We all carry baggage or a chain of pain. Life and relationship coaches Jeff and Ellen White share strategies to follow your chain of pain to build stronger relationships. You can break the chain of pain to choose how you show up in your relationships and to build more fulfilling and rewarding relationships.
Jeff and Ellen are partners in life and in their work. They’ve been helping people live better for 20 years focused on clear and authentic communication, with a touch of metaphysics, Jeff and Ellen provide both the male and female viewpoints on life’s issues to help you change the way you feel and direct your life.
They work with individuals, couples, and parents on topics like emotional fluency, personal responsibility, creating healthy relationships with yourselves and others, and conscious living. You can visit their website, jeffandellen.com and their Instagram handle is jeffandellenwhite. Those links will be in the show notes.
We recorded this episode on Oct. 26, 2021.
When we get people to focus on their behavior, and focus on can you see what the behavior is of the other human being, then they’re more present, then we’re speaking about actions.Tweet
Timeline of the Chat
You bring you with you everywhere.Tweet
- The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman
We all have those ouch moments.Tweet
Transcript of the Episode
[01:41] Which relationship creates the initial template for our other relationships
[01:41] Damianne President: So I’ve just introduced you and you work with individuals, couples, parents. What are the different types of relationships that you think are important in people’s lives?
[01:54] Ellen White: Generically, I’d probably say all of them, but the ones with family are probably the most impactful because our family history and the family story that we carry and the wounds that we carry from our childhood and our way of seeing life as shaped by what our upbringing and family culture was, we take that out into the world. And when we get into our romantic relationships or even other friendships, that primary relationship is going to surface.
[02:30] Jeff White: I would just add to that, that our first relationships are with our caregivers and that becomes the model of how we relate. Then we as individuals go out into the world, and use that template for lots of relationships, our friendships. This is how my business colleagues should work with me. This is how my spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, this is how my child should relate to me. And so when you bring you with you everywhere, which you do, you carry that template, and a lot of that template is unconscious. We don’t spend a lot of time looking at what is the blueprint on which we relate to other human beings. And this is what we’re most excited about.
[03:13] Damianne President: I really like what both of you have said. And it makes me think about attachment theory. Does that show up in your work? Is that a theory that you use in some way?
[03:25] Jeff White: We do. We’ve both been trained in attachment theory in the study of Imago relationships, Imago Relationships International. I also have training in Gottman marriage therapy as well.
[03:38] What is Attachment Theory
[03:38] Damianne President: Are you able to give us a rough outline of the different types of attachment? I know there are whole books on this, so we could spend a whole hour, which we’re not going to, but in brief, what are the different attachment styles?
[03:51] Jeff White: Attachment theory really in a nutshell is just how do we bond in the world and what do we bond to. We talk about how we bond with humans, with other people, but we bond to lots of things. What is that relationship that we’re bonding to? That thing or that person that we’re bonding to, how is that showing up in our life? If it’s a constant substance, then of course, we’re going to bond to that substance really well in the face of adversity. We want our parents to be rock solid so that when we go out in the world and come back, we want those rocks to still be there and just be rock- like, but blame to parents, they’re not always emotionally available for children.
And so that’s when people can have the various forms of attachment in their relationships.
[04:39] Ellen White: We don’t emphasize attachment theory in our practice, not really because we don’t think there’s merit there, but what we’ve found is there’s a lot of subtle complexities and it’s like many others profiling systems that are out there. We’ve found it to complicate sometimes people’s understanding and looking for something big and profound as to why things are going wrong. We’ve also found people mislabel themselves and mislabel others.
Our approach really is rather than giving them more intellectual candy or stimulation, when we’re working with our clients, we really go for a different kind of emotional or base connection, something that they can really feel and get to. Our wounding is usually anchored in a very young part of us. So what I find is it’s like giving that communication about attachment theory to an eight year old and saying, does this help? In which case they’re like, huh, sounds important. So we have found it to be, in our practice anyway, more useful to talk about what the behaviors look like with those attachment styles so they can identify do I do that behavior, and what we really try and move away from in our practice as a whole is any kind of labeling system and getting to help our clients to see, this is just behaviors.
