Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Turning toward each other

Have you ever reached out for connection, and your partner didn’t respond? Or walked away? Or talked about a completely different topic? Maybe something like this: “I had seven participants in my class today!”… Silence… (second attempt) “I made $60!”…She walks away… (third attempt) “The group is so enthusiastic and committed. They really try to get it.”… “My aunt called, she wants to come over for Thanksgiving.”

Image courtesy to FlickrGottman calls these responses “Turning away”. In his 40 years of research on relationships he found out that the key to happy, stable, and healthy (literally: happily married couples live on average 4 years longer, have better functioning immune systems, and are more resilient) relationships, is turning toward bids for emotional connection. The response itself is less relevant, as long as the act of turning toward conveys the message: “Hey, I hear you, I see you, and you matter so much to me, that I want to connect with you and hear what’s going on for you.” I guess turning toward works so well, because it acknowledges that the other person is worthy to be seen and respond to.

Turning toward might look like this: “I had seven participants in my class today!” “Wow, that’s great. That’s the third time you had such a big turnout.” “Yeah, people are loving it and bringing friends. I made $60!” “I can imagine you feel proud and relieved that your commitment and efforts are helping people.” “Yes, I do. The group is so enthusiastic and committed. They really try to get it. They even practice in between.” “I am so happy for you. It sounds as if your needs for contribution, community, and appreciation are met.”

Feel the difference?

Turning toward invites more dialogue, and more connection and understanding.

Turning against is the third possible response to bids for emotional connection. Your partner starts arguing, criticizing, making sarcastic remarks, judging, ridiculing, or anything else that conveys disrespect, conflict and disconnection. “I had seven participants in my class today!” (sarcastic) “Wow, my goodness, isn’t that something. I had 18 in my class today.” (more timid, still trying to connect) “I made $60…” “As if that’s gonna help.” (almost discouraged, still hoping for connection) “The group is so enthusiastic and committed… They really try to get it…” “Who cares? You spend six hours on that class, and come home with nothing.”

In this week of atonement, this day of Yom Kippur, I invite us to ask ourselves how often we turned away or against a bid for emotional connection. We might ask ourselves how we can convey to our partner, friend, child, sibling, parent, co-worker, neighbor, anyone that we care enough about them to acknowledge and appreciate their bids for emotional connection.

We can start a circle of connection, community, and appreciation.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?


You want help to turn toward bids for emotional connection? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.