Thriving Under Fire Blog

Turning towards, against or away

Posted by John Faisandier on Feb 10, 2015 7:53:14 PM

Three actions that help or hinder happy holidays.

Holidays are an opportunity to be with friends and family. You have time to talk, relax and be together. But happiness doesn’t always follow. Sometimes you end up arguing, fighting or withdrawing from the very people you want to be with. You put up with unpleasantness and think that this is how life is.

Your life doesn't have to be this way.  You can take more control of how your conversations unfold when you understand the three kinds of responses you can make to the other person, especially when they say things you don’t like or understand. These ideas come from relationship expert John Gottman.

Dr Gottman says that when someone speaks to you they are ‘making a bid for connection’.  No matter how they speak or what they say they want to connect with you. What happens next in the conversation depends on how you respond to this bid for your attention. You can respond in one of three ways.

Turn Away:
When you don’t like what the other person says you can ‘turn away’. You feel that what they have said is a threat to you and the best way to defend yourself is to withdraw. This may be a small movement such asgoing silent and ignoring what they say or a more dramatic action like storming out of the room.

Turn Against:
In this response, when you don’t like what the other person says you move against them. You might say “You are wrong” or “No! I don’t agree…” or you might question them in a judgemental tone. The way you disagree could be relatively gentle or it could be harsh. The fact that you are going against the other person means that you are arguing or fighting with them.
‘Turning against’ and ‘turning away’ can be seen as part of the fight/flight response. These responses do play an important part in your survival. You need to be able to turn against or turn away from someone when you are in real physical danger and need to stand up for yourself (fight) or flee a potentially harmful situation (flight).

However, in most conversations you are not in danger of actually being physically hurt. When you are on holiday with family or friends, or even in meetings at work, turning away or turning against someone isn’t necessary to protect yourself from physical harm. These responses could be viewed as over-reactions to what is happening. They certainly don’t promote good conversation and dialogue. This is where the third option may be of more use to you.

Turn Towards:
Even when you don’t like what the other person says or how they say it, you are aware that this is their bid for connection with you. You respond by turning towards them. Your first response is positive, open and curious. You ask them in a non-judgmental tone to clarify what they mean if you don’t understand. You might acknowledge the emotion behind their statement, recognising that they feel strongly about what they have said. (This is a key skill we teach in the TUF programme). You don’t judge them but rather seek to really understand what they are saying. When you do this the other person will most likely experience you as interested in them and their ideas. Turning towards others in this way increases your chances of having more positive conversations, creating a more peaceful environment around you and really having a happy holiday.

So, take charge of the way you respond to others. Become aware of what your habitual response has been in the past. Are you more likely to turn away or turn against the other person? Change that response. Make a conscious choice to turn towards the other person, listen to them, seek to understand what they are saying and acknowledge their point of view and their feelings. When you do this you are more likely to enjoy the people in your life and have a happier holiday season.

The Thriving Under Fire programme teaches you how to turn towards even the most difficult people, whether customers, colleagues, friends or family.

Sign up for the Online Training Programme now and make it a holiday project for yourself.
Buy it as a gift for someone you care for. http://tuf.co.nz/product/tuf-online/

15 easy to complete chapters (5 – 10 minutes each)

Topics: Physical Reactions, Upset People, Emotions

Managing Emotions

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