To Begin Anew
We all know that Christmas and family go hand in hand. It can be a trialling time for anyone in a relationship and conflicts can arise. The following practice by Sister Chan Khong, from an essay in the book All the Rage: Buddhist Wisdom on Anger and Acceptance, aims to help people resolve difficulties and communicate when they are hurt and is designed to be practiced before anger has taken root between yourself and another. It a four part practice of series of allocated time slots to be taken each week that will enable hurt and anger to be resolved quickly and easily when needed. To commit to this practice set aside a thirty minute time slot with your other/s in a space that both of you feel comfortable to speak freely. The aim is to work through the four parts of the practice but Sister Chan Khong notes that there is no worry if you don’t get through all of it. Even working on step one for fifteen minutes will open the lines of communication.
Step One: Flower Watering
The key to Step One, Flower Watering, is to show appreciation for the other person by listening to the other person while they speak. We can easily remember all the positive about another person when we are happy and positive and our relationships are problem free, but when things are stressful it can be difficult to think to recall the good stuff. It is a good idea to keep a notebook or a journal of all the qualities you admire and appreciate in others as a visual reference for later dates. Even taking time to note down (physically or mentally) any nice gestures that another has done for you is a good way to be able to come back to the positives. This appreciation for others isn’t limited to a romantic partner or family, you can even take time to note down the positives of people in your workplace or community (which might come in particularly handy during silly season when we are all stressed and cranky due to the encroaching holiday period). To actively practice flower watering it is best to assign a time for the activity. Sit down in your pair, group, or family and take a few quite moments to breathe. Then each person has an opportunity to speak while others breathe and listen. The activity stops when each person has had an opportunity to speak. It’s important to take time to talk appreciation when you have nothing negative on your mind, opening these lines of communication and having positive conversations means that it is much easier to deal with negative communication. There is nothing worse than a boss, friend, or partner who only speaks to you when they have negative things to say about you, the situation, or themselves.
Step Two: Expressing Regret
In the next step of the communication process is to express your regrets and apologise for anything you feel like you have done, or could have done better. The best thing to do when you feel you have made a mistake is to admit it and have the courage to apologise. Carrying around regret or fear is not a positive or comfortable way to live. According to Sister Chan Khong
…when you truly apologise for something you regret, any hurt the person felt may be completely dissipated by your apology.
The best part is that this act of expressing sincere regret before anger, hurt or sadness has tainted your communication, means that you are likely to mitigate any serious damage to your relationship that may have occurred from carrying the feelings or secrets with you until a more emotive time. This is very important in the lead up to the holiday season as most of us know that Christmas Day with family (and too much festive cheer) can be the time where long held family regrets are aired in a not-so-desirable manner.
Step Three: Expressing Hurt or Disagreement
Each and every person operates in their own unique way. We all hove different perceptions of the same thing, and this is what makes the world an interesting and vibrant place, and relationships and communication constant work. When we are hurt we might not express this hurt. Perhaps we think that the person who hurt us should already know the what, how and why of our hurt as they are the ones who inflicted it. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. What hurt one person may not have even registered as being hurtful due to different perceptions of the same event. It can be easy to keep hurt inside. We might not feel comfortable voicing it (especially in the workplace or a professional environment). However if we don’t express hurt then we will retreat and retreating from the person who hurt us isn’t going to fix the problems in our relationship with them unless your master plan is to cut them out of your life. During this allowed talk time speak about your hurt from a place of peace and calm, but be humble and aware of the limitations of your own perception. There is a good chance that the person who hurt you wasn’t even aware of your ‘take’ on the issue and will see things differently from your point of view. If you yell and scream the person who hurt you will now be the one retreating, or worse still, firing up back at you! Neither of which will work to solve the problem. If you feel there are unresolved issues with your loved ones or co-workers why not take the time to work through them now, rather than spill the beans in an untactful way after a few too many vodkas at the office Christmas party.
Step Four: Asking For More Information.
As you listen to the other person talk about themselves, express their regrets, and/or hurt and disagreements it may prompt you to want to ask questions. If you don’t quite get their point of of view or angle then you might ask them to share their perceptions and feelings about the difficulties they are going though. This is your chance to learn more rather than getting fired up by your own opinions or perceptions on a matter. You can use this time to ask the other person if something you have been doing is bothering them. You might not agree with their response but this space is designed to talk things through and understand things from the other persons perspective. Remembering to breathe and keep your heart and ears open during the listening process should help to calm any difference of perspective that might pop up in your mind.
By taking the time to open lines of communication and share your thoughts and emotions in a safe space should help you avoid any Christmas day emotional blow-ups. Do you think this would work for your family, loved ones, or co-workers? If you have any thoughts or perhaps a different tool you use for getting talk happening please share it below.