Valentine’s Day is upon us…shiny pink and red hearts are decorating the windows of stores and TV and magazines are suggesting gifts for our beloved. I can still remember Valentine’s Day in elementary school and the excitement and anticipation of opening up my special little box of valentines and somehow I still get that excited childhood anticipation in my stomach.
I can’t remember ever being taught anything about relationships in school. The only way we learned to relate was watching how our parents related to their family, friends and us. It was pretty clear that the schools didn’t offer classes in relationships for them either.
When your relationships work your life is so much more in a state of flow. It feels like going downstream in a lazy river. The river of life, the river of love.
Through my years of working with people on their relationships, I have created a simple and yet remarkable tool that I call The Ladder of Communication. When you utilize this ladder in your daily life, you have a reliable tool that will transform your relationships…with friends, family, co-workers, bosses, children and of course significant others.
So this valentine’s day…make sure that love is more than a feeling in your heart, that it is a decision, a choice an inspired action. It may take practice, but once you are in the flow… nothing can stop you!
Below is the Ladder of Communication. Start reading at the bottom and work your way up…the higher you can be on the ladder, the more joyful your relationships will be. There is more explanation under the ladder.
Pure Spirit and Love: I see the goodness of you …and hold in in my heart.
Understanding: I can understand how that would make you so sad and scared too.
Validation: I see that you don’t like when I am late.
Mirroring: What I hear you saying is that when I yell you get scared.
Listening: I am listening with an open heart.
Lecturing: You know better than to do that!!
Arguing: I would rather be right than be happy.
Judging: You are irresponsible and lazy!
Attacking: Just shut up you stupid woman! You can’t do anything right!!
Blaming: I wouldn’t drink if it weren’t for your spending habits!
Contempt: I despise you!
Withdrawing: I despise you so much–I refuse to even acknowledge you.
Working the Ladder
-The bottom of the ladder represents our lowest self: the part of us that threatens, shouts, accuses, blames. This is the animal part of our brain or our reactive brain. Animals react all day long. They are simply stimulus-response creatures–no creative thinking, no thoughts about the future.
-The upper rungs of the ladder represent our highest self. This is our proactive self—the self that is “in charge.” This is the self that differentiates us from all other animals. This is the place where we interact with people soul to soul. Martin Buber referred to this as an “I-thou” relationship.
-It is the upper rungs of the ladder where we listen to others with our whole heart, where we hear not just the words but the meaning behind the words. This creates a sense of peace and safety in our relationships.
-In studying people who struggle with relationships it has become obvious to me that they are stuck on the lower rungs of the ladder. They fall into the same stimulus-response habit that is common in the animal kingdom. Rather than creating the relationship they want, they are constantly in a reactive state.
-It is important to note that we are not sent up and down the ladder because of someone else’s behavior. We can choose how we react in any given circumstance. We can be “creators” rather than “reactors”. Our relationships will improve as we become more conscious of our responses.
-In visualizing the ladder and putting it into practice in our daily lives, we can watch as our relationships become magical!
Enjoy your time at the top of the ladder and have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
Brenda Strausz is a holistic therapist and coach in the Metro Detroit Area. She specializes in stress reduction and women’s empowerment. She combines conventional therapy with alternative modalities to help you live with more ease, joy and freedom. She can be reached at DearBrenn@aol.com or through her website at www.BrendaStrausz.com or her facebook page Open to Joy.
Also, please check out A Call to Wholeness, a women’s conference on March 24th where Brenda will be the keynote speaker! You can register and get all the information here.