At the core, we all are good people wanting to feel happy and joy and safe and secure and love in our world. And so we have behaviors that will move us towards that and we have behaviors that take us away from that. And once you understand your unique combination of behaviors, rather than generically covering over them with a label of an attachment style, we found that to be more beneficial, to help people move in a healthy direction.
[06:34] Damianne President: It’s very personalized, right?
[06:36] Ellen White: Yeah.
[06:37] Jeff White: The whole thing about labels is it just, it’s easy to box people in, whether that’s an Enneagram personally assessment or my attachment style, it just becomesa box that we’re put in and that becomes more of an intellectual pursuit.
And then the answer to dealing with people who are an eye or, they’re more of a blue or what was the other, it’s like, well, we have to do the opposite. The antidote is this when it’s just easier to look at behavior. When we get people to focus on their behavior, and focus on can you see what the behavior is of the other human being, then they’re more present, then we’re speaking about actions.
[07:20] Damianne President: Yes. I really liked that because one of the emphases of the Changes Big and Small podcast is on actions. How can people recognize the actions that they want to take, the actions that they will take, and then what can they do to actually drive forward in the direction that they want to go. So I really appreciate the emphasis on looking at behaviors and looking at actions.
[07:44] One behavior that’s crucial in all relationships
[07:44] Damianne President: Are there behaviors that are helpful in all of the different types of relationships?
[07:52] Ellen White: Yeah, one behavior which works everywhere is listening; I’m gonna say there probably isn’t a human being on the planet that can’t evolve to some degree. An individual or couples will claim, oh, I think I’m good at listening. Then when we start to practice and I start to teach them what’s actually required in listening and how to be present and go through the steps and breakdowns of a proper dialogue, I think I have yet to have anyone not stumble and say, oh my God, this is hard. And I come to that honestly, myself. That was probably one of my biggest wake up calls and an important one in life. And that really came from meeting Jeff and our own personal story.
Given that at the time when Jeff and I met, I was already coaching and I had also come from an HR background and did a tremendous amount of training and coaching and development with people prior, I was one of those self-proclaimed people, I’m a really good listener. And, you know, I really thought lucky Jeff, he gets to marry me. Life’s going to be so easy. Which was why I was so dumbfounded when he’d be getting upset with me. I couldn’t understand. Me? And it turns out I was not the listener I thought I was. And the reason is I didn’t know, I really didn’t know what true listening meant and looked like. I’d never experienced it. I had never seen it modeled.
I grew up in a family that we talked at or over each other, but not with each other. I didn’t know how to really sit in emotion. I knew how to talk about and name emotion, but I didn’t know actually how to sit in emotion and really understand it. And I didn’t learn any of those things really until I was forced to because I was driving not only Jeff, a little nuts, but I was actually creating damage in our relationship together. In an effort to keep our relationship going and happy and thriving and full of love forever and not want to become the old ball and chain, um, that was not the image of what I wanted to be in if I was going to be in a, in a committed, married relationship, listening was the key.
Now it’s one of those things when you’ve gone through it yourself, you see it everywhere. And so not only is it in my practice, but I see it everywhere. And I see where if there’s one skill that everyone could benefit from, and if they picked only one, it would be that one.
[10:33] Jeff White: Yeah. To go on with the label of being a good listener, I may claim I’m a good listener. Lots of people tell me I’m a good listener, but the bottom line is that may be true, but right now your behavior, you’re not listening. Right now you’re not listening to me. And that happens for both of us. When we stop listening, arguments start to build.
[10:56] Relationship Skills are a Journey
[10:56] Damianne President: That’s a great distinction. I was recently speaking with somebody and we were talking about developing adult capabilities versus childhood capabilities. One realization I was making was that it’s not a, oh, you’ve arrived, good job, like now and forever, you are this adult and you will always behave in an adult way, but we regress and we have to hold ourselves to account, and sometimes other people have to hold us to account, to demonstrate the behaviors that we say we want to.
