Parenting and Building Human Connection (4-27-22)

A person and person taking a selfie

Description automatically generated with low confidenceHappy Wednesday,

Last week was about transparency and age-appropriate truth.  This week is about being strong enough to build human connection.

It had been a rough day for Violet.  It came to a crescendo when she hit her sister and faced negative consequences.  Violet was furious when she got in trouble.  She lost all control and started yelling mean things at me.  She even told me she hated me.  In full honesty, the first thoughts that went through my head were angry ones.  There was a huge part of me that just wanted to yell back, but I didn’t.  I realized her display of anger wasn’t about me.  It was about her.  I remembered that in tense moments, often the best thing we can do is take an action that leads to human connection, not separation.  Yelling at her would have just shut her down.  While she would have been quiet, it wouldn’t have been healthy.  Instead of yelling, I looked at her and said, “I know you’re angry, and I also think you’re sad or hurting.  I know when I’m sad or hurting I sometimes lash out to try to hurt people to make them feel bad too.  You can be mad.  I still love you.  I’ll give you space and check on you in a few minutes.”

I came back later.  Violet had calmed down.  I asked if she wanted to talk.  She was super sad.  She cried because she just had a rough day where nothing went right.  She felt like she was in a bit of a funk and didn’t know when it would end.  She was really frustrated by everything.  She eventually apologized to me.  Throughout all of it, I just held her, validated her feelings, and helped her sort through things.

What does this have to do with anything?  In life and sometimes at work, we get into tense situations.  Tempers flare, words are said, and anger is thrown out into the open.  When tensions rise, the natural instinct is to get defensive and to return fire with fire.  What’s really happening though is that the person’s emotions and the way they are dealing with them are saying a lot more about them than they are about you.  It’s important to understand that if a person is having such a strong reaction there are emotions underneath that are making them hurt or scared.  When people are hurt or scared, they don’t need more anger and aggression.  What they need is connection.  Maybe that connection is empathy.  Maybe it’s someone asking questions to show they care and are listening.  Maybe it’s just sitting there with them as things diffuse.

The challenge: When things are emotionally tense how will you build human connection?

Bonus thought: Brene Brown recently wrote a booked called Atlas of the Heart that dives deeper into understanding emotions.  It’s shaping how I’m viewing the world and worth a read.  I hear she has a miniseries on HBO Max too, where she discusses some of the content.

Other side notes: Before you think I’m some zen master, I’m not.  I screw up a lot, and totally messed up just this past weekend.  This story is from one time when I got it right, and that made all the difference.  Also, the hammock picture is from a different day.  Few things are better than hammock snuggles.

Have a jolly good day,

Andrew Embry

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