab of a stinging comment that is very hard to let go of.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Sometimes it’s a “defending my honor” kind of thing. Other times it’s a “I’d love to educate others who may not have complete information” thing. But I need to do a better job of parsing out the education responses, because at least they might touch someone else.

      Maybe we need to have a monthly ceremonial burning of snarky comments ;)

  2. :0)

    Great question, and thanks for being transparent… and I totally relate…”Peaceful communication is so much easier for me when I have time to shake off negative gut reactions and really think about how to communicate with the person – especially in writing.”

    Writing offers the option of writing something out, reading, and revising it as many times as needed… in fact, I’ve re-written this exact sentence four times now…

    But in the the swing of things, when life is “on” and the pressure is right in front of me the, two immediate reactions are 1) isolate myself and remain there until “I’m over it,” or 2) explode and spew my crap out into the world; both alternatives don’t work.

    So what does? Well, recently I’ve been experimenting with this thing called “humble courage”. Being willing to talk through the intense uncomfortable emotions and situations while simultaneously doing so from a meek position. Not trying to “prove my point” or “assert my righteousness” in any way; but rather, simply putting words to my experience in a descriptive way and the thoughts that are associated with those feelings.

    I sometimes find that I’m extremely reluctant to share what I’m thinking because 1) I don’t want it to be perceived the wrong way and distort the interaction even more, and 2) I don’t want to hurt peoples feelings.

    But, I’ve noticed, that the consequence of NOT speaking about my experience is that it builds internally until it boils over in a “pressure” situation and I say and do something that’s not beneficial to the situation.

    So, after taking into great consideration the advice of several close people in my life, I’ve begun to simply put words to experience even when I don’t “want” to.

    For me, this requires the courage to stay grounded in the middle of the storm, both internally and externally. Reason must win out. I KNOW that yelling does not help, so, when everything in me wants to scream at the top of my lungs, I must make that firm decision to sit down and speak in a rational tone.

    Staying grounded is the action to take, because when I don’t, it never turns out well. It’s a matter of noticing the narrative in my mind that wants to perpetuate the crap and saying “no” to expressing it, AND, more importantly, as quickly as possible searching for, or even manufacturing, a thought that moves in the direction of my value system, such as peaceful communication.

    I would be lying if I said that I have been 100% in implementing that strategy, but its helping to move me in the direction of developing the skill of peaceful communication.

    The other MASSIVE aspect of all this is me owning my BS. Seeing things from the perspective that, “I am the one with the power to choose what I think and effect what I feel.”

    Reactions are reactions, they come up… its whatever. But I do have the choice in how I respond. I quite often find myself repeating a series of questions inside myself when a “distressing” experience arises, which is as follows…
    1) Notice the experience, ask, “Who am I with this experience?” Respond, “I am the one who chooses.”
    2) Notice the experience, ask, “Who am I without this experience?” Respond, “I am the one who chooses.”
    3) Ask, “If I am the one who chooses, when do I choose?” Respond, “Now.”
    4) Ask, “What am I choosing now?” Respond with a statement that moves the internal experience towards affirming my value system, therefore, if I value peaceful communication, concoct a statement such as, “I am the one who communicates peacefully even in the midst of emotional turmoil.”
    5) Look to see the immediate vision of what that may look like, perhaps its sitting down in a lower position than the person you are speaking to. Perhaps it is reflective listening to really understand the other person. Perhaps it is taking a deep breath. The action is generally never initially the same, however, it is an initial action that begins to move me towards what I DO want, i.e. peaceful communication.

    Above all else it requires the courage; the courage to continue to experience the intensity of the emotional experience while simultaneously standing for a higher value. Such as, if someone says something and the immediate reaction in me arises as anger, continuing to allow my body to feel the emotion (NOT shutting down, turning away, closing off) while beginning a process of transition towards affirming my values. And sometimes that may be a moment of space away from the situation to begin the transition, but it also involves coming back to resolve the issue.

    It takes courage… and the only reason it takes courage is because it is challenging, and challenges are associated to doubt, and dissolving doubt shakes the foundation of internal assumptions we have about ourselves and the world. If it was easy, it wouldn’t require courage.

    Being willing to risk falling on my face, own that I just fell on my face, reflect on what lessons I can learn to be more aware so as to remain walking, integrating those lessons into my way of being, and continuing to move forward. Because the bottom line is, life moves forward anyway, whether we want it to or not. And I have a choice in how I experience its movement forward.

    Progress is the watchword…

    Thanks again for the question… deep stuff!

    Much Love,
    Michael P.

    P.S. I just edited what I wrote, which is another really cool thing about written word, I get to reflect on it and experience my communication for myself before I actually send it… not so in face to face…

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I love this whole response, Michael, and I sat on it for awhile because I was thinking about asking you if I could use it as a guest post. But then I decided to hit publish and ask you to write something completely new :)
      I feel like I would do a better job of using NVC principles at home if I could study them with Tom. Since they are not my “first language,” so to speak, I find myself using them for a little bit, but as soon as I get too stressed, everything kind of flies out the window.
      “Above all else it requires the courage; the courage to continue to experience the intensity of the emotional experience while simultaneously standing for a higher value.” This is so true, and SO hard for me. But I’m aware and working on it, and I do stop and apologize when I see that I’ve messed up. And I’m forgiving myself for my missteps!