[11:28] Ellen White: It’s more like a scale if anything and we move and slide up and down that scale. What we try and do is keep ourselves closer to a central range because that just feels better in life when we can do that. But it doesn’t mean we can’t hit those extremes again, especially if we’ve had habits of behaving that way in the past. Mostly when we’re changing the parts of us that behaved in some what we call old way, think of it as it goes dormant, but often we see those dormant behaviors come back to life when we go visit family, or we come into contact with old wounds and old patterns and habits; they can become active again. And so that might spring up. And even as I say now, I think I’m a much better listener, but I don’t think I would ever proclaim I’m an amazing listener anymore. I think I have moments I can listen well, I’m a better listener than I’ve ever been, but I definitely see where that could be a growth edge and something to keep moving into probably for the rest of my existence. There’s no finish line there. And there’s some days I can be really attuned and there’s other days where not so much. And if you ask our son, he’d say the same thing, yeah, some days mom and dad are really attuned and others days, not so much.
[12:44] Listening to the Cues and Clues in Relationships
[12:44] Damianne President: How can we catch ourselves? You talked about your own journey and recognizing that you were not the great listener that you were, did you catch yourself, did that become apparent through relationship? How did you arrive at this and how can we catch ourselves in that situation?
[13:03] Jeff White: Nothing happens in isolation. All actions have the action out and the impact. And so on the topic of listening, if I’m speaking or I’m communicating with Ellen thinking I’m a good listener, but if I don’t recognize in myself, if I’m not self-aware in the morning going, oh, I’m not a good listener, if I don’t catch my own behavior, I have my partner to help me. And she will say, no, actually that’s not what I said. I like to say it again and I’d like you to mirror me. Well, then that’s an impact. That’s an outside cue saying, Jeff, you’re not listening well. So then I catch it. The problem comes when there is cue and clue over and over and over again that I keep denying. I’m denying what my partner is saying. So if I don’t see her shoulders going up, or if I don’t see your arms start to cross, if I don’t see her leaning back, if I don’t see the anger and tenseness in her voice, then I’m missing a whole bunch of things. And it would behoove me to catch those because it’s going to be the argument that I’m included in because of my not listening.
[14:16] Ellen White: There’s also another side to that because there’s a certain state as the listener that we need to be in to listen. So another area of awareness also is what is my state? What am I feeling? If I’m feeling really anxious, if I’m feeling ungrounded, something, maybe I’ve had too much coffee even that morning and I’m jittery all those things may keep me from being able to listen well. If there’s something that’s impacted me, I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, I’m worried or stressed about something, all of those things will keep me out of the state I need to be in to listen. And so that’s another area of awareness that we can become more attuned to.
In the house that I grew up, because everyone, as I said they talked over each other, at each other, you know, a table full of people, just talking, sharing opinions, sharing judgments, even sharing fun stories, but it’s just all sharing at once.
It was like a big food fight, but with words and if people would get upset or angry, you learn to tune that out. So you can imagine the issue that brought up with Jeff and I. So, and Jeff would start with his very gentle, you know. Sharings or indicators that he wasn’t being listened to the way he wanted to be listened to, I was missing them. He’d start to get a little cranky and I’m like, oh, what’s cranky, like I’m around it every day so I become numb to that. So all those cues I was missing. And so that was also part of the journey was to recognize why am I not seeing those? It’s only then that I started to put together what I’d grown up around and how that impacts me today and how again, to this day, I still work on getting better and better at seeing the cues earlier and earlier.
[16:04] Jeff White: Part of the template is those cues that my partner is sending me are not important because the blueprint of communication is all of that becomes not important. The way we have communicated growing up, the motto was just keep talking, that we don’t, we don’t pause and take in. And so that is the blueprint, which needs to be looked at and negotiated as we move into emotionally adult human beings.
[16:31] Figuring out your blueprint for conversations
[16:31] Ellen White: So coming back to, you know, looking at those early relationships, it’s great to look at what was communication in my household. What was conversation like? How did we listen? How did we not listen? What happened if we did listen or didn’t listen? Where we listened to? What impact did that have on us? How was power negotiated and jockeyed for? Is it he who speaks the most wins? Is it pecking order in age, they get to speak less or the older, you are, you have rights to more words and ideas? So what was valued, what wasn’t valued, all of those things contribute to how we now communicate in the world.
