When is the last time you felt huge gratitude for the way you feel in one of your relationships?
And when did you most recently feel frustrated in one of your relationships?
When you notice your feelings in a relationship, you’re noticing the communication climate of your relationship, or the emotional tone of your relationship.
As you can guess, there are more positive, supportive communication climates, and there are more negative, defensive communication climates in relationships. You don’t have entire control over the climate of your relationships, but you do influence them.
You’ll notice they seem to work in what you can think of as a spiral, based on how we communicate with others. When we are kind and supportive to others, we are sending confirming messages. These kinds of messages let our loved ones know they are valued. We can show them we value them both through our words and our actions.
Confirming messages can be as simple as saying “hi” to someone we run into around town, or smiling as we greet an acquaintance. As we increase in closeness in our relationships, we confirm others by listening to their feelings and ideas, and demonstrating we’re present with them by putting our technology away and really listening. We confirm others even further by supporting them, and perhaps even agreeing with what they have to say. In our close relationships, when say, “I’ve got your back,” really mean it, and back it up with actions that support that (like bringing them coffee on a tough day and helping them when they are in need) we are showing we care, are trustworthy, and we value others. We could get into even more ways that we show support in kind, loving, healthy ways, but these are just a few ways that we let people we care about know – and in turn create positive communication climates with them.
In other moments in our lives, we may create more defensive, negative communication climates. We participate in creating this this kind of communication climate when we send disconfirming messages. When we ignore someone, or withhold our affection to another, we are behaving in a disconfirming way. When we criticize or judge and evaluate others, seek to control or manipulate them, or even act ambivalent to their feelings or needs, we are sending disconfirming messages. When we play on our phones instead of really listen to someone, we are acting in a way that shows them we do not value what they have to say. When we act as if we know better than someone we love, or we know what’s best for them, without taking their needs and desires into account, we are disconfirming them. You get the picture.
Fascinatingly, people with whom we’re in relationship often respond based on how we communicate with them (hence, the spiral). If we act in confirming ways with someone, they tend to respond in the same way. If we make someone feel less-than through communicating with disconfirming messages, they will often respond back in that way.
The point is that the way we act in our relationships matters.
What we say and do impacts how we feel, and how others feel, in relationship.
It may seem tempting at this moment to point a finger at another, and think – it’s not me – it’s THEM! They do this to me, and I’m just forced to react!
If this is how you’re feeling, I invite you to pause and reflect. It’s possible that the other person really does push your buttons, get under your skin, and participate in creating a negative communication climate. If that is the case, you have choices about whether you stay in that relationship or go.
In the meantime, though, I encourage you to always recognize that you have a choice.
You choose how you act and what you say in a relationship.
You influence the relationship in positive or negative ways based on what you contribute.
So I encourage you to ask yourself – am I contributing to a positive, supportive communication climate with someone based on what I say and do?