      • Yeah, I’ve gotten A LOT better at that apologizing thing… mostly because I’ve had A LOT of experiences to swallow my pride and feel the BS I’ve projected onto others and realize that an apology is warranted. So much so I began to ask myself the question, “wouldn’t it be easier if you just swallowed your pride earlier in this whole ordeal and used humility sooner, then you wouldn’t ‘need’ to apologize and the situation would’ve been resolved already?” … and in contemplating that question for a significant length of time, the whole courage thing began to arise in my consciousness as the thing I’d need to cultivate in the moment when its “hard” and “I don’t want to” or “I can’t” narrations start to appear… I’ve noticed it getting easier and easier, and the transition time getting quicker and quicker… but it takes time. I liken it to a cosmic train that has been going in one direction for however many years you’ve been alive that is traveling at the speed of light. To turn that train around in an instant and do a 180 and never repeat a habituated pattern would take an extreme amount of conscious effort. But to incrementally turn the train around in an arc still honors the movement forward while being a little more practical and allows for space to integrate. This is not to say that the other is not possible, but that turning a train around takes awhile, especially considering that in being human, there is no actual possibility to back up, and that we never actually stop moving forward; so we are left with making the small decisions over and over and over and over again that add up to a complete 180.

        P.S. I’d love to guest post…

  3. Destany   Destany Fenton

    I find it so much easier to be peaceful with strangers, mainly because I really don’t care what they think. With family, I value their opinions more and therefore their criticism is harder to take. There is a stronger need to defend myself and justify why it is I feel the way I do, to make them more accepting. Also, since I deal with them on a regular basis, there is a higher expectation of respect. They are supposed to care about me enough to not say hurtful things, so it’s almost impossible to not take their disrespect personally.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      It’s hard to know how to receive hurtful things from family members – on one hand, there’s the expectation that they will be more honest and tell us like it is. But you’re right – we do want to feel respect from family. With my family of origin, we still relate to each other in these horrible patterns that have been sets for decades. I’d love to change those, because I feel like if I could just change how I relate to them, I could do better with my family at home.

  4. Amy   presenceparents

    You’ve definitely hit on some pertinent points, Dionna, and everyone else who has commented. :)

    I feel you on wanting to change the experience with the family of origin so you can, in effect, change the day-to-day experience in your home. I’ll put it as straight as I can – start with you (as I know you are) and it ripples out. We make waves, regularly, in all types of ways.

    In my experience the more I am responsible for my experience, from the inside out, the more the outer changes and morphs and heals and… Many times this is not something I have directly done on the outer to control or influence, it’s because of the change on the inside. Of course, that change on the inside ripples out in my thoughts, words, and actions – and at the same time – it’s different than trying to get others to be different so we can feel better.

    I noticed early on that it was easier for me in some circles to respond peacefully than it was in private. I was a LLL Leader for years, helping others learn peaceful parenting, and struggled with it behind closed doors. The guilt was *heavy* and I felt torn, often.

    One thing I did in the beginning was pretend I was always on video, not to put on a fake, but to remember that the closed doors don’t warrant treating others like crap. That the reactions I found familiar were not okay, that working on me and my family from the inside out was better than helping anyone outside of me … translating into walking one’s talk, you know? I know you do, because you hit it on the head in this article!

    To me, our websites are an extension of ourselves and in the arena of helping families we owe it to ourselves and those we connect with to check the source of the ripple and make sure the water is clear. :) Love you.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Amy – I’ve done the “on camera” idea, too, and it really is SO useful to help you fake it when you don’t feel like you can make it!
      And yes – guilt. I mentioned in the chat with Amber Strocel that one thing I’d like to do this year is share more of my struggles and mistakes. It’s important to me that people see me as a person, not an expert :)

      • Amy   presenceparents

        Another way to use the camera idea is just for simple awareness. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a snit, unaware, or only partially aware of the trail one is following. If we allow the video camera to be a tool to create a broader perspective, like a cue into our values or choices that we could make differently it’s not about faking; it’s about choosing. :)

        I appreciate you opening the conversation about your experience and what you want for yourself and your family. Working together to change patterns and doing so in transparency makes a difference.

  5. Janine @ Alternative Housewife   thejaninefowler

    My husband and I used to conduct arguments via text message (from separate rooms in the same home, usually) for this reason. We got through fights a lot faster and really took in what the other person was saying versus waiting for our turn to talk or getting caught up in inflection.

  6. teresa   momgrooves

    I will start with something really off topic, which is that I can’t believe you still look pretty while scrunching your face like that! I don’t know why I’m noticing that right now and feel the need to express it… maybe day 38 of my cycle and waiting for it to start and insane hormones? Maybe. Also, your skin is amazing.
    Now, to the real stuff… At home I do have to force myself to take a moment more often. A moment to choose peace over sniping, over “grrrrrr”, over “are you freaking kidding me?!!”
    But I’m mostly good at peaceful communication. So much so that I’ve had to cultivate the side of me that can give a little “grrrrr” back when it’s called for.
    That would be when someone is energetically dumping on me with their rudeness or whatever. I tend to absorb and so need to have a concrete way of not doing that.
    Does this make sense? It’s a longer story probably.
    But I do admit that I enjoy a moment of righteous indignation now and then. It doesn’t happen often that someone really “deserves” it. Usually even a grump is just someone waiting for some kindness to draw a smile out of them.

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