Have you ever left the house and remembered you forgot your wallet or your phone? Or worse, forgotten your keys inside on the counter behind the locked door? I’ve done all 3.
It didn’t take me long to get that “uh-oh” feeling in the pit of my stomach and each time I returned to grab what I had left behind right away.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we would realize so quickly when our relational skills for dealing with problems were missing?
Three Key Relationship Skills
The authors at Life Model Works have identified 19 different relational brain skills that determine how relationships flow. While all of them are important, I have noticed an impact in my relationships when I learned to utilize just three in particular.
In my opinion, the lack of these relational skills is a recipe for leaving us stranded outside of our locked house with no keys, no wallet, and no phone. They are:
Skill 11: Return to joy
Skill 9: Timing when to disengage
Skill 13: See what God sees (Heartsight)
These skills all have to do with how we relate to and respond to others when situations are not ideal. When things aren’t all rainbows and butterflies and the honeymoon phase of your relationship has clearly relocated to the dark side of the moon.
We’ve all been there, right? These are the moments when we discover both who we are, as well as discovering the person to whom we are relating.
I would wager, that without these three skills, this time of your life has led you to disappointment in what you’ve discovered.
How You Define You
But I’m here to challenge that thought and tell you that “who you really are” and “who they really are” is not at all like the how you acted in those moments.
“Who we are” is not defined by how we relate to one another when we’re missing our key relational skills. Missing relational skills does not become part of your personality. Missing relational skills leads to problems because it is then that we are becoming painfully aware that we are in fact NOT acting like ourselves!
Let’s look more closely at the “key” to it all. Skill 11: Return to Joy is what we all long to know how to do. Right? If home base is joy, then when we experience negative or unpleasant emotions it is crucial that we learn to return to joy from each of them.
Here’s the kicker. If we define joy as “the experience of being glad to be together” then technically joy is not an emotion.
Let me say that again.
Joy is not an emotional state.
We can feel a negative emotion and within 90 seconds the brain can process whatever chemical surge accompanies that emotion and allow you to “return to joy”. Remember joy is “glad to be together” ….it’s not “happy” and it’s also not necessarily done with dealing with the negative emotion that just came up.
Joy, Sadness and Anger
Here’s an example from my life. My mother in law recently passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Our entire family is still experiencing the emotion of sadness. But even in the middle of the most heightened negative emotional state, my husband and I were glad to be together. We could cry together, share memories and even laugh together even in those first difficult days. The “sad” didn’t have to be finished before we returned to joy.
The brain seeks joy in the middle of negative emotions. When it doesn’t find it, pain is felt and that negative emotion becomes tainted, unhealthy and toxic. It also becomes more important than relationship.
How about an emotion like anger? How can you return to joy with someone who you are angry with? Here’s an example where returning to joy requires the use of timing when to disengage and heartsight in order to be successful.
A few weeks ago my teenage daughter yelled at me and was disrespectful towards me with her words. I got really angry with her right away, but I didn’t respond at that moment.
Since she had already walked into her room away from me, I walked downstairs instead of chasing after her in my anger, which left time to disengage. I let the surge of angry emotions run through my system and took some deep calming breaths. I reminded myself that she was more important to me than my desire to “teach her some respect”.
Even that phrase still felt like an angry statement in my mind. I then asked the Lord to help me see her the way He saw her.
Since I have practiced this skill before, and I knew my “Relational Circuits” were on, this was all possible in a minute or two. Immanuel showed me that she was hurting, that she felt betrayed and that she was triggered about a painful spot from her past.
Suddenly, I was completely able to separate out what she had said to me and apply it to that old situation. It was a fitting and justified response to that. I didn’t deserve to be the receiver of her anger, but I could understand why she was triggered. In this particular situation, I no longer felt the need to correct her or defend myself. I just wanted to love her in her pain.
I let her have some alone time, then I went and told her that I was sorry that she was hurt by what I had done. I didn’t add in any “mom” statements about her overreaction or triggers… I just synchronized with her underlying reason for overreacting and addressed that pain. I told her I was there if she wanted to talk and then we had a snack together and moved onto normal daily conversation. Now we were both returned to joy.
Looking deeper at this example we can see how my daughter wasn’t acting like herself in her anger. My angry reaction was to her “not being her”, it wasn’t at all in reaction to who she really is. Once I got the Heartsight to remember who she really is it was easy and natural to return to joy, because I really am glad to be with who she really is.
My desire to fight back or convince her loudly not to disrespect me was not who I really am either. When I utilized the skills 9 & 11 to help me return to joy I was able to be myself and keep our relationship more important than the problem.
My daughter is 18, she knows it’s wrong to be disrespectful and to yell. But at this moment, her brain needed a mom that could synchronize with her pain and see beneath her missing relational skills to give her an example of returning to joy from anger.
Isn’t that the real goal of parenting? To pass on relational skills through example, not punishing them for not already having the skills?.
Actually, isn’t that what the goal of all our relationships should be?
Relationships are where we spread joy and relational skills and discover who we really are. I think I like that definition. As a matter of fact, I won’t leave home without it.