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How do you deal with conflict and challenging relationships?

How do you deal with conflict or challenging relationships? Do you allow sad or disappointing moments to get in the way of your relationships with people? Are joyous and fulfilling situations left uncelebrated, pushing you and your loved ones further apart? Or are you able to use these highs and lows as catalysts to bring you and those dearest to you even closer together? And even overcome the blocks and barriers that might have developed in relationships with family and friends?

Friends and family at arm’s length

Conflict is not bad.  It is an opportunity, more than any other, to allow relationships to grow.

There have been various events in my family history that had the potential to bring us closer together. They didn’t because we were all consumed by the pain, fear, anger and despair we were feeling and trying to push away as well as nursing our own wounds. How do I keep going? What can I do to make this better? How can I get over this? How could this happen to me? Why do I feel so angry or numb or disconnected? None of us were willing to come out of that place of hurt enough to actually talk about it and connect to each other. The emotion would have been too overwhelming, exposing the scar too painful and sharing the grief too raw.

And so, it gets pushed aside, ignored, swept under the carpet in the pretence that all is fine. Everyone knows it’s not, but no one is willing to take the first step to talk about it and get things moving. Years and decades can go by like this with families remaining distant from each other because they cannot bring themselves to talk about how they feel. So, the resentment and sorrow remain and people who could truly and deeply love each other remain strangers to each other instead.

Just because you love someone, does not mean you share intimacy with them at an emotional level. You may love your parents and siblings but how deeply do you know them and how fully do you allow them to know you? I can say from my own experience that keeping those close to me at arm’s length has felt more comfortable than getting to know and accept them with all their foibles. Or share with them my fears, hopes and dreams as well as my moments of weakness and strength.

Pain can keep us apart

It doesn’t have to be this way. I learned this recently on a coaching training course. One of the participants shared how the death of his brother had encouraged his family to talk more, listen more and accept each other- worts and all. It was a beautiful mirror to how my family could have reached out to each other and nurtured our relationships. Instead these events pushed us further apart.

Pain is a powerful force. People feel compelled to move away from it. The mind makes no distinction between physical and emotional pain. You react the same way by pulling away. Pain is deemed something bad and we are programmed to move away from it. That behaviour has its value. Yet the source of the pain has not changed or gone anywhere. That’s why you get triggered when similar events occur. You’re bringing the pain of the past into the present, amplifying your reaction to this present event.

For example, I have a challenge with my family where I do not feel they listen to me. It has always been that way. For many years it has frustrated and angered me. So, whenever I do not feel like any person is really listening to what I’m saying, I can get inappropriately frustrated and angry which does not serve either of us. I lose control and they think “who’s this nutter?” and it doesn’t make them want to listen to me any more clearly and try and understand me any better!!

Go into the pain

Coming to terms with that pain has done wonders. Rather than fight it, instead I go into the pain. The blocks and feeling stuck, unaccepted, unappreciated and misunderstood have given way to understanding why they find it hard to accept, appreciate and understand me. The answer lies in their past and with that my compassion makes it easier to accept the situation. Compassion is a huge value of mine as people first and foremost need to be seen, heard and understood. My understanding brings down my barriers which in turn lowers their barriers and suddenly we have a more open and loving relationship.

So, my new learning is that every event, whether deemed positive or negative, has the ability to be used as an opportunity to bring people closer together. By sharing our feelings with people, we show our pain, hopes, dreams and aspirations. When listening to people share, we witness their humanity and may even recognise it in ourselves. The key is to listen to each other and share in our vulnerability, where our deepest feelings lie.  This bonds us and connects us far deeper than pretending that everything is OK all the time.  From this vulnerable place, people open themselves up at depth so that they can both get where the other is coming from and resolve their differences.

Conflict is not bad

When everything is OK share that, celebrate, whoop for joy and revel in the joy you witness and share with another. And when things are less than OK, share that too- cry with them, be with them, be angry together and be in sorrow. It is part of being human.  When there is conflict between two people, it is an opportunity for both of them to take responsibility for putting it right.   It is a chance to grow themselves AND the relationship.  What role do you play in this situation?  How can you understand the other more deeply so that they can take responsibility for themselves and their role in the situation?  When you accept responsibility for yourself, it enables you to retain the freedom to be fully yourself.

