Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dealing with the Silent Treatment: Relationships

Remember back when you were young and you would argue with friends or siblings then give each other the silent treatment. It is both a powerful and painful approach to conflict resolution that I bet most people have encountered or used at one point or another in their lives.

The silent treatment can occur for all kinds of reasons beginning with the most benign which is that you haven't received a message, are unable to respond given distance or scheduling, or have nothing more to say at a particular time or to particular people. That happens. The silent treatment can also be used to send a message that someone's words, actions, or ideas are not welcomed or valued. When this is the reason, it's a painful course to take--one that distances people rather than bring them together in good friendship, collaboration, or result.

Relationships over time take on lives of their own. When you've lived as long as I have you've been apart of countless relationships and you've observed even more. To assess the many, many relationships you've been apart of is to experience regret, joy, and understanding of the good times and not so good times. I'm fortunate to have time to think on this with care today--time without undue interruption or a tight to-do list. And since relationships are at the core of what we do as educators, this is an important topic to consider.

Relationships that have brought me the greatest pleasure and peace over time have had the following qualities:
  • common goals, interests, purpose, questions, and passions. 
  • patience, empathy, and understanding.
  • honesty, kindness, and care.
On the contrary, those relationships that have been the most troubling typically include a mismatch of purpose or goal, greatly differing perspectives, lack of patience and understanding, and less truthfulness. 

Sometimes I've hung on to relationships that were never strong to start out with--we just kept the connection going when there was little to bring us together. In hindsight, it's good to assess relationships up front and make decisions about whether you are good for each other and if the relationship is positive or not. Just because you choose not to be close doesn't mean that there's anything wrong, it most probably means you're simply on different paths at that time. 

Long lasting relationships I've had have endured the journey of life's ups and downs. In these relationships there have been very close times and far distant times, yet there always remained a strong commitment for supporting the best for one another even if that best meant that there would be times apart. 

Early in life, I mostly thought of relationships as care taking. If I was in a relationship of any kind with you, it was my job to take care of you. I'm not exactly sure how that all started, but I suspect it came from my mom's will and interest in caring for others--she continually encouraged us to look out for others and care for them. While that service is very good, it's also important to look out for yourself in relationships and seek the people that truly speak to you--friends and family members who you truly enjoy adventuring with, creating with, spending time with, and problem solving with. These people are likely all around you immersed in the interests you have and the goals you pursue. 

At the center of good relationships come essential questions--questions such as these:
  • What do we enjoy doing together?
  • What do you expect of me in this situation?
  • How can I be helpful? How can I support your journey, quest, passion. . .?
  • Do you want to hear my perspective?
  • What is our aim in doing this?
  • How can I make amends?
A beloved cousin of mine always talks about human frailty--she acknowledges how each of us struggles in our own ways, and how incomplete we are. I often think of her words in this regard as I will to live with greater love, better decisions, and right contribution. In relationships we have to be sensitive and empathetic to one another; we need to be gently honest and caring too. We have to assess when we are supporting and uplifting one another, and when it's time for a break or vacation from one another.

To relate well, we have to think about relationships--we have to take time to think about how we are treating those who we have relationships with and where we want to grow in this endeavor. There's lots to learn and lots to enjoy in this realm. I'm looking forward to growing this effort in the school year ahead and with the many people I love and relate to every day. Onward.