[17:10] Damianne President: I find that fascinating because I find even for myself, even some of the things I did not like growing up, I catch myself doing. And so they’ve definitely imprinted on me whether or not I want that to have been the case.
[17:26] Ellen White: Yeah, and it’s like that for all of us. We all have those ouch moments like NOOOO!
[17:32] Jeff White: The method of communication that parents showcase becomes our model of how we do it. If children grow up experiencing conflict is handled by yelling and the person who yells and throws that object across the room, if that person stops the fight then that becomes now a tool that the child can look at and use.
Very cute story of our son. When he was not listening and not getting ready for bed, sort of the natural consequence was he wouldn’t get any stories. If you don’t go upstairs now and get in your pajamas, no stories. Well, that came around days later where my son was upset with us, I think it was specifically me. And he said, daddy, that’s it, straight to bed, no stories. And so I can see he’s just taking the template and using the template. He’s conscious of it now, but repeatedly that becomes unconscious and then straight to bed, no stories becomes the way we deal with conflict in the world.
[18:41] Damianne President: That’s so good. With my nephews, sometimes they’ll say something and I’ll say to my brother he is channeling you. And of course that carries through past childhood.
[18:53] Jeff White: Yeah. We, we model how to negotiate the world with our children and they are always taking in.
[19:00] What is the chain of pain – First steps
[19:00] Ellen White: Yeah. And so that’s the thing. We have a chance to change that. So we all come from people call it baggage. Another expression that’s used is we all have a chain of pain that’s been passed down generation to generation, and then it’s given to us. And each of us at any point in our life has the opportunity to recognize the chain, what that pain is and make a new choice and say, you know what, I’m going to start a chain of joy. I’m going to start a new chain to pass down.
[19:28] Jeff White: And speaking about actions, that is the key first step. Can we talk about the chain of pain? Can we just bring it to light so that we acknowledge this is what the marching orders in my home were. This is how we dealt with anger in my household, or anxiety or depression or sadness.
The first step is just to acknowledge what was. If you don’t acknowledge what was, you can’t change something you don’t own.
[19:57] Damianne President: What does that look like? Do you become aware that we all have this and set out to examine it intentionally, deliberately all at once, or as things crop up, you try to connect them back to your childhood and see what can I learn here? How do I want to show up differently or the same from what I’ve learned in this template?
[20:23] Ellen White: Yeah, so what you’re describing is a more organic approach, which is as it comes up, trust it’s coming up at that point for a reason, and that you’re ready to deal with it. Some aspect of your consciousness and unconsciousness is bringing this to your awareness for your benefit and to say you have pain and pain, although you may have learned how to deny it and be unaware of it, it’s not that you’re not feeling the repercussions and it’s not having an undesirable impact on your life. So it’s coming up and bringing your attention to it. You have to learn and become aware of how does it show up for you. Is it physical pain in your body? Is it certain thought patterns? Is it the knot, every time you get that knot or pit in your stomach. Is it a certain tightening? Is it a draining of energy, a sudden need to nap or sleep? And so you’ve got to learn what are the different expressions of pain?
To get on in life, we’ve had to learn coping mechanisms to cover them up. And so defensiveness could be an expression of pain. Anger could be an expression of pain. And so, once you’ve learned it, then you can start to explore what’s behind it. What do I have to believe or think in order to feel this way? What’s my earliest memory of that? And it’s not even that you have to come to all the time the childhood memory specifically, it’s that you go on the journey to start to make the connection, recognize this is old pain. This is not something that just happened. The reaction I had from my friends telling me that they thought that the color I was wearing didn’t flatter me and my big reaction to that, wanting to never talk to them again, I’m recognizing, wow, that was a really big reaction. Maybe not the best thing to say, but I don’t think it warranted that big reaction. Maybe I should explore where those feelings have first come from to help recognize, oh, I’ve been carrying this for awhile and what do I want to do with it?
