Last week, I was so happy to share with you what science says are the two most important things to have in a lasting relationship or marriage. Kindness and Generosity. And, that the two of those things are supported specifically by turning towards our partner when they give a bid for connection.
I also touched on the fact that not every turn-towards has to be a reaction that reflects agreement. Any reaction, even a disagreement, will cause a connection to be made, but it is all about how kindly that information is delivered.
I am atrocious at this!! I can have kind thoughts, kind intentions, and actually feel that I am being kind in my delivery of information. But, the reality is that it comes across abrupt, cold, and sometimes stinging when I am direct about what I want to say.
I was not made aware of my inability to deliver information kindly until I was with G. It's not that I had done it correctly up to that point, my friends just took their minor hurts here and there where they happened and let it go, my ex-husband was wholly unaffected by it because he, too, was a deliverer of facts, as I was. So, I had no feedback on the matter. But G spoke up, because sensitive heart as she has, she could see that the way I addressed people sometimes was causing them undue hurt or anxiety.
And I have to say that I appreciate this so much. If you don't know you're doing something some way, you can't even contemplate changing it.
So, when I read the article describing kindness, it struck me that I am very familiar with all things passive. I was raised, in fact, as the princess of passive aggressive behavior, only trumped by my mother, the queen. As an introvert, passiveness is the easy way. It's comfortable.
When we respond to bids for connection, we can do so in 4 different ways.
The two general divisions of response, as we know are either constructive or destructive. That means that the things that you say can either help someone or hurt them. There is an art in being able to deliver constructive criticism, for example. Giving criticism of any kind is difficult to do in a way that is truly helpful to the individual receiving it.
The two general types of delivery of the response is either passive or active. In last week's post, we called this turning-towards our partner (active) or turning-away from our partner (passive). Here are some examples:
One partner shares with the other that they got a promotion at work.
Passive Destructive Response: (without turning to look & with sarcasm) It's about time.
Active Destructive Response: So now you'll just be working more, and have less time for me and our family? I'm so happy for you.
Active Constructive Response: Congratulations, you have been working so hard. I'm glad that you're getting the recognition you deserve! What will your new position entail?
Everyone understands these four responses, and have probably thought some of these things in past conversations, and even said them! I know I have. I definitely have selfish thoughts at times, like how would a promotion and higher expectations at work affect home life? How will this great thing that happened to you affect me?
But, if you break down the purpose of revealing the promotion, it is a bid for connection. And the turn-toward response should be of congratulations. Because no matter how it might affect anyone other than the promotion-getter, the simple fact is that they are being recognized for a job well done, and want to feel proud about that. The concern about how much more work that means can still be discussed.
The difference between active and passive reactions, or a turn-toward and turn-away reaction, is generosity. The ability at any time, no matter how exhausted, frustrated, or distracted you may be, to make a connection with your partner is the generosity of your time and spirit.
The difference between constructive and destructive reactions is kindness. And not just the intention of kindness. The delivery of it.