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  • Gary Borland

#42 Reactions in Relationships



What reactions are you contributing to?


What if I really believed that relationships with people around me could be very different without asking them to change anything? In the last blog, we touched on the benefits of moving the focus from other people – ‘them’ – onto me, and how being responsible for what’s happening opens up the opportunity to make choices that impact those relationships. Creating a powerful space for others, transforms relationships. But how might we go about that?


Perhaps the first thing to consider is how we act or behave when someone does or says something that we react to in some way. When circumstances trigger a response in us, the first thing we often point to is what someone else has said or done. Or at least an interpretation of what they’ve said or done. But what if I could just notice my own reaction without giving it meaning? What if I was able to just be with that reaction and choose not to attribute fault or blame to someone else? This takes practise, determination, and a mindset more focused on building relationships, love and care, than being right or looking good.


But here’s a familiar scenario that occurs when we react and aren’t careful about what comes out of our mouth. A careless word, a clumsy phrase or a critical remark can close down the space for the other person immediately, particularly as they are now likely to be experiencing an emotional or physiological response or reaction to what was said. Now both people are having reactions to what the other person said. Or at least their interpretation of what was said. None of this is likely to build relationship. On the contrary. It’s destructive, and likely to cause a fracture in relationships that’s very difficult to recover from.


What if we just noticed our reaction and didn’t attribute blame? Asking questions rather than making statements is likely to create a space in which we get to hear from the other person. It’s amazing what we learn when we listen, particularly as it’s likely we already know what’s coming out of our own mouth, so are unlikely to be learning much while we’re talking. But watch out for the loaded questions. Those questions where the intention is to make a point rather than asking with a genuine intent to hear the other person and increase understanding.


Try to notice the next time you have an emotional or physiological response to an interaction with someone. Start to develop the capacity to introduce choice in how you respond. Notice the interpretations you have and try to separate them out from facts. For more about this, have a look at our blog #26 Fact or Interpretation? In the next blog, we’ll look at other aspects of creating a space that will allow us to expand that space and increase the opportunity to grow and develop our relationships.

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