Who Put the Free in Responsibility?

freenresp“We can be just as free as we are responsible.”
— Fred Rogers, The Cosmic Shed

These are not just words of wisdom to speak by, they are a practice to learn how to live by. The next step in learning the dance of Collabortive Relationships, we feature:

Accepting personal & social responsibility.

Blue spiralWe know the “blame game” all too well: “you did this… you did that…you started it.” We spiral down into a hole of tit-for-tat exchange. Truth be told—this is verbal abuse and this is how many are communicating through conflict with each other. We are hitting, smacking, kicking, and beating each other down with our words. This is why we feel so hurt when we walk away from arguments that are based on a reactionary social model. I call it verbal violence.

I remember when I realized my responsibility in participating in verbally abusive interactions, even if I didn’t intend to, or was unaware. I found myself in screaming matches with my partner at the time and one accusation led to another. All the while, I was a self-acclaimed peace activist. Something wasn’t adding up. If I wasn’t finding a way to resolve a conflict peacefully with someone so intimate, I couldn’t claim to be a peace advocate. I went searching for answers.

Non-Violent Communication (NVC) 000060840027_WEB-600x396developed by Marshall Rosenberg has shined the light on our socialized communication tactics that we (often unconsciously) use with each other. Culturally, through media, social norms, and relationship examples around us, we are constantly witnessing unhealthy communication styles rooted in reaction and violence. NVC was a wake up call to accepting my responsibility with how I interacted with my partner. It was hard to face the truth of how my intention (peacefulness) didn’t line up with my behavior (unhealthy communication). As an activist for peace, I was actually doing so much to help the “other side” so to speak—literally. I would be a phony if I didn’t pay tribute to Rosenberg’s NVC work and how it has contributed to my own education in unlearning a violent communication style (which is a constant work in progress).

In my own work, I found that the violence perpetuated by our cultural communication model exists due to the inability to accept personal responsibility i.e. the unwillingness to admit to a weakness, confront a truth, or apologize for one’s actions. I have found that when people accept personal responsibility, it

»  removes the roles of a villain vs. victim dynamic.
»  allows us to be truly honest with ourselves and speak from that place.
»  builds trustworthiness and integrity.
»  strengthens our vulnerability muscle.
»  engages conscious participation in the creation of our lives.
»  opens the doors to thinking about creative solutions, rather than re-living destructive problems.
»  invites people to be accountable in the creation of a situation or conflict.
»  creates openness to hear, respect, and understand one another.
»  engages learning how to navigate healthy conflict.
»  creates a feeling of deeper connection and being known unto each other.

1496_2574When we admit to our personal responsibility in interactions and find resolve by doing so, we are taken out of the confines and cages that blame, dishonesty, verbal violence, assumption, and unconsciousness create. We stand strong in owning-up to who we are with grace. We speak our personal truths. We claim our self-respect. We expand our ability to understand. But most importantly, we open-up and we let each other in. Responsibility is part of how we find the freedom to love and be loved as we truly are.

Intro to Collaborative Relationships

 Experience both freedom AND commitment within a relationship of your own making.

So we’ve gone through The Mating Dance of the Honeymoon Phase.
We’ve arrived at the next phase and welcomed Coupledom.

danceThis week, I’d like to share the kind of relationships I participate in and help facilitate for others to enjoy. It’s about learning to move together, rather than all on one’s own. It’s about asking for what you need, rather than wishing another could read your mind. It’s about owning your desires, rather than keeping them a forbidden secret. It’s about following through in making your dreams come true, while receiving total support. It’s about taking responsibility for your life, while being lovingly held accountable through it. It’s about Collaboration.

Being collaborative ensures that the individuals involved create a relationship that has the ability to shift dynamics based on their needs, desires, and circumstances that arise through life. People can safely adapt when needed, and allow for individual growth, both together and apart. Collaborative relationships encourage a willingness to work with each other, rather than against one another. Unfortunately, the modern, competitive social model for relating fosters the latter. The collaborative approach is a social model that fosters teamwork & partnership. This way of relating includes ALL kinds of relationships – from romantic to familial and from monogamous to polyamorous.

Dear Readers, what does collaborative mean to you?
Please submit your answers. With your permission, your submissions may be used in future articles. 

 

 

 

 

Communication. It’s All in a Word.



imagesI work with all kinds of relationships, but mainly those of the romantic kind.  To be honest, they are my favorite.  I emphasize my work in communication because I found it to be at the heart of relationship.  Quite literally, actually.  In the very meaning of the word relation is  “the act of telling”  also “correspondence” and “connection.”  In the very definition of relating, we find words that imbibe verbal communication and the impact thereof.  What is behind the word communicate?  The root word, commune, means “to talk intimately.”  The word itself means “to share.”   Connection and sharing is the very reason why we humans gravitate towards relationship.

The main issue I have always found in relationships that needed help was miscommunication.  People either misread, misheard, misunderstood and misspoke with one another all the time.  Although their intentions would usually be pure, and each person believed their communication was very clear, in truth, it was not.  This very act of miscommunication is at the basis of almost every conflict I encounter.  Whether it is within myself, with another, among a group or between groups.  There is constant miscommunication.  We, as humans, are constantly, mis-sharing with one another.  Why is this?  As a social scientist, I could go into the myriad of reasons, but that is a book in and of itself.  What I have found, however, is our very ability to communicate and relate with others harmoniously, directly reflects our ability to share.  Helping people develop their ability to share within themselves, and the world around them, is at the core of my work in relationship counseling.

As humans, we are naturally wired for community.  Our innate ability to commune with ourselves, each other, and the world around us has taken a huge back burner within a societal structure that demands our livelihoods revolve around mass production, consumption and exponential monetary growth.  It leaves little time and energy for us to truly commune with ourselves, let alone with each other.  Most communication now happens digitally and I feel this is a symptom of our lack of time in our daily lives that revolve around work for most of us.  In a society that teaches values surrounding individualism, I’m not surprised that so many of us “mis-share” ourselves with one another and find miscommunication to be such an issue in our relationships.

¹All definitions were gathered from the etymological source: http://www.etymonline.com