We live near a river that empties into the great Lake Superior. At this time of year, the waterfowl all seem to gather here en route to their summer destinations. In the last 24 hours I’ve watched seagulls, Canada Geese, cormorants, an eagle, a blue heron, a loon and many types of ducks – all in our ‘front yard’.
These birds reminded me of an effective practice to give ourselves a higher perspective of the relationshiops in our lives. I’ve expanded on an idea that I first learned from Beth Kempton in her book ‘Freedom Seeker’, and have used since.
You can use this exercise to see the full picture of a great relationship you have with someone, whether it’s a friend, loved one, client or colleague. For today, I’ll share how to use it to gain some understanding about a less than ideal relationship that you may be in.
“A Bird’s-Eye View”
When it comes to a challenging relationship that you want to improve, there are four factors influencing that relationship to consider:
- Your role in encouraging or boosting yourself upward in the relationship
- Your role in discouraging or sinking yourself downward in the relationship
- The other’s role in supporting or propelling you forward in the relationship
- The other’s role in slowing or pulling you backward in the relationship
So in bird terms:
- You ‘fly’ in a relationship when your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are ‘positive’, helpful and compassionate.
- You ‘dive’ below (or sink) in a relationship when your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are ‘negative’, unhelpful and critical.
- You are ‘thrust’ forward in a relationship when the other person supports and celebrates you in ‘positive’, helpful and compassionate ways.
- You are ‘dragged’ backward in a relationship when the other person drains you or disapproves in ‘negative, unhelpful and critical ways.
Would you rather fly ‘free and forward’ in your relationship or ‘sink below and drag behind’?
Now here’s how to practically apply this idea. . .
Step 1 – Draw an ‘X’ through a piece of paper, to divide it into four quadrants. Label the top quadrant “Your Name/ Fly”, the bottom “Your Name/ Dive”, the left “Other Person’s Name/ Drag” and the right “Other Person’s Name/ Thrust”.
Step 2 – In each quadrant, list examples of HOW you/the other person show up in your relationship together, in the ways listed above.
Step 3 – For each of the points you’ve listed, note WHY you believe you/the other person might be showing up in this way. What do you guess may be the real reason behind the loving or lacking behaviour?
Step 4 – On the back of the page, note any overall discoveries you’ve made by having this higher perspective on all the dynamics of the relationship.
Have you discovered something new?
This awareness practice can be the catalyst that starts to shift your relationship dynamic, and here are a few more thoughts on where to go from here:
- ‘Fly’ – Keep doing the things in this quadrant. Celebrate these wins and use these experiences as helpful examples to guide your actions in the other areas.
- ‘Dive’ – Give less time and attention to the things in this quadrant, unless you are working to resolve them. Have compassion for yourself and the gifts in these experiences.
- ‘Thrust’ – Let the person know how much you appreciate the types of support listed in this quadrant. Spend more time with this person and seek new connections with people like this.
- ‘Drag’ – Kindly let the person know how they can support you in a way that would be more helpful than the ways listed in this quadrant. Spend less time with this person or people like this.
But there’s a fifth factor that I haven’t yet mentioned that you can use in your relationships!
When in doubt, overhwelmed, confused, unsure, stuck, exhausted, or simply because it’s good for you . . .
You ‘float’ in a relationship when you allow yourself to simply be – be still, be present and rest. You give yourself the peaceful pause you need before you proceed at all.
And I wonder how much the other person would appreciate the opportunity to float too?