It’s once you get to choice, as Jeff was saying, now you own it. Now you have choice. What do I want to do with it? And there’s numerous outlets.
[22:30] What’s it like to be in relationship with you?
[22:30] Damianne President: You ask the question what’s it like to be in relationship with me? And that really struck me when I visited your website, because I think that is such a big question. And it’s a question that connects to emotional development, our own and what happens when we’re in relationship with other people. And it also brings in the idea of interdependence, which I know is also a big theme for you.
Where do you suggest people start if they want to look at that question, if they want to think about the relationships in their life? How do they decide which one to start with or where to start with that question?
[23:12] Ellen White: Well, they can really take any relationship that they would deem important in their life, whether that be a best friend, a parent, a sibling, or a romantic partner. You can even ask it with your pet actually, because it’s really about inviting your own self-awareness. We’re really good at seeing what we don’t like and other people and knowing what it’s like to be in relationship with others. One of our coping mechanisms that has helped us get along in life is to just don’t tune into you, but tune out to other people. And if you can call it, name it first, you get the leg up. And so we can be very quick and sharp on other people’s behaviors, not necessarily accurate, but quick and sharp to cast out.
And so we love that question. And it’s one of the questions we ask really early on when we start working with a couple, is what’s it like to be in relationship with you, from a balanced perspective. What’s some of the great things you bring, what is so wonderful about being in relationship with you and what are the less than wonderful parts. What makes it a challenge at times to be in relationship with you? Pick a relationship and go through them all if you want to, and see what are your consistencies in all those different relationships and how self-aware are you. If it’s tough to put things down, which we often see, it’s like I got one or two things, but you can bet if we ask them, what’s it like to be in relationship with other, oh, the list goes on.
[24:36] Jeff White: When we ask a question of clients, what are five adjectives of what you’re like in relationship positive and negative, and we find equally challenging for both. And so when you are trying to consciously create a healthy relationship, this should not be a fluke you should know, and be aware of the good skills that you bring to a.Relationship.
So as much as we want to say, yes, let’s focus on your growth opportunities. We also want to focus on are you aware of the good things that you do. You should be aware of those good things so that you consciously keep doing them again, and also being aware of your limitations. What are your areas of growth where you are the participant in causing these conflicts?
[25:26] Damianne President: In your experience, when people ask themselves that question, what surprises them?
[25:32] Ellen White: The question itself it stumps most people.
[25:36] Jeff White: They just say I don’t know. I don’t know. And then they sort of talk around. Everything’s good. It seems like we’re good. We’re good friends and we get along. And so, yeah, we just it’s good. We have a good relationship, which that answer what I just said has no specificity to it. It’s generic and we can’t fix generic.
[25:54] Damianne President: So you really need to peel back the layers and get deeper.
[25:59] Jeff White: Yes, and when I meet with couples, the first questions I have on the next session is what’s going well, what’s working to try and get on their radar, oh, yeah, right, that thing when I just touched your shoulder, that helped; that was a good thing. When I offered, no, you go first, you share your day first that helped. It’s those behaviors that it’s important that I want couples to understand what they’re doing that are helping and working. And then also the next question is what isn’t working, what are you still finding challenging? And we can get down to what was the incident and what was the energy going in and what were you feeling about it.
[26:37] Ellen White: What I also find makes it tricky for people to answer that question of what they’re like in relationship is no different than often directing any question back to a client and asking them to go inward and reflect and become aware. It can make many people uncomfortable because that means I’m directing their attention back into the space that they’ve been trying to avoid for so long. And what if I find something I don’t like? What if the truth comes out I am the shameful person that I’m worried I actually am. Oh, that’s really uncomfortable to look there; I don’t want to go there. What if I don’t know the answer yet? And I look incompetent.
[27:14] Jeff White: If I don’t know the answer, I must not know myself well, and if I don’t know myself, well, I can’t be in a room where I don’t come across as I got life altogether. So, uh is this session over? Uh, we can wrap this up. Oh, oh, I gotta go. And so people want to exit the conversation. The question itself, it’s a challenging conversation if you’ve never looked inside.
