JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
The Gift of Giving and Receiving
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D
Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet tells us, “It is well to give when asked, but it is
better to give unasked, through understanding; And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving. Relationships grow through what we get and what we give. What forms can this take?
Sometimes we communicate through harsh words of criticism or defensiveness.
Or we can stonewall others by not listening at all. When these things are happening, it
paves the way for the most destructive form of relationship interaction, contempt. John Gottman, Ph.D., author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and many other works on relationships, cites these four behaviors as the negative processes which often lead to the ultimate demise of a relationship.
What antidotes are there for these negative forms of communication? One
powerful antidote is being positive. In relationships that are stable the ratio of negative to positive interactions is about 7:1. Think about what your ratio of negative to positive
behaviors is during the course of the day. Conflict and negativity will occur, it is how we deal with it that makes or breaks relationships.
It is important to remember that negative experiences register in the brain in zero
seconds. It takes about fifteen seconds for the positive experience to register. Setting a
pattern for more positive words and actions is imperative for a healthy relationship. This takes intention, awareness, and practice.
Softening our approach to the other person is another powerful antidote. Criticism
softened to constructive feedback moves from blaming to an honest sharing. For
example, one partner says to the other, “You never listen to me. You’re so busy lecturing me about what to do; you don’t even hear me. I don’t get you!” Perhaps that could be softened to, “When you lecture me I feel ignored and unimportant.” Many times, with couples, it isn’t what either partner is trying to say to the other, it is the style of presentation. The verbal and behavioral packages that contain our thoughts and feelings can be the difference between a statement escalating to yet another fight or one leading to more understanding.
Another powerful, positive antidote for master couples is how quickly repair
attempts are made after an argument or negative encounter. Couples who have long-
lasting relationships have found ways to make bridges to one another through humor,
affection, positive statements, self-soothing, and calming the other person.
Creating a ‘culture of appreciation’ is a foundation in relationships. A trusting
environment is one of giving and receiving openly. Some people are good at giving and not so good at receiving. Others are comfortable receiving but don’t think to give. The balance is necessary in a healthy relationship.
I find that nearly every couple who is having difficulties rarely spend any quality
time together. How is a relationship to thrive if it is never fed? Both partners must have time for themselves, and the relationship must have time, or it will begin to die.
Using some of the skills mentioned above are good tools to use in time together.
Try having an appreciation dialogue with your partner. Set a time and place. Take
turns sharing an appreciation with your partner mirroring what he or she hears. This
powerful exercise helps a couple give and receive appreciation.
Think about having a planned time with your partner, family member, or friend to
practice some of these positive approaches. Change the relationship that may be
adversarial or distant to that of friends who can communicate positively with each other.
Check out Dr. Gottman’s website for more information and tools: www.gottman.com .
Enjoy your time together with better ways to grow your love.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D. LCPC, is a counselor and educator. She is the author of “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective holistic problem solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in person sessions) seminars, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple Therapy call 816-509-9277 or email@example.com; www.heartlandholistic.com.