Our family holiday was rough. Really rough. Emotions were high. There was many tears and breakdowns.
I came face to face with everything imperfect about myself. Everything that normal structure and routine hides. At first, all I wanted to do was go home. To not face the struggles this holiday of being together revealed.
But there’s no hero in that story. No chance to Rise above. No bravery. Bravery only happens when you’re in the fire and choose to keep showing up no matter how loud shame gets, no matter how much fear is telling you to retreat.
Relationships are a fight to the finish, starting with looking at ourselves in the mirror and changing what is impacting others.
I’m not a perfect human. My flaws laugh at me and tell me to quit, but
I am brave
I show up when it’s hard
I love without walls
I forgive when it hurts
I rise through the storm
If you are wanting to quit today, I want you to read that over and over until the warrior inside you rises again.
If you’re saying “YES” to this but have no clue HOW, let me walk you through the 5 steps I took this week to work through conflict with bravery.
Stop the blame
It’s amazing how much you want to blame another person, outside influences, the school, the teacher, the mental health system, the weather, the list goes on. The truth is the blame game gets us nowhere.
My husband and I started down that slippery slope as we drove through the rainforest of beautiful Vancouver Island. As we weaved through the turns, our emotions weaved deeper into a dangerous cycle of blame. At one point we stopped and realized this was getting nowhere fast.
Blame doesn’t solve problems even when there is a clear something or person to blame. Stop the blame immediately and you’ll be on your way to getting to the root.
Once we stopped blaming, we were able to do something powerful next…
State how you feel
As soon as we stopped blaming and started sharing how we REALLY FELT, we were getting somewhere. Asking our kids what they really felt as well was empowering for them, but humbling for us. When we share how we really feel, we get underneath petty statements like, “Well if you would stop doing this”, or “It’s because you are…..” We begin to connect on a deeper level.
Start your sentence with “I feel…” and go from there. You’ll get to the deeper issues quickly. As we drove through the woods I said to my husband, “I feel like everything I have done to create a different story for our family is destroyed when you lose your temper. It makes me feel alone in this.” Wow, I didn’t know that was inside me. THAT’S how I was really feeling. My husband then told me he felt I was too hard on him all the time. I didn’t know that.
But the hardest part was next.
Avoid getting defensive
It can be hard to hear how we are making others feel. As I listened to my husband tell me he felt I was often too hard on him, I instantly thought of a million reasons WHY I am hard on him and how I was justified to do so.
I had to lay that down in order for him to feel heard.
Then my oldest son piped up in the back telling me he felt like I was a hypocrite. He went on to explain how I tell parents to listen to their kids, meanwhile he didn’t feel listened to at all. OUCH. I wanted to tell him how I DO listen more than most people and I teach this for a living so I’m not as bad at this as he thinks. Wow, I didn’t realize how prideful I was…
I had to eat humble pie and bravely take it.
This is how my son felt. This is how he was experiencing me. No matter what we believe, how another person is experiencing us is always correct. Read that again.
Listen and seek to understand where the OTHER person is coming from and you’ll see conflict lessen dramatically. Everyone just wants to feel heard and understood.
This leads to the next step which is the secret to creating understanding.
Repeat back to them what you heard them say
There is nothing more frustrating and lonely than expressing your heart to someone and have it fall to the ground or be received with blank stares.
When we repeat what someone says back to them it gives them a chance to clarify if we are totally off base, allows us to “get” where they are coming from, and most of all, it allows them to feel seen, heard, and valued. This is the glue of connection.
Make a plan for change
Once we understand how another person is feeling, we need to make whatever adjustments needed to improve our connection. My family expressed to me their frustration with my dislike of the word “sorry”.
There’s nothing I hate more than the word “sorry” without action. Unfortunately my family has felt they can never measure up because of that. My son was particularly frustrated with this because shame only grew in his heart when his sorry wasn’t received.
I responded by telling him I would work on this. The next day when he apologized for something he said that upset me, I replied, “I forgive you.”
We must be intentional about how we make others feel. This means making changes that allow them to feel valued.
I wrote this “brave” in the sand by the ocean to remind me to be brave with my family and working through conflict. It’s not easy. This is why I wrote my book, Bring Them Closer and my online course on boundaries: to help people like you and I who want to make our relationships work actually accomplish this.
It IS POSSIBLE to have thriving relationships even when all seems lost and broken. I encourage you to pick up my book or take my course if you’re needing more of HOW to overcome incredible odds.
Keep being brave. I’m cheering for you.