[27:37] Damianne President: I can definitely relate because I’ve been thinking about this question since I read it on your page. I’ve been thinking of it in terms of the people that I work with. There’ve been some surveys that have been done so I have some information about what people find works well for them and what challenges there are. But I think the big part about answering that question is you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoe as well. And so there’s that empathy piece that comes in really strongly here. I also have to recognize that I have limitations to being able to understand how the other person views our relationship. I’m trying to put myself in their shoes, I’m trying to think about what it might mean and I could be wrong. And that’s hard as well to realize I may be doing all this work and I could be completely wrong, and then think about how may I learn more in this situation.
[28:38] Jeff White: So when we’re thinking I may be wrong, I don’t know it. They may be acting this way or they might be acting this way. We can come up with all these possible scenarios or reasons. And those keep us out of the work of reaching out to someone saying, can I get your feedback, I want to hear from you directly, what is your story?
And to speak about empathy, sometimes it’s hard to empathize with other people because the viewpoint might be right or wrong. If I empathize with them, that must mean I’m wrong and they’re right, because reality is set. There’s only one reality and I got to fight for my reality or their reality. This right wrong competition sets us up to say, well, no way I’m empathizing with you because if I empathize with you it means I’m agreeing with you and therefore, my worldview, my perspective goes out the window, when healthy relating is owning that realities are just stories. They’re just a perspective. So it’s just two sides of a coin. We don’t negate the coin. The coin has two sides and your side looks like a tail. Well, my tie looks like a head. I’m not negating your side and don’t negate my side. It’s just what we say. And for me, it makes it easier when I adopt that mentality that it’s just a story. So when Ellen is upset and we’re having an argument for me, I mentally think this is her story. It’s okay, it’s a story. It’s not a judgment, it’s not reality, it’s your story.
When I change that mindset inside me, it’s a lot easier to connect with empathy because that’s her story. And then I imagine it’s also easy for her to connect, knowing that it’s just my story. It’s not reality. It’s not a judgment. It’s not a jury coming down on one side.
[30:35] Getting feedback from those that you are in relationship with
[30:35] Damianne President: What I hope listeners get from what we just talked about is that the question about what is it like to be in relationship with me is not a question that they need to answer in isolation, and that you can talk to people about it. Get feedback from people that you are in relationship with because we don’t make much progress by mind reading and guessing when the person’s right there and we could ask them directly
[31:03] Ellen White: Very much so and what happens is if we don’t actually go and fact check our story, we start to find ways to confirm our story through our own self and we have this self bias and then we grow that. Then that later grows into problematic self absorption. Narcissism is a big buzzword today and so we just grow it and grow it. So it’s actually a requirement go out and fact check it, go out and actually find out what is this person’s experience of me. This is my story. Do you share that story? Do you share the entire story? Do you share parts of the story? What parts do you have a different story? And then let that be an ongoing exploration.
Jeff and I both come from corporate backgrounds as well and have done and continue to do, although selectively now work with corporations, and actually you’ve done a lot of work, particularly helping managers learn to change from sort of a feedback style to a coaching style relationship, because that old model of let’s sit down and talk once a quarter if you’re lucky, but once a year we’ll do your review, which I don’t think anyone ever appreciates that or really values it. They endure it; they get through it. And then they’re like, phew, I don’t have to do that for another year, but that doesn’t actually enhance relationships; it does the opposite. But the coaching style of managing is one where there’s a constant connecting and exchange and appreciation for the relationship itself.
I’m recognizing if I want to know where we’re at and where our relationship as in manager and employee are going, I need to be on that regularly and know how do I check and how do I invite and create safety and, and honesty and openness, and what are the steps to doing that?
[32:48] Jeff White: I would say that just the quality of relationships how they vary, depend on how much engagement from the other people. So my quality of relationship with Ellen is integral. This is the most important. So what that means is I’m heavily engaged and she’s heavily engaged in the welfare of both of us. With my son, very engaged. With my family members, like my parents, yes, engaged. But when it comes to work colleagues, the level of engagement drops. These aren’t the people that I’m emotionally attached to. These are work colleagues. So what this relationship is about, are they in it for me and having my back or are they having their own back?
