Trait: “I can control the level of my reactivity so I am able to stay engaged in difficult conversations.”
Someone asked, “So… how long is this Secure Connector Series?” Well, we have 28 points that describe the secure connector and today’s post is number 19. In the past, some of the blog posts have included multiple subjects, so the overall numbers are off a bit. Thanks for asking.
A highly reactive dad and son came into my office and said, “We need communication skills because we cannot have a discussion without getting into a fight.” So I said, “While everyone can learn to better communicate by increasing their skill levels, my guess is that the real problem is your reactivity. Take a moment and each of you describe a typical fight.”
Human beings are not that inventive… we all do very similar things and follow predictable patterns:
- The dad walks through the door after work, the son doesn’t pay attention.
- The dad says “Hi.”, the son grunts without taking his eyes of his I-Phone.
- The dad gets angry at being ignored and dismissed, he goes into a lecture about respecting adults and follows the son throughout the house demanding repentance to no avail.
- The son finally has enough, and goes out the house after slamming the door.
- The mom is upset because yet another dinner is ruined.
- The house stays in a state of tension for several days, and the smoke finally clears.
As I said before the problem isn’t primarily a communication problem, it is rather a reactivity problem. It wasn’t until the dad began to understand that he was a vacillator, that his father ignored him when he came home from work and that underneath the anger, he was really hurt and fearful that he was losing his son’s affection, could the relational dynamic change.
With time and growth, the dad learned how he was triggered by his son’s lack of engagement and instead of getting angry and jumping on the lecture circuit, he learned rather to tell the son his own story growing up. He then asked the son to observe how his grandfather still to this very day does not acknowledge the presence of other people. The dad shared with his son how scared the he was that history might repeat itself.
With this kind of adult talk with his teenager, things began to change. Now that the son learned how scared his dad was of losing relationship, the son was able to feel compassion and could see his dad differently. Over time, because of vulnerability, honesty, self awareness, the dad was able to control his reactivity and was better able to communicate and connect with everyone in his family.
Take a few moments and ask yourself, “Can I control the level of my reactivity so I am able to stay engaged in difficult conversations?” If the answer is yes, then you are showing signs of being a secure connector. If not, your insecurity is damaging to you and others around you. Will you be courageous enough to do the hard work like the dad did in the above situation? I hope you will try. It’s worth it!
Thanks for listening,
Milan & Kay