No matter how aware we are of our interactions with ourselves and others it’s easy to fall back into old communication habits.
I spent a week with my parents in the house I grew up in and it wasn’t a surprise that my reactions were those of my old self. And before I even went home for a visit I knew that this was going to come up – that no matter how mindful I was of my communication and how often I noted something that wasn’t my responsibility and let it go to come back to the present moment I would still slip into old ways of interacting.
The first time it happened I got really annoyed at myself. I thought that maybe all the work I had done was for not or maybe I hadn’t really changed at all. It made me question who I was and if I was being genuine and if I was seeing situations for what they really were. But what I’ve learned is that these moments where we feel like we’re regressing or falling off is going to happen. We aren’t going to be our best selves all the time and that’s okay. We’re going to come up against triggers that force us out of who we believe we are or want to be. What’s important is finding our way back to healthy communication and not getting stuck in the old patterns that we know are no longer helpful.
What being mindful of our words and our interactions does is let us see these moments where we react in ways we don’t respect as teaching moments, opportunities to change our behavior. To recommit to interacting in a kind, honest, and helpful way – to letting go and coming back to the present moment – to detaching, trusting, and being there with compassion and care.
This happened to me the other weekend. My husband and I were at an event and I was telling him how a lot of work came in and I was a bit overloaded. He said, “why don’t you work on it tomorrow.” Normally, I would respond, but in this moment, without stopping, pausing, or taking a breath I said, “No. I’m not going to do that.” And after it came out of my mouth I knew how hurtful it was. I just made the person I love the most in the world feel like his suggestion was the stupidest idea in the world. He said, “You’re in a mood I’m not really familiar with right now.” And if I would’ve stayed in my old habit of communication I would have defended myself, but he was right. I was in a weird mood and it was affecting not only my night but also his. I excused myself to the bathroom, locked a stall and breathed for about two minutes. I wanted to enjoy my time at the event with my husband and that’s what I committed to doing. When I came out of the restroom I apologized for my behavior, and remembering my intention the rest of the night was a blast.
We can strive to be honest, kind, and helpful but we also have to understand that it’s almost impossible to do so all the time. So when we fall off the best way back is to
- Notice you’ve started creeping back into old patterns
- Be gentle to yourself. Know that it’s okay.
- Take a minute to close your eyes and move inward to remember the intention behind your communication or how you want to feel in your interaction
- Let go of the old behavior by recommitting to the new behavior
- Take one more breath to seal the deal (sometimes I say – I choose to be kind, honest, and helpful in my interactions – I want to be kind to this person)