And so when I coach managers and people talking about their boss, we have to look at what’s at stake here? What is the relationship? Are they having your back or are they having the bottom line? Are they having your best interests or are they having their board interest? Is this best for you the employee, or is this best for the customer and are those not the same thing? So you also have to take a grain of salt and what is the feedback and what is it coming from? So if it’s a one-off from a work colleague, you may take that with a grain of salt. But if thematically you’re getting that by a whole 360 and generally the theme across the board is you micromanage or try to control or you try and push your ideas above others, that’s a big clue clue. You should be looking at that. But if someone says you have an attitude problem, Jeff, then I’m like, well, okay, I’ll go look at it. But I may not give as much weight as getting feedback from someone like my wife, Ellen saying Jeff you’re pushing to control this situation. I take her opinion and perspective much more heavily weighted because I know what’s at stake for her.
[34:43] How do we show up differently in different relationships?
[34:43] Damianne President: That brings up the question for me do things show up at work that do not show up at home ? I know you believe we show up as ourselves everywhere; we live a full life. But do we ever see a disconnect between what shows up in different types of relationships?
[34:58] Jeff White: I would say no because you bring you to all places. So whether the clothes you’re wearing or the building you’re standing in, it’s still you. So at work, I may not have the same triggers that Ellen specifically does that bug me, but thematically underneath it of not being listened to, or not being heard or not being valued and having feelings of being railroaded at work, that thematically plays out in past and in my present marriage and work. So it’s still that how do I feel valued and do I value my own voice enough to say, no, I’m allowed to have my perspective here. You may not agree with my perspective work colleague or boss, but this is my perspective. And I want to make sure that my voice counts at this table. That might be thematically what I’m working on. At work I say it, but at, at home, I might say, hang on, I know you’re going to say but I just want to finish what I’m saying because my voice counts here. I just want to make sure that I get to say my piece as well. So it’s the same sort of action that can crop up.
[36:09] Ellen White: And there’s also different things. Sometimes it’s easier to hide parts of ourselves at work than it is at home because at work we can kind of hold our breath or put on an air or persona of something we want to be and most of our colleagues aren’t that invested or care enough to really scrutinize. They’re like happy, a great, just put on the happy face. And then when I come home and Jeff says how’s your day, I’m like fine. So he says, whoa, what was that? You know, he is going to care about the energy, whereas at work, if a colleague said how’s it going? Fine. They’re like fine, great. They may not hold me accountable to my behavior in the same way or care. So it may go undetected or unnoticed more easily in the workplace than it is at home. And we may not even express it as much because when we go out into the world, we’re like, okay, let’s hold it together and be the person we think we need to be. And then when we come home, it’s that idea, not only do we take all the fancy clothes off and we want to get into our sweats but we take off all the facades and other things we had to end like, ha I can just be myself.
But then if at home my husband is there, Jeff’s there, and he sees this behavior repeatedly. I can’t hide that from him. I can’t hide my anxiousness from him that I can hide from my boss. You know, I can’t hide my hate for business attire from him like I can from my boss. Does that make sense?
[37:40] Damianne President: Yes. What I’m coming away with from this conversation here is that emotional development can happen in all of our relationships, but it will be strongest in our closest relationships, so the places where we can be most at home or most comfortable.
[37:59] Jeff White: Yeah. I like to say the emotionally important relationships.
[38:03] Ellen White: And longevity studies have found now when they’re good and they’re healthy, they’re the ones that keep us healthy and keep us happier. And that’s why those that choose to invest so much of their time in workplace relationships, it’s not that they’re investing in workplace relationship. They’re just working a lot. They often feel empty or short and turn to other devices because those relationships aren’t really set up to be those emotionally important relationship.
[38:33] Damianne President: Okay. We’re winding down. We have five minutes. I’m not going to go through any more of my questions. I would love to eat fast.
[38:41] Jeff White: Oh my goodness.
[38:44] Two invitations to build fulfilling relationships
[38:44] Damianne President: I would like to give you a chance to share an invitation or a challenge with listeners of something they can do to build their relationships or to have fulfilling relationships.