We all have times when we are perhaps unlovable, or someone is perhaps being unlovable.  Only by giving extra love will we be able to find our love for them at this challenging time.  I harboured resentment towards my parents for many years.  Yet, by understanding them more deeply, I found greater love for them and it has brought us all more peace and deeper connection.  Conflict is not bad.  It is an opportunity, more than any other, to allow relationships to grow.  You can learn more here:

Relationship is everything

It builds relationship. And everything is about relationship. My sister was like a mother to me. She is 14 years older and moved abroad when I was very young. For many years I harboured anger, hate and resentment towards her. Only recently have I begun to share with her my feelings- not in a blameful way, but simply to listen to her side of the story and share a little of my pain. For the first time I heard HER pain of leaving me behind and missing me growing up. It was like the stuck emotions between us dissolved away.

Notice that I gave her the chance to speak first and showed a willingness to understand. She felt heard first. THEN she is in a place to hear me and more deeply listen and the healing can take place.

I will admit, I am blessed with a sister who would actually share and listen. It has made our relationship far deeper ever since and the relationships I have with her children. Yet not all people are willing to listen. Even when they may say they are trying, you can feel whether they are or not.

Then, it is about coming to understand them as best you can and healing the pain you feel inside for your own sanity, peace and well-being. Try to understand how they have come to be as they are- there is ALWAYS a painful story there and hurt people hurt people.

Over to you

Would you like to be closer to friends and family members? What things might be getting in the way? How would you like your relationship to be? How do you feel about sharing more of yourself with family and friends and knowing them more deeply? What have you done to build bridges? What worked and what didn’t? How could you go deeper? If you’d be willing to share, I’d love to hear from you. Happy to make it public.  Please post in the comments box or on social media. If you’d prefer a private conversation, you can always DM me or e-mail at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

Pass it on

If you know someone whose relationships and well-being might benefit from stronger and more open relationships, please pass this blog on and help those relationships heal.

Learning is transferable- Life Coaching, Shokunin and the Japanese Way

Some clients like their coaching experience to touch all areas of their lives.  Other clients prefer to restrict the coaching to specific areas.  This may be for many reasons and is part of the design of the relationship right at the start.  Of course, I honour this request when clients ask for it.  After all, the client is in complete control of the coaching process.  The client is responsible for the results and outcomes he/ she gets from the coaching journey.  This view gives focus and clarity.  It may make it easier to keep the coaching process restricted to a limited number of sessions.  For those who are looking for on- going or open- ended coaching, the freedom to explore all areas of the client’s life brings other benefits.

Open Ended Coaching

For those clients that open their whole lives to the coaching experience, there is a huge amount of growth that can come from seeing how behaviour in one area of a client’s life is replicated in other areas of their life.  This observation allows them to see how that habit may or may not be serving them in a broader context.  This can offer powerful insights.

One client for example noticed early in the coaching journey that he allowed himself to be derailed by other people’s agendas.  He got himself into financial difficulty because friends insisted on spending more money than he could afford on social activities.  He allowed himself to be persuaded and derailed from his financial plan to get out of debt and kept falling into the trap.

Much later in the coaching journey, he noticed that this derailing pattern appeared throughout his life.  Once he noticed it and knew he could resolve it in one area of his life, he was confident he could do it in others.  He took the understanding, learning and empowerment from his financial situation and started applying it to other areas.  He overcame this pattern in almost every section of his Wheel of Life- health, work, friends and family, relationships, fun and education.

Learning is Transferable

He did it by gaining clarity on what he felt was the priority for him in those social situations.  Yes, going out with friends was important, but to restrict that interaction for the sake of financial control and independence was more important.  He felt he wanted to explain this to his friends.  He had underlying fears of being seen as boring or irresponsible as well as rejection from the people he loved.  By holding to his principles and values he felt better about himself.  He was better able to stick to his plan and enjoy himself when he did socialise.  The fear and anxiety were gone.  He applied this principle of priority clarification in other areas of his life and found that his confidence, determination, relaxation and self- respect all improved.

