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Interpersonal Interactions as Catalysts for Change

Interpersonal relationships provide an ongoing arena in which to practice NVC mediation skills, as well as a place to see how old patterns show up and make new choices in our behavior. Since much of this learning is about patterns that are habitual, it often takes some time to first notice the pattern and then find a way in to change it.

I look back at conversations that did not go very well—we ended up disconnected—to see if I can find where that disconnection starts, or at least where I can notice it in myself. It might be a way that I feel, something I notice in my behavior, or something I say. Identifying that point where disconnection starts (or where I notice it is already happening) can then serve as a cue in future conversations that I am disconnected.

Once I have the cue, then I can also figure out a way to bring myself back into connection with myself and the other person. It’s often just a first step that I need, a reminder, something to do that is different than what I’m already doing.

I will be sharing some of these points of disconnection in interpersonal conversations in upcoming blog posts. I hope that pointing out what I notice happening that precedes disconnection or indicates that I am becoming disconnected will help you inquire into your own patterns in interpersonal conversations. In addition, I’ll be sharing the first step that I have found effective to begin to bring myself back into being present, and hope it encourages you to take similar steps.

In this post, I wanted to introduce this idea as well as talk briefly about the progression that tends to happen from feeling caught in a pattern and wanting to change it (but unable to) to having the awareness in the moment to make another choice. This progression requires repeatedly going through the learning cycle, which you can read about in more depth in this article. In essence, though, the cycle is to reflect on a conversation that did not go as you would have liked and mourn the lost opportunity to do what you want. Mourning in this way helps you create the clarity about what you would like to do in the future, and you can then practice so that this new choice will be more available.

I find going through this process also tends to relax something in me so that the next time I’m in a similar situation, it’s easier to be aware of what I’m doing. Still, there can be periods of time during which I will have momentary flickers of awareness that don’t come up enough into consciousness for me to stop and choose an alternative. Repeating this whole cycle over time–having those flickers, using the Mourn Celebrate Learn process after, noticing what I want to do instead, even practicing it–eventually brings me to a point where I much more consistently notice in the moment and make the change I want to make. Thus, when you repeat this process every time you notice the same pattern come up in a conversation, it helps you shorten the time before you become aware that you are caught in the pattern and be able to eventually shift it through different choices you make in the moment.

Another way to support yourself in making the changes you want to make is through agreements. You can make agreements with yourself about how you want to act in the future, and also involve other people and ask for their support. If you notice the same pattern showing up with one particular person, you can make an agreement with them that when they notice you doing or saying something they will interrupt you, giving them the actual words to say. Making commitments to ourselves I find helpful, and our changes can come about even more quickly when we enlist the support of those around us.

Are you already aware of any patterns that show up repeatedly in your interpersonal conversations—perhaps with family members or work colleagues—that you would like to begin to shift?

Post by Ike Lasater with Julie Stiles

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