[38:59] Ellen White: Off the top, maybe I have two things. One would be to do a relationship inventory of what you would call the important relationships in your life and do a check-in. How does it feel to be in that relationship? Is it satisfying and fulfilling and meeting your needs and where is it not? And then start to learn, where can I improve on this? Be open to exploring those relationships.
And then if I had to give a number two, I’d say in the world of listening, we talked a lot about listening earlier, one of the big distinctions that really made a difference for me and then I work a lot with now with our clients is in the act of listening to others to ask yourself the question, how does the other want to be listened to. We don’t realize that we come with a sort of a predisposition already making a decision of how they want to be listened to. And we don’t realize that as different individuals, we even have different ways we want to be heard.
The way I want to be listened to is not the way Jeff wanted to be listened to. And I used to think good listening was good listening was good listening, but it’s actually person specific. That’s a mouthful. So I would say step two is to ask and start looking at those relationships and finding out how did they want to be listened to and how is that different from how I want to be listened to. Those would be my two.
[40:32] Jeff White: Yeah, I, I won’t add any new ones. So I’m just going to comment on Ellen’s cause I think those are two great ones. To make an evaluation of the quality of relationships and which ones are emotionally important. Relationships take time, they take effort. You need to reconnect and bond with these people on a regular basis. Ellen and I consciously reconnect everyday. We have some point where we connect every day to have some couplehood time to talk. It might be during lunch, but at least something, and we might go have date nights or something, but relationships take time and effort. So because of that, you can’t have too many of them.
I have a couple of really good friends, you know, two or three. That’s it. I’m maxed out. My schedule does not allow to have more. I have lots of acquaintances, lots of casual friends that I see once a month or every couple of months, but that’s it. You can’t have too many relationships because they each take time and commitment.
So make an evaluation who are the top four people in your life that you can commit to that you say this is an important relationship to me, and I want to invest my time into that. So that’d be the step one. And your step two on listening and understanding how they want to be listened to is like the the term love languages.
You know, we all have our love languages and the way we take love language in is that why I want to know what my love language is and that becomes the most important. But the actual purpose of that book of love languages is to know another human being’s love language. Ellen’s love language may be different than our son’s love language, which might be different than my mom’s love language. I don’t want to make sure that my love language becomes the way I relate to people. I want to be relating in the language they like to hear, because then I can connect with many people. I have lots of tools in my tool belt on how to connect.
[42:29] Damianne President: I love these invitations. It triggered the thought for me that I was just reading something about how when children leave home and parents are empty nesters, often they’re at the point where they’re again looking for friends, or they have more time to be able to connect. And that makes sense because we all have a fixed amount of time. And so we need to figure out at different points in our lives, who are the people we’re going to spend time with and we’ll have different amounts of time when there are small children in the home versus when we’re empty nesters. And that resonates with me.
[43:07] Final Thoughts
[43:07] Ellen White: Yeah, I think if I can add one more thing before I wrap up. A way of looking at relationships that helped me is I recognize that relationships really should be a verb. It should be called relationshiping. It’s an active way of being; it is not this I’m in relationship and I just sit back, it’s done. It’s like health and vitality. If you want to have a healthy body, it’s a way of being every day that you check in with your body and you make decisions on how you orient your life. Well, it’s the same thing if you want healthy, conscious relationships. It’s committing to conscious living and recognizing it’s a daily activity.
[43:49] Damianne President: Thank you. The time has flown by. I have so enjoyed talking with you and I have so many other questions, but we will save that. Do you have anything else that you want to add before we end our conversation today?
[44:07] Jeff White: I’d say, if anyone who’s listening in the podcast has challenges and are looking for some help, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to reach out and help as many people as we can. So welcome to reach out and contact us by email, you can reach us on our website and we’d happy to talk to anyone, even in a consultation to see where you are and what your goals are.
[44:30] Ellen White: And to anyone who is listened right through to the end of this podcast.
I just want to say, thank you. Thank you for giving us your time and attention. We hope it helps.
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