Repeating Patterns

It is powerful to notice repeating patterns of behaviour in your own life both as a sign of where you can improve and where your strengths lie

I have heard many teachers make this observation.  “The way you do it is the way you do it,” says Richard Rohr, while T. Harv Eker says, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”  I think this is so true, and it is powerful to notice these repeating patterns in your own life both as a sign of where you can improve and to see where your strengths lie.

For myself I am a procrastinator.  I will put things off because I think I am too busy to deal with them or I think I have the time to look at them later.  Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with them.  The thing is they pile up and then I feel overwhelmed.  Then it’s harder to get those things done quickly and efficiently.  I continually train myself in all areas of my life to do things as they come up or realistically schedule them in my diary.  Otherwise it leads to anxiety and overwhelm.  It makes me far more efficient and effective.

Conversely, I show great tenacity, committing to any project that I sign up to, person I support or relationship I value.  It connects with my values of honour and integrity that I try to live throughout my life.  When I drop the ball, it is incredibly disappointing and painful to notice that deviation from my values and truth.

Conscious Awareness

When you take conscious control of these traits, you can steer yourself towards positive thoughts, words and behaviours that impact in all areas of your life.  While they are unconscious, they can run your life in an unsupportive way in the shadows.  Once you shed light on them, your awareness allows you to see where changes are beneficial or necessary and where current habits are already supportive towards achieving your goals.

This idea of becoming more consciously aware is a foundational part of the transformational co-active life coaching process.  It is also part of the martial arts journey.  Having studied the Japanese martial arts for almost three decades, it came as no surprise that this idea is an intrinsic part of Japanese culture.

The Japanese Way

In Japan, martial arts are not just about being able to fight and defend oneself.  They are a way of life, filled with life- enhancing principles to be applied to every moment.  They offer a foundation for living with honour, integrity and respect for self, others and the world.  Many traditional art forms in Japan, from tea ceremony and calligraphy to sword making and pottery, are infused with this sense of taking the focus, care, commitment, patience, time and love necessary to make their art, into all areas of the practitioner’s life.  This is the transformational nature of martial arts, along with any other “Do” or “Way” in Japanese culture.

More well- known Ways include Judo, Kendo and Aikido in martial arts, and include Chado (Tea Ceremony), Shodo (Calligraphy) and Kado (Flower arranging).  When this has been mastered, the practitioner is known as Shokunin.  It is as if the art is used to bring the individual to greater maturity, awareness and integrity.  It touches their whole life and the lives of the people they touch.  A great example of how our mindset infuses all our actions and behaviours.

Blind Spot

The notion that the way people approach any life situation often mirrors their approach to all of life’s situations may encourage us to sit up and take notice when these patterns emerge.  They are hard to recognise in yourself- as if you have a blind spot.  A life coach, holding a vision of bringing your best self to all situations in your life, can be invaluable in supporting you in that process.

Understanding that lessons in one area of your life can be instructive to make you more effective in other areas of your life is transformational.  It shows you that: if you can do it once you can do it again; communicates your commitment to yourself to grow, be courageous and be your best self; allows for compassion for yourself and for others; demonstrates that the job is never done and that there is always more learning and directions of growth.

None of it can be done without action.  In action, we show ourselves what can be done.  Action is the classroom of learning, failure, success and developing transferable skills.  It can make us more rounded, mature and powerful agents of change in our lives.

Over to You

What patterns of behaviour show up in your life?  Do you notice those patterns yourself, or do other people reveal them to you?  What are your blind spots?  What habits do you have that are not supportive of your success?  Where else do they show up in your life?  Please share your thoughts in the comments box or tweet me at @PotentialityC.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Pass it on

If you know someone who might find this article useful, please forward it to them.  It might be the inspiration and motivation they need to make deep change.  It could make all the difference in the world to them for their health, wellbeing, career, business ideas, relationships, finances and much more.

Self Growth- the Oak tree and the acorn

Does the prospect of self growth daunt you? Are you aware that you need to learn and grow. Are you put off by the struggle, dedication and sacrifice you anticipate is involved? Does the thought of the pain and sweat make you not want to start or perhaps throw in the towel once things get tough?

