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3 Ways To Cultivate Emotional Safety In Your Relationship (or Family)

In my ‘old life’, I was a real stinker!

I used to be the kind of person who would argue long and with plenty of sass and fire for the sole purpose of being right. I just had to make my point or win an argument. And I would do so at any cost. I would unleash any emotional weapon I knew of in order to get my way – like guilt, shame, yelling, door slamming, crying, passive aggression or anger... you name it, I used it. (Blush!)

Of course, at the time, my sassy behaviors were unconscious, so to speak. And I didn’t recognize how they were impacting relationships, nor how my behaviors eroded the most essential relationship ingredient: emotional safety.

Without emotional safety, relationships (romantic, family, friends or career), cannot be abundant, fruitful, vulnerable, deeply connected or even sustainable.

So often we don't stop to evaluate if our actions, words, deeds and even body language are building emotional safety, and therefore effective, useful and loving. Or if our words, deeds and body language is eroding emotional safety, and therefore destructive, counterproductive and unloving.

This is a great opportunity to begin questioning whether the bulk of your words, actions, ways of relating, literally the things you say to your partner, are encouraging emotional safety, or eroding it.

People who are stuck in patterns of anger, lashing out, yelling, fighting to be right, using guilt and shame and other emotional weapons, are stuck and struggling. They have practiced, and gotten good at negative habits. Fortunately, any habit can be replaced.

Unfortunately, these destructive habits and emotional weapons break down the ability to cultivate emotional safety, a cornerstone of strong, joyful, connected couples and families.

Emotional safety is critical to the health of any relationship, and is most important in those relationships with those we share a home with, and impact one another’s daily lives. So, what exactly is emotional safety and an emotional safe environment?

Emotional safety and an emotionally safe environment essentially means that all members of a family:

  • Have freedom to voice any opinion or idea, even if no one else likes it, without consequences (ie, each person is free to be authentic and who they choose to be)

  • Are actively practicing vulnerability

  • Have freedom to feel any emotion (even anger) without being punished

  • Are learning to let go of negative emotions

  • Have freedom to ask for what they want (even though they might not always get it)

  • Have, or are learning the ability to be unconditionally supportive

  • Have begun to let go of emotional weapons and are learning to replace them with unconditional kindness, care, and support

3 Specific Ways To Cultivate Emotional Safety In Your Relationship (or Family)

1) Encourage

So often, it seems easier to criticize, roll eyes, blame, punish, overreact, lash out, be passive aggressive and so on. Instead, we can learn to simply take a breath and encourage.

The truth is, we humans can learn to transcend our negative luggage -- all the crappy heaps of baggage that stand between us and the divine interpersonal connections we have the opportunity to experience.

But, we first have to want to be happy! It’s a question that requires a big dose of personal honesty: “Do I really want to be happy?”

If the answer is, “Yes!” then a great practice to begin is inserting encouragement in place of sarcasm, snide remarks, huffing and puffing, or blaming:

“Great job.”

“That’s an interesting idea, tell me more.”

“How did you come up with that interesting notion?”

“I love that.”

“Thank you for sharing.”

Try it! Swallow the pride, step into encouragement, and watch as this takes your relationship(s)s to a whole new level of emotional safety, love, and connection.

2) Soften Your Tone

Does your tone say, “Eff you, jackass”, when your words say, “I’m listening, dear. What do you need?”

As a coach, I spend hours on the telephone working with clients. As such, I have become astute in the art of deciphering tone of voice. But, it is so incredibly simple, one needn’t be an expert to decipher this code.

At anytime, we can choose to begin softening our tone in order to invite increasing emotional safety. When a tone of voice suggests ‘eff you, I don’t have time, I don’t care, you’re annoying me, you drive me bananas’ and the like, the person receiving this message is certainly not going to feel encouraged to open up, share vulnerably, or to feel connected. This is true even though the words used may have asked for just that!

I invite you to take a deep listen to your tone of voice. What is it conveying? Are you using a nasty tone for a reason? What is that reason and how can you begin sharing that truth instead of hiding behind a grouchy tone?

Practice softening your tone for 30 days and see what happens! You can still set boundaries and enforce them, you can still say no, you can still say anything you like, but with a soft, disarming, and inviting tone of voice.

3) Ask & Speak!

Too often, emotional weapons are used in place of lovingly and simply asking for what we want or saying what we need to say. Emotional weapons emerge because there is an underlying lack of self love and confidence or belief in one’s own worthiness.

One simple but excellent way to turn these challenges around is to begin to speak up: ask for what you want and say what you need to say – softly, lovingly, confidently!

This practice reinforces the message, “I am worthy and deserving.” As this truth is reinforced, mounting emotional safety emerges between you and those you want to connect with. It is a gorgeous cycle.

What we can begin to discover is that it really is possible to have the kind of life and relationships that we desire! By employing small, seemingly insignificant changes in behavior such as seeking opportunities to offer encouragement, paying attention to how we say what we say, or learning to simply speak from the heart, we can begin to turn the tide on long engrained, negative behavior patterns within our relationships. This discovery may even just open up a whole new world of possibilities as we begin to understand that we really do have the power to change our love lives and family lives for the better.

OR, If you would like help strengthening your relationship, contact us today!

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