Beginning Anew: Breathing New Life and Compassion into Your Relationships -by Nancy Flaherty, LCPC

All of us have moments in our relationships where we find ourselves at an impasse.  We may have been hurt, or caused hurt, and we find ourselves in a stalemate with our partner, family member or colleague and don’t know how to move forward. Thich Nhat Hahn, a noted Buddhist monk who specializes in mindfulness meditation and non-violent solutions to conflict, developed a way to help break through these impasses.  We have adapted this “Beginning Anew” process and find it very helpful in our work with couples, families, and businesses.

It’s a simple four-step format, but works best when we take it to a deep level.  If we make ourselves vulnerable and share deeply, this can be an incredibly powerful process.  Each of the following steps should be completed in turn by each participant.

Step One:  “I Appreciate”:  Share something you sincerely appreciate about the other person.  Make this a meaningful comment, one that speaks to the essence of the other person and will make their heart sing.  Not “You’re a good Mom” but “You are so loving and compassionate with our family and I recognize the sacrifices you make for all of us.

If you are the recipient of the appreciation, soak it in.  If you want to respond, just say “Thank you.”

Sharing appreciation is an essential step if we want to be heard.  Only if we think we are appreciated will we be open to listening further.

Step Two:  “I Regret”:  Take responsibility for something you have done, intentionally or unintentionally, that has caused hurt or harm to the other person.  Make this heartfelt.  Don’t qualify it (I’m sorry I hurt you when I yelled at you, but you were being a jerk.”)  Be sincere and own your part in what happened.  Again, if you are the recipient of this regret, a simple “Thank you” will do.

When we acknowledge our part in the problems that have occurred, others are much more likely to listen to us and want to work with us.

Step Three:  “I Want”:  This is a loving request of the other person.  It should be specific in behavioral terms, something achievable by the other person.  In this request you’re letting the other person know the path to your heart.  Show them the way by telling them in “do-able” terms what you want.  Rather than saying “I want you to show me that you care,” be specific:  “I want you to sit with me on the couch in the evenings rather than go on your computer.”

Step Four:  “I Will”:  Once we realize what each person appreciates, and after we have all taken responsibility for our regrets, and after we’ve shown each other the way to win each other’s hearts by our loving request, then we have to honestly commit to what we are willing to do in the wake of all that important information.  This is where negotiations will take place.  (“I can’t do all that you ask, but here’s what I can do.”)  A handshake or a hug can seal the deal.

Sharing sincere appreciation and an honest owning of our part in problems are the bases of this format.  Good things to keep in mind for all of our dealings with others.

For further information or to have this process implemented where you work, call (847) 336-5621 and contact Phil Kirschbaum at ext. 121 or Nancy Flaherty at ext. 122.