There is an AAP for that
While not meaning to trivialize or oversimplify the art of good consultation and communication, here is a simple process to remember and to try in the next conversation or consultation with your loved one.
As we interact, especially with those we care most about, our inseparable human emotions shape our responses and reactions at least as much as our spiritual insight and attributes, intuition and logical reasoning, important as each of those is. Becoming aware of emotions and acknowledging them helps you manage them for yourself, your loved one to manage their reactions, and helps them help you. Pausing, and praying, are crucial “tools”.
Start with learning to become aware of and distinguish between your own emotions. We can learn to notice the “pit in stomach”, “tightening of chest”, “smile spreading across my face”, “relaxing into my chair”, our breathing, and others. Begin with a simple approach. In your next particularly “intense” conversation or consultation, think about where you feel something. In what part of your body? Face, chest, limbs, hands, all over? You may need to ask your partner for a short pause in the action, to do so. Try to give it a name or attach a word to it, any name or word to start. If there are several, choose the one that stands out most strongly. Emotions often overlap – we often feel both angry and curious, impatient and excited, eager, anxious and tired – and other combinations. As you practice this again, see how much you can notice the balance between positive and negative feelings.
Say that word or words out loud, both for yourself and those engaged with you. “Honey, I notice my fists are curling, because I can’t finish my thoughts”, or “I’m very interested in what you’re saying, but distracted by the fact that we’re about to be late”, or “My love, what you explained is really exciting and your enthusiasm is catching onto me!” Doing this out loud may feel artificial at first, but builds the capacity between you to learn what each other is really feeling, as well as thinking. Especially over the years in long-term relationships, the other ways of noticing each others body language, expressions and words also help you recognize your own and others’ emotions.
When things get particularly intense, whether difficult or not, either of you can ask for a pause when you need it. “Could we pause for a minute?” Ask yourself; do I just need to “take in” what they said, before listening further? Do I sense they might need a minute to hear and take in what I expressed, with a pause? Ask each other: Does the consultation also need some something else? Do we need a minute of individual “conversation with God” to find our best self? Are we really stuck and need to help on this from someone else? Need to come back to it under better circumstances?
To try the latter two steps – out-loud acknowledgement of what you feel, and the pause and prayer, requires a short conversation with your loved one(s) to either agree to both (or all) try it, or ask for their support as you do.
- Aware of my emotions (Where do I feel it? A few words for what I’m feeling?)
- Acknowledge what I feel, out loud when possible (interested, loving, loved, nervous, frustrated, skeptical, wary, excited, energized, informed, enlightened…)
- Pause when you need to, see what you and your loved one(s) need in that moment.
Your enjoyment of both the process and the fruits of good communication and consultation, grows!