KINDNESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
The holiday season can be a challenging time, particularly regarding family dynamics. Here are some resources that can help you navigate this time with kindness towards others and towards oneself.
MOVING FROM DRAMA TO EMPOWERMENT
The "drama triangle" is a concept that in interpersonal conflicts, we tend to take on one of three roles: victim, rescuer, or persecutor. By building our awareness of when we are playing one of those roles, we can make a conscious effort to step out of that role into a more productive approach. Greater awareness of these roles can also help us have more patience and compassion for others, by seeing that their "problem behaviors" may come from being trapped in one of those roles. The drama triangle concept has been expanded to include a fourth role, making it a "drama wheel" with four roles: victim, rescuer, persecutor and opponent.
A new concept adds even more power: the idea that we can make a conscious effort to take on empowerment roles, rather than drama roles. Those four empowerment roles are creator, coach, champion and challenger. By learning how to play these roles, we can reduce and resolve interpersonal conflict, reduce our own stress levels, and build more positive relationships. Here are some resources that explain how to move from drama to empowerment:
Videos: There are three short powerful videos here and one longer one (half an hour). Highly recommended to watch/listen to all four.
INCREASING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR KINDNESS AND OF OTHERS'
Another way to navigate interpersonal conflict is to increase our awareness of our own and other people's kindness. When we begin to see how we are all a mixed bag of kind and not-so-kind behaviors, it can give us more compassion for ourselves and others, and conflict can be reduced without even having to negotiate anything. We simply become more comfortable with what it means to be human, for ourselves and for those around us.
Click here for a kindness assessment you can use to better understand yourself and others. On the left-hand side is a list of different ways we can show kindness. Think about and circle which of these you're really good at and/or most comfortable with. Also identify with an arrow which ones you're not so good at and/or least comfortable with. Then, using the different columns, you can reflect on whether you exhibit the kindness traits differently with different groups, i.e. your family, friends, workplace, etc. By completing this self-assessment, you will have a better idea of your "kindness super powers" that you can bring to bear in stressful or conflictual situations and you will have a better idea of which areas of kindness you might want to improve.
After you've completed the assessment for yourself, you can then assess someone you find particularly challenging - a family member, friend, co-worker, etc. First identify which of the kindness traits on the left-hand side they are best at, even though you might overall not think of them as kind. For example, you might have a co-worker who you don't consider kind in many categories, but you're aware that they are very authentic - you always know where they stand. Then assess, to the best of your knowledge, how kind they are towards people in the different groups along the top. For example, you might have a co-worker who is not very present or engaged at work and seems aloof, but you're aware that they often go to their children's school activities and are very involved and devoted to their family. By better understanding others in our lives, we can be more accepting of them and we may be better equipped to figure out how to relate to them in ways that reduce tension and conflict.
Approaching the holidays with confidence can make a big difference. Confidence can help us to set our own limits with care for ourselves and others. Confidence can help us use the tools above effectively.
Here are some poems and essays that can provide inspiration when you are going into stressful interpersonal situations:
What If (We Were Beloved) (Jeff Edelstein)
If You Knew (Ellen Bass)
Adrift (Mark Nepo): slightly reframed in the spirit of autumn’s falling leaves.