The Dip

I see this time and again with coaching clients. The first few sessions are full of enthusiasm, momentum, growth and learning. Then people hit a lull or what is known as The Dip. The resistance to change steps in. The desire to keep things as they are, becomes increasingly powerful as greater change looms on the horizon. The fears of “am I good enough?” and “do I have what it takes” beat a steady rhythm in your heart and mind. Doubts flood in and suddenly all this change and growth doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

When this happens, it is the coach’s role to champion the client. To remind them sensitively of what they have declared is most important to them, what they want to achieve and perhaps most importantly, how they want to be in the world.

This shift requires challenge, courage, learning, action and growth. The coach supports and cheers the client along throughout the journey, celebrating their resourcefulness, creativity and determination.

The Courage for Self Growth

To stand up for the life you really want for yourself requires courage. As you grow into this person more and more, you show yourself the strength, resilience and mettle that lives within you. Sometimes that resolve comes through clarity and focus as you realise your purpose, fulfilment and goals. Other times it comes from the depth of despair as you face another obstacle or setback and find the resolve to uncover the learning, discover deeper resources and take further action.

As Rob Bell says in one of his podcasts, it is the sweat and pain that makes you strong. If you do not realise how incredible you are already, then in order to discover it you can go through the process of breaking through the limiting beliefs that hold you back.  You find your backbone as you journey along these paths. It seems most of us have lost that knowing about how great and magnificent we are.  Without struggle and work it is hard to discover what qualities you bring to the table of life and what you can meaningfully contribute.

The Growth of Inherent Skills

I have seen clients emerge from challenges to their health or careers for example, having discovered qualities and inspiration that have taken their lives in new and fascinating directions.  You may already know people who have had a health scare or faced redundancy.  So often, that process sets wheels in motion to look inward and ask “what do I really want and how am I going to achieve it?”  Suddenly, doors open, inspiration floods in, they take the action steps required, they succeed, they fail and learn and in time they grow the skills inherent within them.   They become more confident, fuller, stronger, broader in range, deeper in resources and resilience.  In short, they have grown from the experience.

Self growth has its advantages. It can be a transformative process. And it does not have to be all hard graft and full of resistance. When you are clear about your purpose and goals, self growth is a joyful process that brings you into full alignment with what is deeply fulfilling for you.

Yes, it will push you out of your comfort zone. That may scare you. Yes, you may have moments when you doubt yourself. That may frustrate you. What I see in clients is a focus and resolve on the bigger picture, drawing them irretrievably forward into the person they wish to become. That may be painful, sweaty and fearful. It will also be fulfilling, exhilarating and purposeful.

The Oak Tree

Two rows of oak trees on either side of a straight road with branches creating a beautiful arch along the length of the road

The sapling has all the qualities of the giant Oak, it just needs time to grow

I like the phrase self growth. It speaks of already being what you are, you simply have to practice it more to become bigger, stronger and more proficient at it. An Oak tree is no less an Oak tree as the acorn, a sapling or a giant in the forest. The acorn has all the qualities of the giant Oak, it just needs time to grow. It will take time. Effort will be required. Perseverance will be essential. Set- backs will be inevitable. Adaptation unavoidable. This is the process of growth.

You grow into a larger version of yourself: more confident, resourceful, resilient, creative, experienced and joyful; with greater capacity, learning, depth, height, breadth and power.

Every person you have ever admired started their journey to where they are today a younger, less confident, knowledgeable, experienced and wise version of themselves you see before you. It was not without learning and pain as they transformed over time into these wonderful teachers, guides, mentors and leaders. They overcame limiting beliefs, diminished confidence, fear of rejection and visibility of speaking out. These people carried on through moments of doubt, uncertainty and countless nay- sayers to be where they are. They are no different to you or me. Know that the learning leads to growth and the growth leads to learning.

Over to you

What do you love about self growth? Are there elements about self growth that you don’t like? What are your areas of growth? Where do you need to grow? Are you aware of your blind spots? Do you have a team of people around you who will supportively point them out to you? Are you someone who supports others in their growth and development? Please share your experience and insights in the comments box below or on social media. It’s so valuable to create discussion on these themes and support people on their road of growth.

Pass it on

Why not share this post with other people? If you found it valuable, perhaps other people will find it useful too. I’d really appreciate it if you spread the love and light. Thank you.