COVID-19, sickness, death, isolation, a failing economy, racial injustice, job insecurity, relationship difficulties, political failures, homelessness, pollution.... the list of daily challenges right now is endless. Each of us individually is responding differently to the waves of emotions arising in us - grief, burnout, loneliness, sadness, despair, hope, fear, uncertainty - and acting out in our own unique ways. It can be hard to understand what is behind our loved one's seemingly disproportionate reactions. So when we are feeling isolated, alone, and afraid, how to we begin to come together with our partners, family members, and friends?
2 skills can help us get through these times. They may seem basic, and you might find yourself wanting to gloss over them, with a "yeah yeah, I know." But, if you can take the time to practice them, I promise you they will begin to transform your relationship. So, let's dive in.
The happiest, healthiest partnerships are characterized by good communication, which is made up of respect, emotional attunement, and most importantly, assertiveness and active listening. Rather than assuming a partner can read their mind, members of healthy couples practice noticing, identifying, and expressing their emotions, as well as listening actively and intently to their partners. These skills are learnable and can be used to express emotions, better resolve conflict, and nurture intimacy with our partners.
So, what exactly, are assertiveness and active listening?
Assertiveness is the skill and ability to express your feelings and ask for what you want and need in your relationship.
Active Listening is the skill and ability to let your partner know you understand them by restating their message back to them.
Rather than go further into the merits of these skills, I'd like to leave you with a practice for today. These skills, like deodorant, only work if you actually use them. Knowing about them is nothing. Applying them is everything. So, check out the practice below and give it a try with your partner, a family member, or a friend:
If you practice these heart talks regularly, you have engaged in mindful communicating and mindful listening practice by spending time trying something new, and nurturing intimacy with your own feelings and those of your partner, which helps you understand your partner, strengthen your relationship, and lay the groundwork for greater self-expression.
Lauren Korshak is a San Francisco-based Marriage and Family Therapist, Meditation Teacher, Dating & Relationship Coach, and former matchmaker. She has a BA in Psychology from University of Southern California (USC) and an MA in Somatic Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS.) In her free time, Lauren can be found dancing, meditating, adventuring outdoors, making music, and spending QT with loved ones.