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It’s a fact: Lack of effective communication is a leading cause of divorce and the breakdown of relationships between parents and children, as well as between employees and their employers. There is no doubt that communication in all types of relationships can make or break them, but changing how we relate to one another is easier said than done. This is because of inherited or past communication patterns that can quickly lead to hurt feelings or emotional disconnection. What’s more, most people don’t have the knowledge, skills or the time to invest in changing how they behave.
Most behaviors in relationships have been developed over time and are the result of several types of conditioning. The family we were raised in, the environment we grew up in and the experience we have of important relationships in our lives all craft how we learn to “do” relationships and how we behave in them.
We all want to be valued. And in the deepest part of ourselves, we know that. But we often forget that when we encounter each other. Many of us are unfulfilled in our lives, and many of us have hungry hearts. Yet we are not sure why our relationships are unsuccessful, and the cruelest cut is that we seem to repeat the same patterns and behaviors in relationships over and over again — even when we think we are making different choices in the friends or partners to whom we are attracted.
This three-part series provides information about why we behave in relationships as we do and how we can transform our behavior to create the deeply satisfying relationships we want.
Origins Of Behavior
Let’s understand where our behaviors come from. By the time we are 7 or 8 years of age, billions of sensory motor stimuli and messages have informed us how to respond and adapt to our environment in order to provide the best possible chance of survival. From these neurological feelings or responses come our protective strategies of how to live and survive, what to believe and value, and, ultimately, how we form our worldview.
These psychological perceptions are drawn from what we experience within the environment in which we are raised. Our environment is both external and internal, made up of incoming stimuli from outside the self and internal stimuli — biochemical or physiological — that send messages to our brain. These developed adaptation patterns become integrated with personality and have a significant effect on our behaviors.
The self consists of three components: emotions, beliefs and worldview. These components strongly influence our behavioral choices, as well as our attachment to those choices. This is why it is so difficult to change anyone else’s behavior, much less try to change ourselves.
Only when our thinking mind and our emotional mind recognize information that can enhance or improve our survival — or enhance how we experience our self — does a psychological opening occur that allows change to take place.
The way we communicate in our culture today runs completely against the type of communication necessary to create self-discovery or self-awareness. The American Psychiatric Association has de-classified Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a psychological condition, because approximately 25 percent of the population is manifesting narcissistic behavior. This behavior of self-absorption and self-centeredness does not bode well for creating fulfilling relationships if the relationship is all about us or if it is all about them.
The “secret” to creating the relationships we want is to follow the 12 proven steps which result in mutually satisfying connections. Understanding that we all want to be valued and cared about is the first step to changing our relational behavior. We are so busy trying to get our own needs met that many of us take our partners, friends, family or other significant relationships for granted. We don’t stop and think: “This person wants the same thing I do from a relationship.”
Here is Step One in the process of Pure Presence™, a model I will be sharing with you in this three-part series. The simple, proven communication skills of Pure Presence will start you on the road to transforming your relational behavior and ultimately transforming the quality of your relationships.
Step One of Pure Presence™ is to begin any exchange with the decision that you are going to be fully present to the person you are speaking with. You will clear out all forms of distraction and will no longer be looking over their head at who else might be coming in the room; absentmindedly playing with your eyeglasses, watch or jewelry; thinking about what else you want to be doing; or interrupting what the other person is saying so you can say what you are thinking about while you are not listening to what they are saying.
The first step to changing your relationships is to change your own behavior and then to understand how important relationships are in your life — to your health, success and happiness. In the next installment, we will explore steps two through six in creating amazing, intimate relationships with your friends, family and significant other.