I heard Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman interviewed on the Unlocking Us podcast the other day. They talked about their new book, “The Love Prescription: 7 days to more intimacy, connection, and joy.” It was a fascinating conversation about the small steps we can take in our relationships to make marked differences.
The Gottmans say that although you can’t overhaul a relationship in 7 days, making minor adjustments to your behavior can change the trajectory of a relationship. I found this idea interesting, mainly because I think we often complicate relationships when it’s not required. So many times, we ache because a romantic, familial, or social relationship doesn’t fill the hole we have in our hearts. We assume what the other person is thinking or feeling and fill in a narrative about the relationship littered with half-truths born out of our hurt. We feel powerless to affect change. What the Drs are saying is that we aren’t helpless.
The change you seek begins with YOU
Every time someone speaks, it is a bid for connection. The Gottmans encourage you to turn toward the bid instead of away or against it. Turning toward a bid is a simple act that takes only a few seconds. All you have to do is acknowledge the other person’s statement openly. For example, if the other person says, “Wow! Look at that sunset!”
Toward the bid would sound like, “You are right; it’s stunning.”
Turning against the bid would sound like, “Can’t you see I’m busy? I can’t look at a sunset!”
Turning away would sound like nothing…no acknowledgment at all.
Each response takes seconds but only one of them affirms connection. When we turn against someone, they experience it as rejection. It may trigger pain and resentment. When we turn away, they experience loneliness and isolation. They may recoil and retreat. When we turn toward they experience connection and affirmation. When you turn toward someone, they are acknowledged, and you communicate their presence and thoughts are important.
This simple behavior can make a considerable change in a relationship. It doesn’t take a ton of time, thought, or action. However, it does require thoughtfulness and intention. To hear more about this book, check out Brenè Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us. Her interview with the Gottmans is part of a three-part series.
If you want to learn more about communication or have relationship questions, you can call Olive Branch Counseling Associates for help. We serve the Chicagoland area and have counselors who can help. Call 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 W 167th Street, Tinley Park, IL 60477.
Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern
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