Shall I, like a hermit, dwell on a rock or in a cell? — Sir Walter Raleigh
RECOGNIZING OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHANGE
How do you recognize an opportunity (what I call a ten-second window) for relationship change when it comes along? The good news is that there are a number of different ways to recognize these ten-second windows of opportunity, so if you miss one cue, you’re likely to see another (and besides, you’ve just committed to not being perfect anymore, so you’ll be welcoming mistakes anyway, reframing them into learning windows). A clear cue that I have seen countless times—one you’ve seen too—is in what is called “affect.” You see an expression on someone’s face that alerts you to the possibility for change. You see that it is your responsibility to do the noticing; the window is less about the expression and more about your relationship alertness. You’ve probably used this window many times already; you’re giving someone directions, say, and you observe a confused look: eyes squinty, mouth puckering, head shaking slightly. You say, “I notice you shaking your head. What’s up?” In a more emotional example you might gentle your words, saying something like, “I notice something in your expression. I’m wondering what you’re feeling right now.”
A CONSCIOUS LIVING PRACTICE FOR TODAY – FEBRUARY 28
In your next three interactions with your partner or another significant other, open yourself to the window of affect. Watch your partner’s expression closely as you talk—regardless of the topic—and if you see his or her expression change, try noticing it and wondering about it to yourself. Simply try out the language within your head, getting familiar with it. Remind yourself that you do not make guesses as to the feelings being experienced (i.e., “I notice that you look sad”) nor are there any judgments (“I’m wondering if you’re angry again”—the “again” implying judgment).
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